ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Do the bags of drivers who zip bottomward N.C. 191 through Bent Creek anniversary day apperceive they are casual through one of the rarest habitats in the state, and possibly the country?
Probably not. But the breadth in southern Buncombe County, aloof south of the Blue Ridge Admission forth the French Broad River and Brevard Road, accustomed as Sandy Bottom Preserve, is not aloof a swampy-looking drive-through.
It’s such different and imperiled wildlife abode that the N.C. Division of Baptize Resources is proposing to activity Sandy Bottom greater protection.
The accompaniment bureau will host a accessible audition Jan. 21 at UNC Asheville to acquire comments on reclassifying Sandy Bottom wetlands from “freshwater wetland” to “unique wetland,” additionally accustomed as UWL.
This new allocation offers added aegis to wetlands of aberrant or civic ecological significance, said Adriene Weaver, ecology chief specialist with the Division of Baptize Resources.
The Sandy Bottom wetlands, about 5 afar south of Asheville in the French Broad River floodplain, is home to attenuate and threatened wildlife species. It represents a attenuate accustomed wetland association accustomed as the montane floodplain accoutrements forest, which is rated as alarmingly broken and additionally provides abode for the decidedly attenuate lax manna-grass population.
The 10-acre bindle has been adequate as a wetland back the Clean Baptize Act was accustomed in the 1970s. Weaver said it is endemic by the Board of Trustees for the UNCA Endowment Fund, the Long Branch Ecology Education Center Inc., and a allocation is on abreast endemic acreage captivated in a attention easement.
Although it is abutting to the French Broad River and admission lands, it does not accept accessible access.
Under its accustomed classification, Sandy Bottom has several uses, including stormwater accumulator and retention, balance of acute baptize akin fluctuation, and bank protection. Perhaps best important is its activity as abode for wetland-dependent amphibian bacilli and wildlife species.
“Reclassification to different wetlands would admit Sandy Bottom as a different breadth mainly because it has attenuate and cogent species,” Weaver said.
“It’s acquainted that this wetlands breadth is important. It serves as abode for attenuate or threatened species. If Sandy Bottom were to acquire different wetland classification, projects could still occur, but they would accept to authenticate they are actuality complete to accommodated the accessible need.”
This would crave accepting what is accustomed as a 404/401 permit.
DOT PLANS HELPED SPUR MOVE FOR MORE PROTECTION
The abstraction for reclassification came by way of three petitioners — MountainTrue, Defenders of Wildlife and the N.C. Wildlife Federation — mainly due to one of these approaching projects — the addition of N.C. 191.
Dr. Amy Boyd, assistant of analysis at Warren Wilson College, spent years researching the flora begin in Sandy Bottom. She was able to analyze 366 breed of vascular plants, which doesn’t accommodate mosses and liverworts, additionally begin in wetlands.
“Wetlands charge abridgement of disturbance. You’d apprehend to acquisition them forth rivers like the French Broad. But in our area, rivers are magnets for industry, development and anchorage because they’re flat. A lot of the amplitude that would commonly be wetlands are displaced by industry and alley building,” Boyd said.
“The capital affair is the admiration to widen N.C. 191. It would clean out the wetland.”
She added that she is admiring to apprehend about the angle to activity Sandy Bottom added protection.
Ben Prater, Southeast affairs administrator for Defenders of Wildlife, one of the petitioners, said that although the adored qualities of the wetlands accept been accustomed for decades, road-building spurred action.
“Sandy Bottom is absolutely admirable in agreement of its biodiversity and the abode it provides. The wetlands are different for the accompaniment and abutment a amazing arrangement of breed including over 40 breed of reptiles and amphibians, abounding of which are attenuate and accept aerial attention need, “Prater said.
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“Historically the (federally threatened) bog turtle was additionally begin there, and it provides foraging abode for endangered gray bats and it is home for bird breed and mammals and added critters.”
Prater said the accompaniment has absent 90% of the wetlands that acclimated to be begin forth river valleys and cheers like the French Broad.
“To accept a abode like Sandy Bottom, which is complete and activity and still maintains abode and breed that accord there is of abundant importance.”
Prater said the proposed addition of N.C. 191 was apparent as a abeyant blackmail by abounding attention groups. The new allocation would accomplish abiding that as this planning moves forward, the accompaniment is appropriate “to accept to booty a acceptable adamantine attending at what the impacts will be to that location. This will active the N.C. DOT admiral to the actuality that this breadth is cogent and important to wildlife, that this allocation is important.”
The different wetlands allocation would administer not alone to Department of Transportation projects but to any added development in the around of the wetlands, Prater said.
Kendrick Weeks, Western wildlife assortment administrator for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, said bogs and wetlands are so attenuate because of WNC’s aerial terrain, but those appointed as “unique wetlands” are the rarest of all — there are alone 33 such classified wetland areas in North Carolina.
“The analogue is they accept aberrant or civic significance. For archetype (a assertive salamander) is genetically audible from added populations and alone occurs in the French Broad River floodplains,” Weeks said.
He said they are badly bare for the bog turtle, which is accompaniment and federally listed as endangered. Unfortunately for the tiny amphibian, it is awful admired – illegally – as a collectible and has not been begin in contempo years in Sandy Bottom, Weeks said.
Weaver said afterwards the accessible hearing, area accessible animadversion will be taken, the animadversion will be beatific to the Ecology Management Commission, which will vote in May. If passed, the EMC sends the advocacy to the Rules Review Commission for a vote. If the angle is accepted, the aphorism would go into aftereffect July 1. Accessible animadversion ends Jan. 31.
IF YOU GO
What: Accessible audition on added Different Wetland classification
When: 6 p.m. Jan. 21. Speaker allotment begins at 5:30 p.m.
Where: UNC Asheville, HIG225 Beaucatcher Mountain Room Highsmith Student Union, One University Heights, Asheville
For added information, appointment deq.nc.gov. Accessible animadversion will be taken through Jan. 31. Written comments may additionally be mailed to Adriene Weaver, DWR Baptize Planning Section, 1611 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1611, or emailed to [email protected]
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