At a Glance

By integrating sustainability goals into its master plan, WCU is able to protect Southern Appalachian Mountain habitat on their unique campus in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Project Description

The main campus of Western Carolina University (WCU) lies in the Tuckasegee River valley, nestled between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains. Among the important natural resources in this region, which ranges in elevation from 2,000–2,500 feet, is Cullowhee Creek, a trout stream and tributary to the Tuckasegee.

When the University initiated a master planning process to guide campus development and improvements over the next several decades, they required the integration of a sustainability plan. As a key member of the University’s master planning team, Biohabitats contributed to the development of sustainability goals and integrated them into the comprehensive master plan.

Biohabitats began by conducting an assessment of three sites: the University’s main campus (including Cullowhee Creek and its riparian corridor, the 300-acre, mountainous natural area of its west campus, and Cullowhee Creek. The assessments included inventory and analysis of features such as stormwater systems, forested areas, invasive species, riparian corridors and associated wetlands. Based on the findings, Biohabitats generated sustainable development scenarios and recommendations for riparian enhancement and stormwater management and retrofits. Biohabitats also developed riparian enhancement concepts and presented them to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

With sustainability goals established, the University is now equipped with recommendations on how to retrofit green infrastructure into the main campus, enhance and protect the ecological integrity of Cullowhee Creek, and conserve the natural resources.



Southeast Atlantic

Physiographic Province

Appalachian Mountains


Tennessee River

Expertise Areas

Community, Conservation, Infrastructure, Urban Ecology, Water


Western Carolina University


Cullowhee, North Carolina, United States