Saving Scott's Ridge
Rob Walling

Saving Scott's Ridge

Rob Walling April 22, 2022 Posted in: Blog Posts, General, Community Involvement

A year and a half ago, I moved to Biltmore Lake, North Carolina. One of the most beautiful natural vistas in this area is the view of Scott Mountain, which is part of the Pisgah National Forest. Scott Mountain, and particularly its picturesque south side, teems with bears, backpackers and bikers. 

The north face of the mountain, up to a section of the mountain called Scott’s Ridge, is owned by the Cecil family. The Cecils are cousins to the branch of the Cecil-Vanderbilt family that owns the famous Biltmore estate; they also developed the Biltmore Lake community. After a long period of ownership, the Cecils made the decision last year to sell the 138 acres that make up Scott’s Ridge.

The sale of Scott’s Ridge creates the possibility that the land will be used for commercial or residential development. For me, personally, this is important for two big reasons. First, I utterly love the views of Scott’s Ridge from my home, and I enjoy hiking and mountain biking the ridge – I’d hate for it to become a condominium development. 

Second, as it turns out, Pinnacle has a client that can help – the Land Trust Alliance (LTA). 

Since 1982, LTA has spearheaded efforts to increase land conservation, helped land trusts grow and thrive, and defended land trusts1 from numerous threats that endanger them. Today, LTA has almost 1,000 members and 6.4 million supporters nationally. Pinnacle helped LTA develop Terrafirma Risk Retention Group (RRG), an insurance company providing coverage for legal costs associated with defending its members. 

Here’s where worlds started colliding for me, and where the story gets interesting. 

The Western region of North Carolina is fortunate to have an amazing organization called the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), a group of individuals that is passionate about permanently preserving areas using conservation easements and other tools. The Biltmore Lake Association, the homeowners association (HOA), decided to seek out SAHC to help purchase Scott’s Ridge and turn the area into a conservation easement. 

Coincidentally, SAHC is a large and active member of LTA. In addition, one of their staff sits on the Terrafirma RRG’s claims committee and has attended my presentations to the Terrafirma Board of Directors. My knowledge of these great organizations and individuals gave me confidence that not only could a deal to preserve Scott’s Ridge get done, but it would be done quickly, well and sensitively. 

This story has a happy ending: a grass roots effort to generate donations to purchase the land was quite successful. An agreement in principle to purchase Scott’s Ridge and turn it into a conservation easement has already led to renewed interest in the ridge, with groups doing hikes and birdwatching events. 

Clients have played a role in my personal life from time to time, but the purchase and protection of Scott’s Ridge will always be special to me. It’s hard not to feel a special sense of purpose. It was a privilege to work for the LTA and Terrafirma and make a small contribution to their work to preserve — for generations to come — this wonderful and incredibly picturesque part of the country. 

Every day now, when I look across the lake and up to Scott’s Ridge, I’ll know the Land Trust Alliance and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy made a real difference.

1 A land trust is a nonprofit organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by acquiring land or conservation easements, and/or stewarding/managing land or conservation easements.

Rob Walling is a principal and consulting actuary with Pinnacle Actuarial Resources and has been in the insurance industry since 1989, consulting since 1997. He is focused on commercial lines ratemaking and product development, actuarial studies for captives and self-insureds, commercial lines loss reserving, legislative costing, litigation support, regulatory consulting and expert testimony. Rob is a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (AAA) and a Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst. He has served on the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) Board of Directors, the Casualty Committee of the Actuarial Standards Board, and as chairperson of several CAS and AAA committees and task forces. Rob is a frequent speaker at industry meetings on professionalism, predictive analytics, captives and alternative markets, medical professional liability and government insurance program topics.
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