Celebrating Earth Day Every Day: A Tribute to Conservation Efforts in North Carolina  

Recently, Conservation Trust for North Carolina gathered to celebrate Earth Day and our long-standing commitment to protecting the land, water, and communities that make North Carolina special. Through each project, whether it be building community resilience through our Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, protecting land along the Blue Ridge Parkway, or partnering with local governments and community stakeholders to build a more flood-resilient state, CTNC prioritizes the strength of resilience in our environment and communities.

Recognizing Collaboration in Conservation  

Earth Day Celebration – Raleigh, NC 

This Earth Day, CTNC accepted $50,000 to support our environmental justice and climate resiliency projects from the Duke Energy Foundation. CTNC staff and board members gathered in Raleigh to receive the award and celebrate Earth Day achievements alongside our incredible conservation partners from the Parkway to the Triangle.  

CTNC’s Board President, Bill Leslie, accepted the grant.  

“On behalf of Conservation Trust for North Carolina, our board and staff, and community partners throughout the state, I want to express heartfelt appreciation for the Duke Energy Foundation’s investment in our vision to inspire and enable North Carolina communities to build resilience to flooding and other climate change hazards.”  

He added, “Conserved land provides access to trails and green space, protects farms that generate our food, and can absorb stormwater during extreme flood events that are becoming more common every year. We look forward to making a deeper investment in communities, from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Princeville in Eastern N.C., and right here in Southeast Raleigh, all in collaboration with local leaders who value and understand how land conservation can help address our current climate crisis.” 

“Communities across North Carolina have seen firsthand the lasting impacts from storms and excessive rainfall,” said Cynthia Satterfield, executive director of Conservation Trust for North Carolina. “We are grateful that Duke Energy recognizes the importance of building resilient communities equipped to reduce and manage flood risk and that they are helping fund this critical mission.” 

Of the seventeen local nonprofits recognized by Duke Energy Foundation, CTNC is proud to operate in partnership with five conservation partners: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Partners for Environmental Justice, NC Wildlife Federation, and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Together, we’re dedicated to achieving community resilience through climate change solutions for all North Carolinians throughout the state.  

Blue Ridge Parkway Earth Day Dedication  

At Craggy Gardens, a popular stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway, CTNC’s Land Protection Director, Rusty Painter, and Western Conservation Manager, Aaron Flannery, attended an Earth Day event focused on conserving Western North Carolina public lands.

Present at the event were state conservation leaders, Governor Roy Cooper, Secretary North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Reid Wilson, Eastern Band of Cherokee Tribal Council Chairman Mike Parker, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout, and National Park Service Staff.

“We are grateful for our lasting partnership with the Blue Ridge Parkway, our fellow land trusts, the multitude of other partners, and landowners who enable us to continue protecting ‘America’s Favorite Drive'” states Rusty Painter. “As one of the most-visited units of America’s national park system, preserving the land along the Parkway is crucial for current and future generations to enjoy all that the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.” 

Rusty Painter and Tracy Swartout, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent

Making Investments in Long-Term Conservation  

Rounding out Earth Week, Governor Cooper released his final budget recommendations. The package reinforces his administration’s commitment to conservation and climate resilience initiatives. Learn more about the budget proposal and placements for increasing conservation funding here.  

As we celebrate and reflect on this year’s Earth Day, we are immensely grateful for the statewide network of partnerships we hold to amplify conservation efforts. By standing together and working collaboratively, we can face the challenges posed by climate change head-on and build a brighter future for North Carolina. 

AmeriCorps Members Contributing to Protecting Western North Carolina for Generations to Come 

Preserving the mountain ecology and prioritizing environmental education through building community capacity in Western NC

In the Western region of North Carolina, three Resilience Corps NC members are serving local communities. Through environmental education programs, land conservation efforts, promoting sustainable agriculture practices and interpretive hiking events, these members are actively assisting the needs of Western North Carolina at a local community level.  

With CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, building capacity is more attainable. The placement of members directly contributes to the current and future projects that nonprofits and local government/agency partners involved in the program hold to benefit North Carolina.   

