The Highlands Plateau is situated at the
southernmost end of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range and includes the towns of Highlands and Cashiers. The plateau covers an area with a range in altitude from 915 to 1540 m (3,002?5,053 feet). Rivers to the west of the plateau, such as
the Cullasaja, flow to the Mississippi River, while rivers to the south and east flow to the Savannah River. The old-growth and virgin hemlock forest that once was widespread throughout the area has largely disappeared, but the area
continues to support a rich and diverse assemblage of birds.

Ornithological Summary

The assemblage of bird species found here is more typical of northern forests. Highlands Plateau supports a significant diversity and abundance of migratory landbirds (Criteria 4g) and is one of North Carolina's most important sites for species such as Blackburnian Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Peregrine Falcons were re-introduced to the area and nest on shear cliffs of Whiteside Mountain. The site includes the Highlands Biological Station where studies of birds and their habitats have been ongoing since the 1940s (Criteria 5). Records of birds in the area date back to the late 1880s.

Conservation Issues

Residential and commercial development, predation, invasive pests, air pollution, drought.

Rapid growth is encroaching on natural areas, creating loss of habitat, fragmentation of forests, and
introduction of edge species in formerly interior forests. In addition, air pollution, golf course run-off, and sedimentation of waterways are of concern.

Ownership

The site includes portions of the Nantahala National Forest, Nantahala Game Lands, Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, Ellicott Rock Wilderness and significant private land holdings. Both the Nature Conservancy and the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust have been active in acquiring land for conservation in the area.

Habitat

mixed forest, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, riparian, mountain cliff

Land Use

Forestry, recreation and tourism, and suburban and undeveloped areas.

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