The Sweet Smell of a Successful Forestry Project

In fall of 2016, Audubon NC partnered with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) to restore Golden-winged Warbler habitat in the Roan Highlands region of Western North Carolina.

GWWAs tend to be averse to conifers (evergreen trees), meaning the six acres of remnant Christmas trees growing on a tract of land SAHC recently acquired were theoretically keeping GWWAs from nesting in this area despite its close proximity to a healthy breeding GWWA population.

Keeping conservation in mind, we didn’t want to simply pile the remnant trees for useless removal (although their absence would ultimately benefit the GWWAs): but other tree-removal attempts had so far failed to remove a substantial enough number of trees, including a seasonal “Cut-Your-Own Christmas trees” initiative.

Remnant Christmas tree farm Photo: Marquette Crockett

Luckily, SAHC’s Roan Highlands Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett came up with a creative idea to solve the problem…

Just a year and a half before Marquette’s idea, Asheville-based business Blue Ridge Aromatics was started. With a modest $5000 crowdfunding campaign, the craft oil distillery began specializing in hand-distilling essential oils of Western North Carolina plants. Like Audubon and SAHC, Blue Ridge Aromatics favors the “Cradle to Cradle principle where ‘waste’ from one system serves as feedstock for another system.”

Fraser Fir processing in preparation for distillation Photo: Ian Montgomery

As part of a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, Audubon NC was able to help SAHC work with Blue Ridge Aromatics to harvest the remaining Fraser Firs, opening approximately 10 total acres of high-elevation successional fields to make room for the GWWA. And do you know what?

Spring 2017 surveys revealed two new GWWA territories were established where once there were Christmas trees! I think we can all agree this is one of the best (and earliest) gifts of all!

The sweet smell of success lives on with Aromatics Fraser Fir Essential Oil. Help support this effort by purchasing a bottle here and they will donate 10% of the profits back to SAHC for future land stewardship in the Roan Highlands.

For more information about GWWA Habitat Restoration opportunities, contact Aimee Tomcho at atomcho@audubon.org.