Evidence of Resilience in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Lauren Howard: Green River Preserve  

Lauren Howard serves as an Environmental Educator at Green River Preserve. Green River Preserve is nearly 4000 acres of protected land in Cedar Mountain, NC that is home to a summer camp and field trip site. Lauren grew up attending summer camps at Green River Preserve and was also a camp counselor while she was completing her undergraduate degree.  

Lauren is proud to serve as GRP’s AmeriCorps member to educate children and assist farm tasks on the property, especially since she has a previous connection to the organization. Lauren focuses most of her time on the KALE Program, Kid’s Agricultural Learning Experience, updating the curriculum and creating environmental education-themed activities to immerse students in the natural world. The program allows children to have hands-on experience in learning about agricultural practices, environmental conservation and an introduction to the diverse ecology of Western North Carolina. 

Gina Patton: Balsam Mountain Trust

Gina Patton serves as the Education Outreach Coordinator for Balsam Mountain Trust in Sylva, NC, where she oversees public-facing environmental education programs. Balsam Mountain Trust is a part of Balsam Mountain Preserve, a private residential area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Balsam Mountain Trust aims to create environmental stewards with a focus on preserving the ecology found among the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Throughout her service year, Gina has achieved significant milestones, including recruiting and supervising an animal care volunteer and delivering various educational initiatives such as the Adopt-A-School program and ecoEXPLORE programs to Title One schools and county libraries. 

 She has also conducted interpretive hikes and hosted school field trips, showcasing her dedication to environmental education. Currently, Gina is focused on planning the 7th annual Bird Festival to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day. Gina enjoys leading interpretive hikes at the local public park to educate the public on the local wildlife. A highlight of her role includes engaging children in hands-on experiences, as depicted in the attached image where she is seen allowing kids to interact with Orville, the corn snake, during an Adopt-A-School program. 

Jessica Blackburn: Highland-Cashiers Land Trust 

Jessica Blackburn serves as an Environment Educator at Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust (HCLT) in Highlands, NC. HCLT focuses on preserving the Soutern Appalachians through the conservation of wetlands, forests and vistas. At HCLT, Jessica plays a pivotal role in organizing and planning after-school programs, coordinating community events, managing social media, and fostering connections with local schools and community members.  

Jessica has assisted in waterway preservation through her collaboration with Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) in Asheville to collect water samples at HCLT’s public access property, Brushy Face. Once more cumulative data has been analyzed, Jessica plans to hold community events for locals to get educated on the health of their streams. 

Additionally, Jessica has facilitated pottery programs in partnership with a local K-12 school to have pottery programs that educate students on how the Cherokee people have used and use clay to make functional pottery.  

She has also pursued personal development opportunities by completing a chainsaw course and making progress toward an environmental educator certificate. Currently, Jessica is spearheading two major projects—a bioblitz and a partial eclipse watch party—and has committed to staying for a second term with Resilience Corps NC at HCLT to see through her ongoing projects.  

The Future of Resilience in Western North Carolina 

Western North Carolina is a large asset of what makes North Carolina so enchanting and ecologically diverse. Protecting the land along and past the Blue Ridge Parkway is crucial to ensuring that future generations can view the vast landscapes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Through the service of AmeriCorps members that build capacity at the local community level, active progress is being made towards prioritizing conservation and education in Western NC.  

Building Resilience in Central North Carolina

Diving into the service work of AmeriCorps members advancing Central North Carolina community resilience

In the Piedmont region of North Carolina, thirteen Resilience Corps NC members are serving their local communities and supporting their resilience goals. Members are building capacity in their respective communities through environmental education measures, litter mitigation events and studies, increasing access to locally grown foods, and protecting various waterways and mitigating urban heat. Together with our partners, CTNC is utilizing AmeriCorps service to create a collaborative network tackling the needs of numerous communities across the state.  

Through CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, building capacity is more attainable. The placement of members directly contributes to the current and future projects of our conservation nonprofits and local government agency partners to benefit North Carolina.   

