Asheville Citizen-Times May 18, 2006

Sandy Mush conservation lauded

By: Ball, Julie

SANDY MUSH — Bill Duckett’s farm in Sandy Mush has been in the family for at least five generations, and Duckett wants to see the land stay the way it is.

He’s in the process of placing the land in a conservation easement that will help ensure that.

Multimedia audio

Carl Silverstein, executive director of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, talks about event celebrating land preservation in the Sandymush area (990 KB)

“I’d like for my sons to be able to continue that tradition, and they’d like to continue that,” Duckett said Wednesday.

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Buncombe County Land Conservation Advisory Board gathered Wednesday to celebrate conservation efforts like the easement Duckett is placing on his land.

Across the Sandy Mush area in the last 11 years, more than 5,400 acres of land has been protected from development. That includes a 2,600-acre tract purchased from Progress Energy in 2005 by the state.

Carl Silverstein, executive director of the Southern Appalachian Conservancy, said North Carolina is losing about 200,000 acres of forestland and farms a year to real estate development.

“Growth is bringing opportunities that we welcome here in the mountains … but as we prepare for the changes that accompany the growth, I think all of us want to retain the natural landscape that inspires people from all over the world to love these mountains,” Silverstein said.

Duckett, 71, sees development creeping closer to his 53 acres in Sandy Mush in northwest Buncombe County.

“The problem is not only people moving into the area, but subdividing, subdividing, subdividing,” said Sandy Mush landowner Bob Detjen, who has been involved in conservation efforts in the area.

Christopher Jayne, whose parents own the Sandy Mush Herb Nursery, says some people are confused about what a conservation easement means. With an easement, property owners give up development rights.

“The more people can understand there are options where people can conserve their land and continue to make a living off of the land through farming,” Jayne said.

Albert Sneed, who serves as chairman of the Buncombe County Land Conservation Advisory Board, said a conservation easement means tax benefits, but the landowner is also giving up a higher value on the land.

“These land conservation easements, people don’t understand that it really is a gift,” Sneed said.

Silverstein said the conservancy will continue to work on land preservation in Sandy Mush.

Contact Julie Ball at 828-232-5851 or via e-mail at