The 402-acre forest in Caldwell County will help protect the vital Yadkin River Watershed and eventually provide recreational and educational opportunities
KINGS CREEK, N.C. – A collaboration among local residents, conservationist groups and state agencies has led to the establishment of the Broyhill State Forest here, arguably the most significant development to protect Caldwell County’s water and other natural resources since the establishment of the Wilson Creek National and Wild Scenic River System in 2000.
The 402-acre forest was celebrated in a gathering in the nearby Grandin community by those that have spent years making it a reality. Representatives from The Conservation Fund, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) and the North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS) spoke. Other speakers included Hunt Broyhill of the Broyhill Family Foundation, N.C. State Senator Warren Daniel and N.C. Rep. Destin Hall.
North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler was unable to attend the event, but said through a press release from The Conservation Fund, “Broyhill State Forest will be managed as a dedicated nature preserve, and conserving the outstanding examples of North Carolina’s natural heritage will be a primary goal of management.”
Local realtor Jim Sponenberg, who has been involved with environmental efforts since moving to Caldwell County about 30 years ago, said, “Because of my previous work on the North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust, I knew the people it would take to make this happen, so I reached out to them, and with a lot of help, we got it done.”
“What if … ?”
Indeed, the precipitant was a conversation Sponenberg had with Hunt Broyhill, president of the Broyhill Family Foundation. Broyhill said he was looking to sell the land and during a conversation with Sponenberg, asked him, “Jim, what are we going to do with this property? And he said, ‘What if …’.”
The “What if” is now a reality. According to The Conservation Fund’s news release, “The Conservation Fund purchased the land for conservation in February 2022 and will soon transfer it to NCDA&CS thanks to funding from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (NCLWF), Fred and Alice Stanback, and other supporters.”
The previous landowners were the founders of Broyhill Furniture. As Broyhill pointed out, the land had been critical to the growth of the family’s furniture company with its high quality forests, especially hardwoods. Broyhill shared, “We can think of no more fitting legacy for this property than a sale to the state.”
Bill Holman, North Carolina state director at The Conservation Fund, said, “This new state forest will be such a strong outcome for the Broyhill family who stewarded this land, and for the community moving forward. High-quality forestland like this can support both our local economies and our larger fight against climate change.”
Before his opening remarks, Holman asked everyone to be quiet for a moment. He then asked, “What do you hear”? Without waiting for an answer, he offered, “The beauty and sound of the forest.”
Michael Cheek, assistant regional forester for the NCDA&CS who is charged with oversight of the new forest said, “I wish I could take credit, but this is your money. I am just here to ensure that I am a good steward.”
“No better land use”
He shared, “This property drains to Kings Creek, which flows into the Yadkin River, and then another 400 miles through South Carolina into the Atlantic Ocean near Georgetown. The Yadkin River basin includes over one-fifth of the counties in North Carolina and the river provides drinking water for nearly 900,000 people in central North Carolina.”
He continued, “What I know unequivocally is that there is no better land use than a forest when it comes to protecting water quality.” Cheek concluded, “The bottom line is that if you like trout fishing, swimming and drinking clean water, you want to see as much forest upstream as you can.”
Caldwell County Commission Chairman Randy Church said, “Any time you can get a state forest to open in your county, it’s a big deal. It will help our community grow. We want people to come to our county. It’s a welcoming community.”
Hall said, “Conservation efforts like this are crucial to maintaining the natural resources of our state. We are so grateful to the Broyhill family and all others involved for helping secure this forest for our state, our citizens, and future generations.” Warren shared “I worked with Destin for two years to get this through the General Assembly,” but he also credited Sponenberg for his persistence. “He just doesn’t quit. He just keeps coming to Raleigh.”
State Forester David Lane said, “Restoration will focus on declining community types and species of concern such as Montane oak-hickory and fire adapted pine forests.” Low impact, dispersed recreation will be emphasized, and opportunities for teaching and demonstrating forest management practices will be primary objectives for this forest.”
About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres of land, including more than 235,000 acres in North Carolina.
About the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides programs and services that promote and improve agriculture, agribusiness and forests; protect consumers and businesses; and conserve farmland and natural resources for all North Carolinians. Working together with many partners, NCDA&CS is building a strong, solid future for agriculture and agribusiness, North Carolina’s No. 1 industry.
About the N.C. Forest Service
The N.C. Forest Service is a division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and we envision a North Carolina with healthy trees and forests that provide essential environmental, economic and social benefits served by a professional workforce recognized as a leader in forest protection, emergency response, resource management and environmental education. Our mission in meeting this vision is to protect, manage and promote forest resources for the citizens of North Carolina.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2022.