Members Building Capacity in Central North Carolina

Austin Duncan: Central Pines Regional Council  

Austin Duncan is serving as the Stormwater Education Coordinator for Central Pines Regional Councill. Austin has made significant strides in community outreach and environmental education, having reached over 1700 individuals across 16 different communities through direct educational efforts. As a participant in the NC Stream Watch Ambassadors Cohort, he has begun integrating its curriculum into his teaching plans. Austin has spearheaded the planning efforts for Regional Creek Week 2024, a weeklong series of events aimed at fostering connections between communities and their local waterways. One of the highlights of the regional event is the Wandering Water Map, a live photo map where participants can share their significant bodies of water. 

Tanya Balaji: Keep Charlotte Beautiful 

Tanya Balaji is the AmeriCorps Engagement and Education Specialist for Keep Charlotte Beautiful, a city program offering waste reduction, litter prevention, and community beautification/greening projects and services for residents in Charlotte, North Carolina. As an AmeriCorps member, Tanya conducts outreach to various stakeholders in the community, with a focus on engaging with underserved and non-traditional communities. Some programs she focuses on are promoting and improving are as follows: Adopt-a-City-Street program, Adopt-a-Bus-Stop program, Corridors of Opportunity cleanups, Bee City events, America Recycles Day events, environmental education programming for elementary school students, and so much more! 

As an individual with a passion for research and development, Tanya’s main project at KCB is currently helping the City of Charlotte pilot a litter study, in partnership with UNC Charlotte. The goal for this study is to analyze the composition and distribution of litter across the City, with the goal of using the data to determine what actions we can take to create a more sustainable future in Charlotte. This project will sample 381 road segments across the City and will take place with the help of volunteers. The study launches on April 1st, 2024, and will continue until January 2025.  

Amongst organizing other regular programming events such as organizing litter cleanups and Bee City events to celebrate pollinators, Tanya is currently in the process of helping a local Title 1 elementary school create a beautification project to bring the community together, as part of the Great American Cleanup, a national initiative to beautify the environment and bring awareness to environmental stewardship.  

For the remainder of her service term, Tanya is excited to continue growing the program and conducting outreach to underserved communities. She’s also hoping to spend more time engaging with the younger generation, to help shape them into environmental stewards who care for both their community and environment. 

Cindy Rassi: El Futuro  

Cindy Rassi serves as the Community Engagement and Therapeutic Green Space Coordinator for El Futuro. El Futuro provides support and services to the Latino community in North Carolina. The presence of green spaces is known to boost mental health, encouraging the need for these areas in the El Futuro property. Cindy’s initiative to enhance these areas allows for the community to gain a deeper connection and understanding to the natural world and conservation for our environment. 

 Cindy has achieved remarkable milestones during her service year, notably by boosting participation and programming, resulting in the doubling of participants and forging new collaborations with community agencies. Cindy is engaged in coordinating several upcoming events at her host site, including “Sembremos Juntos” (during Creek Week), “Un Dia a la Vez” (one day at a time), Niñitos de la Naturaleza (parent-child group-exposing kids to nature) and an Earth Day celebration for the community. Additionally, Cindy is conducting a Green Space Survey in the community. She is particularly intrigued about exploring the impact of Therapeutic Green Space on the mental health of the Latino community and crafting events and programs that address the community’s needs based on their input.  

Sabrinah Hartsell: North Carolina Zoo  

Senior Member

Sabrinah Hartsell is a senior member of Resilience Corps NC, with this service year being her second year serving at the North Carolina Zoo. Sabrinah is the Nature Rock’s, the NC Zoo’s afterschool programming, & Virtual Programming Assistant with a focus on serving those who are historically undeserved. Sabrinah provides nature connection, climate change, and STEM career programs for about 450 children.  

Through collaborations with the Museum of Art, We Thrive Together, and other local organizations, Sabrinah assists in providing accessible programming to adults with developmental and vision disabilities.

Another role of Sabrinah’s is to help manage the North Carolina Zoo’s educational Facebook group called “Adventures in EdZOOcation”. With this page, she develops content for the group, coordinates with the Zoo’s communications team about the analytics of the group and determines how they use the group to educate online participants. Sabrinah is very passionate about the collaborative work she does with these communities and is very proud of how far the programs have come. 

