Neighbors Band Together for Golden-winged Warblers

In Mitchell County, landowners are turning a power line right-of-way into prime habitat for a declining warbler.

When it comes to restoring land in western North Carolina for Golden-winged Warblers, a single landowner can make a difference. When several neighboring landowners band together, the benefits for this declining species are magnified.

Bettye Boone and Saylor Fox, whose property in Mitchell County is only a couple of miles from the Roan Highlands, have been working tirelessly to restore habitat for Golden-winged Warblers in the power line right-of-way that runs along their road. Concerned about the local electric company’s use of herbicide to maintain the right-of-way, they contacted the company and offered to manage the corridor themselves, with guidance from Audubon.

After representatives at the company agreed, Audubon staff sat down with Bettye and Saylor to make a plan that would improve the habitat for Golden-winged Warblers. The couple is now working to restore native plants for birds and pollinators and manage the corridor as a patchwork of herbaceous plants and shrub cover—perfect habitat for Golden-winged Warblers. The birds depend on this young, regenerating forest to breed and nest.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed by their neighbors: James Whittle, who is friends with Bettye and Saylor and owns property along the right-of-way, applauds their commitment to stewarding this area and plans to implement practices to benefit wildlife on his property, too.

The right-of-way is positioned in a wonderful location from a conservation perspective: on a tract owned and protected by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and surrounded by tracts owned by SAHC and the U.S. Forest Service. SAHC staff are working with volunteers to manage all power line corridors on Conservancy-owned properties in the Roan area as habitat for birds and pollinators. In addition, SAHC staff and partners will soon begin developing a Golden-winged Warbler habitat management plan for a parcel located just a stone’s throw away from the corridor that Bettye and Saylor are maintaining, again with input from Audubon on how to best create habitat for this species. The development of this plan will also surely benefit from the knowledge and experience gained by Bettye and Saylor, who are longtime SAHC volunteers.

Bettye and Saylor, James, and SAHC staff, along with Audubon, are ensuring that Golden-winged Warblers and other birds that depend on early successional habitat—such as Indigo Buntings and Chestnut-sided Warblers—have a place to raise young. We thank these folks for their efforts and their commitment to conservation!

Jamie Harrelson, Audubon North Carolina Private Lands Technician, joined our team in 2019.

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