Tim Sweeney is using some of his fortune to help give back. He just recently donated about 7,5000 acres of land in his home state of North Carolina for the purposes of conversation.
The land is in the Roan Highlands, and more specifically, at the southern end of the boundary of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area. The North Carolina general assembly announced in 2008 that this area would be the focus of new conversation efforts due in part to the “exceptional natural features” located there.
“It supports numerous threatened and endangered plant and animal species and features some of the most extraordinary scenery in the eastern U.S. The property includes the largest American Chestnut restoration project in the country, extensive boulder fields, rich coves, old growth forests, six waterfalls, and a system of rare heath-balds,” the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy said in a news release.
The transfer of the land is expected to go through in the next year, at which point SAHC will own and manage it as a nature preserve. SAHC’s staff will use it for scientific study, while Sweeney will collaborate on this as well. SAHC said it also plans to offer guided hikes.
“This is the largest single gift in SAHC’s history, and the largest gift of land to a land trust that I’m aware of,” land trust executive director Carl Silverstein said. “As we watch so much of our region get carved into sub-divisions, strategic acquisition of large parcels of land is increasingly important–and increasingly hard to accomplish. In twenty years this gift might be one of the few sites in Western North Carolina that still looks like it looked one hundred years ago, or one thousand years ago.”
The donated parcels of land include over 100 miles of creeks and streams, with Silverstein saying the land is some of the “most sought-after conversation acres in the eastern US.”
The release said Sweeney’s dream has been to conserve the entire mountain ecosystem in the area, and this donation is helping that to become a reality.
“This project is a conservationist’s dream come true,” SAHC Roan Stewardship director Marquette Crockett said. “Pristine roadless land that has not been timbered over is almost impossible to find in the Southern Appalachians in 2021, but this assemblage contains so much that we value, from old growth forests to high-elevation open areas in an undisturbed condition. My phone will ring off the hook from biologists who want to visit and study this unparalleled preserve. We look forward to welcoming them to the mountain.”
“I can’t wait to take local scout troops and church groups on hikes here and to invite school kids out to learn about how healthy forests clean our drinking water for free and how migratory songbirds fly between the Roan Highlands and Central America each year,” SAHC senior advisor Jay Leutze said. “This property is the back yard for a lot of people who treasure it for the clear air and scenic views it provides. In a world that is constantly changing our commitment is to keep this place functioning as a healthy ecosystem forever.”
Sweeney has been using his fortune for good lately. In 2016 he donated 7,000 acres of the land he bought for conversation efforts, totaling a $15 million donation.
Sweeney and Apple CEO Tim Cook will testify at an upcoming court case in May regarding the ongoing legal proceedings between the two companies.