Christopher Perdomo: Piedmont Environmental Alliance  

Serving as an Enviornmental Educator at the Piedmont Environmental Alliance (PEA), Christopher coordinates scheduling for Education Programs, engages in community event tabling, recruits and manages volunteers, and teaches 7th and 9th-grade students about Energy and Water conservation. Noteworthy accomplishments during his service year include educating over 2000 Title 1 students on water and energy conservation. Christopher also organized an Environmental Debate Tournament for high school students involving 93 participants from 12 different schools across three counties.  

Christopher is focused on organizing the Environmental Debate Tournament Finals as part of PEA’s Free Earth Day Fair celebration. He finds great excitement in regularly visiting classrooms and witnessing the students’ enthusiasm for science class, making it a highlight of his service year. 

Haley Bock: Piedmont Triad Regional Council  

Senior Member

Haley Bock is a senior member of Resilience Corps NC and is serving her second year of service at the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) as an Environmental Educator. Haley plays a crucial role in implementing environmental science programs at Title 1 schools, covering topics such as soil and water conservation, freshwater ecosystems, and the water cycle.  

Throughout the service year, Haley has made significant achievements, having educated over 2,300 individuals through stormwater education initiatives and nearly completing her Environmental Educator Certification.  

Currently, her focus is on forming an environmental committee to promote sustainable practices within the PTRC office, organizing Creek Week programs, and scheduling summer reading programs. She eagerly anticipates receiving her Environmental Educator Certificate, marking a milestone in her service year journey. 

Rae Cohn: Hub Farm    

Rae serves as an Environmental Educator focused on K-12 field trips, internships, and summer camps at the Durham Public Schools Hub Farm. Rae is also a steward of the Hub Farm’s 30-acre property, which includes a garden, orchard, wetland and forest habitats, with chickens, rabbits, an apiary, farm cat, and plenty of wildlife.  

Rae also facilitates several community collaborations including a tri-yearly plant giveaway for school and community gardens in Durham (UCAN, El Futuro, etc.), the Farm to School initiative with the Durham County department of Public Health, a collaboration with the Latin American Consortium of Duke/UNC, and a collaboration with the Resilience Curriculum project at Duke/NCSU.  

Rae has developed several programs and collaborations in a way that the Hub Farm did not have capacity for before, including developing curriculum and programming for field trips (resilience curriculum, soil testing, water quality, shad in the classroom), new and increased community partnerships (an afterschool program at Eno Valley Elementary, 4H club with NC State Cooperative Extension, and partnerships with UCAN, El Futuro, F2S, LAGC), and stewarding our non-human community with new seed solicitations, culturally relevant heirloom crops (indigenous foods, and geography themed beds for LAGC and African-American foodways), a new vermicomposting system, bunny ramps, mobile chicken coop, and fish aquaculture capacity. 

Rae is also undergoing a fisheries restoration project with the NC Museum of Natural History called “Shad in the Classroom”, where they rear juvenile fish larvae to release in the Neuse River and is hosting a fishing event at the end of April to celebrate aquatic foods. Rae is excited to use these resources to support their local community’s growth, both through food and environmental education as well as physical garden resources.  

Anna Behnke: Conservation Trust for North Carolina 

Anna is serving as the Communications & Outreach Associate for Conservation Trust for North Carolina. Anna plays a collaborative role as both a Resilience Corps NC member and working closely with CTNC staff on communications needs and outreach measures.  

Throughout her service term, Anna has travelled throughout the state to meet with fellow Resilience Corps NC members. During these trips, Anna learns more about each member’s role and gathers content to share with CTNC’s supporters and beyond. Anna also assists in creating the content for CTNC’s blogs, website, emails and social media platforms.  

From the mountains to the coast, Anna enjoys travelling to display the diverse service contributions from the members in her cohort and the climate resilience work of CTNC. She has visited with Lauren Waibel from NC Coastal Land Trust, Tykia Lewis from the Town of Princeville, Lauren Howard from Green River Preserve, Tanya Balaji from Keep Charlotte Beautiful, Hannah Nystrom from Cape Fear River Watch and Rae Cohn from The Hub Farm so far.  

