The bank’s service area includes portions of the Towns of Belwood, Boiling Springs, Columbus, Forest City, Lake Lure, Rutherfordton, and Spindale, the Cities of Kings Mountain and Shelby, and the Counties of Buncombe, Cleveland, Gaston, Henderson, Lincoln, McDowell, Polk, and Rutherford. No other mitigation banks serve this area.
Box Creek Wilderness Area (BCWA) is approximately 6,800 acres in total. It is located within the South Mountain region, which includes South Mountains State Park and Gameland. The Bank Site includes 5,040 acres of this area, as well as approximately 45 miles of pristine cool water streams. Buffer widths on the streams range from 200 feet to 500 feet, at least six times the minimum mandatory buffer width for mitigation.
The diversity and rarity of species and natural communities make the BCWA and Bank Site one of the most ecologically significant and unique natural areas in the state. The Box Creek Natural Area ranks in the top 1% (13th among nearly 2,500) of Natural Areas in the state. It holds the highest possible quality rating (“Exceptional”) and contains more than 22 rare natural communities and 66 rare and at-risk species. Three of these natural communities represent previously unknown communities that have never before been documented or described and are endemic to the BCWA.
The diversity of rare species and rare natural communities appears to be more concentrated within BCWA than any other area in the South Mountains, and is comparable in its regional ecological significance to flagship sites like Roan Mountain, Linville Gorge, Chimney Rock, and others.
Approximately 2/3 of the Bank Site ranks as a 7-10 in conservation value (“high”) by NC DENR’s Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment tool, and the remaining 1/3 of the site ranks as a 10, the highest possible score.
The project is truly a watershed approach with a conservation easement that encompasses approximately 2,700 acres of land that protects streams from the headwaters to the main channels. Protecting these high quality headwater systems is essential to preserving a healthy freshwater ecosystem and protecting the Broad River Basin water resources.