Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 18, 2023

Contact:

Will Harlan, (828) 230-6818, WHarlan@biologicaldiversity.org

Hundreds of Different Species Identified in Craggy Mountains BioBlitz in North Carolina

Community Scientists Affirm Extraordinary Diversity of Proposed Craggy National Scenic Area

ASHEVILLE, N.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity and its partners recently completed a bioblitz in the proposed Craggy National Scenic Area that identified more than 1,600 organisms and 647 species. Dozens of expert naturalists and hundreds of community scientists teamed up to explore the Craggy Mountains in North Carolina and identify as many plant and animal species as possible.

Notable finds include the northern pygmy salamander, Canada honeysuckle, deer-hair bullrush, Goldie’s fern, round-leaved orchid and a remarkable abundance of diverse moth species.

“The bioblitz affirmed that Craggy is one of the most biologically diverse forests in the country,” said Will Harlan, Southeast director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Craggy National Scenic Area designation is urgently needed to protect this ancient forest and the astonishing array of plants and animals that depend on it.”

The Craggy Mountains also provide habitat for several federally protected species including the endangered spruce-fir moss spider, northern long-eared bat and Carolina northern flying squirrel.

The data collected by bioblitz participants in June further documented the extraordinary biological diversity of the area and will be crucial in efforts to permanently protect it.

The Craggy Mountains are one of the mightiest ranges of Southern Appalachia, with at least nine peaks over 5,000 feet and Craggy Dome topping out above 6,000 feet. The Craggies also have one of the greatest concentrations of old-growth forest and rare species in North Carolina. Approximately 4,000 acres of old-growth forests and 32 species on the North Carolina rare species list occur in the Craggy Mountains.

Conservation groups and businesses have proposed permanently protecting the Craggy Mountains as a national scenic area because of their natural beauty and biological diversity. The Craggy National Scenic Area would protect 16,000 acres of panoramic vistas, trout streams, waterfalls and old growth in Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, N.C. It would be North Carolina’s first-ever national scenic area.

A national scenic area designation requires an act of Congress. The Center and its partners have been meeting with U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards, Sen. Thom Tillis and Sen. Ted Budd and their staff to discuss creating the Craggy National Scenic Area.

“The Craggy Mountains are a biodiversity hotspot that should be protected for all to enjoy,” said Amanda Lytle, a Craggy BioBlitz leader and herpetologist with Western Carolina University. “From endemic salamanders to slime molds, this area has something for everyone.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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