Communicating the interworking of Resilience Corps NC is crucial to show others the monumental strides in community resilience that occur from the presence of AmeriCorps member placements.  

Ellen Davis: Central Pines Regional Council  

Ellen Davis is serving as a Community Development AmeriCorps Member at the Central Pines Regional Council. Ellen is actively involved in assisting low-income homeowners within Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Lee, Moore, and Johnston Counties. Her role within the Housing Focus Area entails connecting homeowners with repair resources, conducting research on housing-related topics, and administering housing grant funding.  

Throughout her service year, Ellen has contributed to streamlining and standardizing home repair processes, facilitating quicker service delivery to homeowners. She has also successfully connected applicants with various resources to address diverse needs, including temporary space heaters, grants for children with autism, and domestic violence support groups.  

Currently, Ellen is managing six different projects aimed at serving approximately 70 homeowners across four counties, with repair costs ranging from $8,000 to $40,000. One of the most rewarding aspects of her service is witnessing the positive impact of completed repair projects on homeowners’ physical and mental well-being. Ellen finds joy in seeing “After” photos of completed projects, signifying tangible improvements in people’s lives. 

Grace Sigmon: North Carolina Zoo 

Senior Member

Grace is a senior member of Resilience Corps NC and is in progress of her second service year at the North Carolina Zoo. Grace serves as the Natural Areas Conservation Educator, where she educates the public on the biodiversity of North Carolina. Her endeavors include leading guided hikes for local groups in Asheboro, conducting environmental education programs for after-school groups, and participating in wildlife surveys at the Zoo.  

Additionally, Grace contributes to trail and land management projects at the NC Zoo-owned nature preserves. Grace collaborates with NC Zoo staff on citizen science projects such as NestWatch observations and NC Bird Atlas observations, aiming to involve colleagues in conservation efforts and ensure project continuity beyond her service year.  

Grace also assists her supervisor in monitoring salamanders during the breeding season at offsite properties, contributing to species identification and population baseline data. She is passionate about leading guided hikes for after-school groups, partnering with fellow AmeriCorps member Sabrinah Hartsell to offer outdoor experiences to children from the Dream Center after-school program. Grace finds joy in witnessing the children’s enthusiasm for exploring nature trails and eagerly anticipates hosting their group again for future trail programs. 

Eli Haines-Eitzen: Eno River Association

Eli serves as the AmeriCorps Education Program Coordinator at Eno River Association in Durham, NC. Throughout his service year, Eli has developed and implemented over 10 monthly place-based environmental education programs for Title I public schools, private groups, and the general public. Eli has also expanded partnerships and service learning opportunities with other local nonprofits, particularly with Urban Community AgriNomics (UCAN).

Currently, Eli is focused on continuing to develop and lead new programs in schools, preparing for two youth environmental education summer camps. Eli is also assisting in the planning and preparation of the Festival for the Eno, scheduled for July. Additionally, Eli is establishing a citizen science monitoring program to engage volunteers in data collection and inform the Eno River Association’s land management practices. Eli is most excited about participating in EnoFest this year and engaging in all the summer camp activities.

Lulu Zeray: Meals on Wheels Durham

Senior Member

Lula is serving her second AmeriCorps year with Meals on Wheels Durham as the Volunteer Services Associate. Throughout the service year, Lula has achieved significant accomplishments in building the capacity of the volunteer program at Meals on Wheels Durham. Lula created the first ever volunteer satisfaction survey, crafted helpful volunteer training videos, developed a new tracking system for recruitment, and collaborated on the strategic planning process of the volunteer program. Lula also created two comprehensive volunteer programs, with one focusing on leadership development opportunity for volunteers and another program to assist in route coverages.

Currently, Lula is actively involved in implementing the two volunteer programs and is in the process of developing two additional leadership opportunities for volunteers seeking to enhance their professional and personal skills.

