Three Rivers Land Trust (TRLT) transfers outstanding resource water to NC Wildlife Resources Commission

Published 1:55 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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The Uwharrie Region may be a hidden gem among recreationists, but the high water quality and presence of rare mussel species in this part of the Piedmont is well known among biologists.

That is why when the last stretch of private land on Panther Branch, an outstanding resource water, came available for purchase, Three Rivers Land Trust acted quickly to secure the property.

And just as eagerly, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) agreed to take over ownership of the site.

In October, 92 acres of land were transferred to NCWRC in Montgomery County, near Troy.

This tract of land contains 1,200 feet of frontage on Panther Branch and 2,500 feet of frontage on Barnes Creek, both of which are classified as outstanding resource waters, the highest quality classification that the State of North Carolina gives to any stream.

The tract was originally purchased by TRLT from Jordan Lumber in 2021 because of its ecological significance and location as a USFS inholding. With the transfer to NCWRC, the entire stream is now permanently conserved, protecting several species of rare mussels with it.

These freshwater mussel species, such as the Green floater (Lasmigona subviridis), are indicative of high-water-quality given their sensitivity to water pollutants.

“The conservation of this property has water quality, wildlife habitat and public access implications,” says Crystal Cockman, associate director of TRLT. “Currently, loblolly pines cover the majority of the property, but soon the forest stand will be converted into a more natural forest type, most likely short-leaf pine, which will provide high habitat value to many wildlife species. We are excited to know this land and its rare mussel species will now be permanently conserved.”

“The transfer of this tract combines two of our core tenants here at Three Rivers Land Trust,” states Travis Morehead, executive director of TRLT, “and that is expanding public lands and protecting local waters. We were excited for the opportunity to protect this tract and transfer it to the NCWRC to protect water quality and for the public’s use as game lands.”

A ribbon cutting open to the public celebrating this transfer will take place on Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. at the Uwharrie Trail trailhead located on Tower Road in Montgomery County, and attendees can follow the Land Trust event signs. An approximately 2-mile round trip hike to the newly transferred property will be offered.

This project was completed with funding from TRLT Members, Jack Horan, Fred and Alice Stanback, and the NC Land and Water Fund.

To learn more about how to conserve your lands or how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust in their conservation mission, contact Emily Callicutt, senior land protection specialist at Three Rivers Land Trust, by calling 704-647-0302 or by email at