Man walking into a forest carrying three bags filled with young red spruce trees over his shoulder.
A volunteer carries young red spruce trees into the forest for planting.

Found at the highest and coldest parts of the Southern Blue Ridge, the Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests are characterized by high moisture – often immersed in cloud cover – and are widely considered a relic from the last ice age. These areas are home for plants and animals found nowhere else in the south, and in many cases, nowhere else in the world. They’re home to federally listed spruce-fir moss spider and Carolina northern flying squirrel; as well as a long list of species of conservation concern including the northern saw-whet owl, brown creeper, black-capped chickadee, and several salamanders.

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, the natural lands of southern Appalachia were marked by unsustainable, industrial-scale logging, followed by widespread, large forest fires, fed by the slash left from the logging. The breadth and intensity of these fires changed the nature of southern Appalachian forests, including spruce-fir forests. The fires not only destroyed trees, but also altered the soil, burning the organic material red spruce seeds need to sprout. The result was that the size of these forests shrank, which meant less habitat for the other species that depend on this forest community.

A century after these forests were altered by rampant wildfire, they haven’t recovered. From the 1960’s to the late 1980’s these forests experienced wide-spread declines, with acid precipitation and death of the Fraser fir from the introduction of the Balsam woolly adelgid likely key contributors. However, air quality has improved, reducing acid precipitation, and while the Balsam woolly adelgid still kills Fraser fir trees, there’s still an opportunity to restore red spruce, and through SASRI, a team of conservationists have stepped up to that challenge.

What is SASRI?

SASRI team members discuss restoration opportunities at Roan Mountain

The Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (SASRI) is a partnership of diverse interests with a common goal of restoring spruce ecosystems across the high elevation landscapes of the Southern Blue Ridge.  It is comprised of private, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations which recognize the importance of this ecosystem for its ecological, aesthetic, recreational, economic, and cultural values.


Restore spruce to natural abundance in ecologically appropriate locations where canopy density has been reduced.

  • Restore spruce to natural abundance in ecologically appropriate locations where canopy density has been reduced.
  • Develop capacity to store seed and grow genetically appropriate spruce seedling to support resilient restoration projects int he face of climate change.
  • Continue refining mapping and field criteria to determine appropriate restoration sites with new research and continued assessment of existing data.



  • Matt Drury, Appalachian Trail Conservancy – mdrury@appalachiantrail.org
  • Gary Peeples, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – gary_peeples@fws.gov

Steering committee members:

  • Tara Anderson – USFS – Pisgah/Nantahala NF
  • Sue Cameron – US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • John Caveny – Grandfather Mountain Foundation
  • Carol Croy – US Forest Service – George Washington/Jefferson NF
  • Cordie Diggins – Virginia Tech
  • Mark Endries – US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Kelly Holdbrooks – Southern Highlands Reserve
  • Kurt Johnsen – US Forest Service – Southern Research Station
  • Chris Kelly, NC Wildlife Resources Commission
  • Jason Rodrigue – USFS – Pisgah/Nantahala NF
  • Andy Whittier – NC State University