The Future of Resilience in Central North Carolina  

As members contribute to building community resilience, the projects of Resilience Corps NC in Central North Carolina will persist and develop through the years to come. The path to a more resilient North Carolina is achieved through enhancing the capacity of communities at a local level.  

Eastern North Carolina AmeriCorps Members Making Great Strides in Community Resilience

From Flood Resilience, Watershed Protection, Community Agriculture and More, ResilienceCorps NC Members are Contributing to the Resilience of Eastern NC 

In Eastern North Carolina, six AmeriCorps service members are serving local communities. Each member is focusing on building community resilience through flood mitigation, coastal land preservation, volunteer coordination, tree planting and watering, community garden construction and implementation, and many other priorities that directly give back to their respective communities.

Through the CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, building capacity is more attainable. The placement of members directly contributes to the current and future projects that nonprofits and local government/agency partners involved in the program hold to benefit North Carolina.  

Highlighting AmeriCorps Member’s Service at a Community Level Throughout the Eastern Region of our Resilient State 

Tykia Lewis: The Town of Princeville

CTNC and the Town of Princeville have partnered to host an AmeriCorps member to focus on engaging residents on conservation and community agriculture. Over the past few months, Tykia Lewis has been dedicating most of her time to construction and cultivation of the new community garden in Princeville, NC. Her primary focus revolves around fostering community engagement and imparting knowledge about the significance of local agriculture and the medicinal properties of food.  

After conducting a thorough needs assessment, Tykia organized community meetings to introduce the benefits of community gardening and to distribute fresh produce. The community demonstrated keen interest in the garden and the healing potential of food, actively participating in choosing a name for the garden. Her involvement in the garden’s design and construction has been immensely gratifying, as she values hands-on experiences and the opportunity to contribute to a cause larger than herself.  

This community garden will impact the town and its residents for years to come, serving a key role in removing the barriers to food access that towns like Princeville experience.   

John Sugg: Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments

John Sugg is currently serving five counties served by the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Government (COG)—Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, and Wilson. Each of these counties faces various challenges from chronic flooding and stormwater issues. As part of John’s AmeriCorps service, he will assist the COG with completing flood solutions assessments of nine communities, so they’re better equipped to pursue mitigation and build resilience for possible future flooding events.  

The Golden Leaf Flood Mitigation Grant presents opportunities for communities to address flood-related issues. John has already assisted two communities pursuing a Golden Leaf Flood Mitigation Grant, acknowledging the cumbersome documentation process for rural towns with limited resources and staff capacity.  

Currently, John is working with the community of Gaston to collect photos and data illustrating the impact of rainfall events in the area. Despite receiving only 1-2″ of rain, the area experiences prolonged water accumulation, rendering yards unusable and hazardous areas for days after the rain subsides. This persistent issue, not attributable to hurricanes or other extraordinary events, displays the urgent need for creating interventions to mitigate flooding risks and prevent further damage to communities. 

Hannah Nystrom: Cape Fear River Watch

Hannah Nystrom, stationed at Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW), directs her efforts towards the Burnt Mill Creek watershed in Wilmington, a socially vulnerable and highly recreated area. Spanning approximately seven square miles in downtown Wilmington, the watershed deals with numerous water quality issues such as fecal bacteria contamination, invasive aquatic species, and low dissolved oxygen levels, leading to its inclusion in North Carolina’s 303(d) list for impaired waterbodies. With a population of vulnerable residents in this community, the protection of this watershed is crucial to their wellbeing and the resilience of Wilmington 

The state attorney general’s office awarded CFRW a three-year Environmental Enhancement Grant (EEG) to fund a restoration project aimed at addressing these challenges. Hannah actively engages in the project to ensure project deliverables are completed. She coordinates tree plantings, installs litter mitigation devices in stormwater drains and creeks, and organizes ecotours within the Burnt Mill Creek watershed. One of her most rewarding experiences involves watering native trees planted by over 75 volunteers, an activity she conducts weekly with fellow volunteers, fostering a deep connection with the area she serves. 

Protecting the Burnt Mill Creek Watershed and the surrounding areas allows for members of the community to have easily accessible and beautiful nature areas to fish, explore and recreate in. Preserving areas that foster wildlife and allow for the ecological factors of coastal NC to thrive allows for greater climate resilience.

Lauren Waibel: North Carolina Coastal Land Trust 

In her position at the Coastal Land Trust, Lauren Waibel assumes responsibility for general stewardship, community conservation projects, and overseeing the volunteer program. Recent months have been marked by intensive monitoring of preserves and properties, providing opportunities to observe diverse flora and fauna and leading trail maintenance activities across preserves.  

One particularly significant project involves the restoration of Reaves Chapel A.M.E. Church, a historic landmark with deep cultural and historical roots in southeastern North Carolina’s African American community. Engaging with various organizations and individuals connected to the chapel has been inspiring for Lauren. She recently led a highly successful volunteer day, which saw significant participation, aimed at cleaning up the Reaves Chapel cemetery.  

Lauren’s role has afforded her invaluable insights into the ecosystems, history, and community dynamics of Coastal North Carolina. 

Jordan Pilcher: North Carolina Coastal Land Trust 

In Jordan Pilcher’s role as the Environmental Education and Volunteer Coordinator at NC Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT), she has had the opportunity to lead and continue several projects, many of which were established and set into motion by the previous AmeriCorps member, and now full-time staff member, Bryce Tholen.  

The environmental education program at NCCLT has grown tremendously and Jordan dove into teaching environmental programs across coastal North Carolina. She has been teaching the elementary students along the coast of NC using the curriculum on pollination and pollinators for 3rd graders, carnivorous plants for 4th graders, and longleaf pine ecosystems for 5th graders.  

During the beginning of her term, she spent time editing and updating the curriculum and materials to ensure lessons are interesting and engaging. Jordan has also tabled at several environmental education and community outreach events, growing the Coastal Land Trust’s presence in the Wilmington community and connecting kids with the ecosystems surrounding them. Conducting outreach to the community and their youth is crucial to building long-term conservation stewards who will carry the responsibility of building Wilmington’s resilience for future generations.  

Charlie Robinette: Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments 

Charlie Robinette serves with the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments (KTCOG) where he is dedicated to building connections across the five counties served by the organization. Engaging with various stakeholders in the food sector, ranging from Cooperative Extension and Economic Development to local pantries and non-profits, Charlie aims to understand the region’s dynamics firsthand. He gradually became involved in ongoing projects, such as the Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute’s Advisory Board and Tri-COG FEEDS, a collaborative effort spanning multiple counties and councils. 

In 2020, KTCOG adopted a Regional Food Policy, laying the groundwork for establishing a Regional Food Council. With Charlie’s enhanced capacity, progress towards this goal has accelerated, with plans for the council’s inaugural meeting scheduled for May. Through “Framing Our Food System” conversations across the five counties, Charlie seeks to gather valuable perspectives informing the council’s work and future COG policies and programs. The enthusiasm expressed by community members for his initiatives pushes the potential for lasting impact beyond his tenure with AmeriCorps. 

Charlie finds great satisfaction in food systems work, particularly in the communal aspect where every gathering ensures participants are well-fed, symbolizing the importance of inclusivity and collaboration in building a sustainable future. 

The Future of Resilience in Eastern North Carolina  

Eastern North Carolina is an ecologically diverse region of the state that requires an investment in capacity to combat food insecurity, explore and implement flood mitigation strategies, and continue to preserve coastal land for future generations to enjoy. Between CTNC and our community partners, AmeriCorps members can achieve tangible progress toward achieving goals that build resilience for North Carolina.  

Checking in with Our Resilience Corps NC Partners

As AmeriCorps members are halfway through their service term, tangible evidence of community resilience emerge

CTNC is working alongside our partners to build a network of service throughout North Carolina. The Resilience Service Network brings together the expertise of CTNC, Conserving Carolina, and Conservation Corps NC to leverage the investments of AmeriCorps to build capacity of nonprofits, local governments, and agency partners to achieve resilience.

CTNC’s AmeriCorps program, Resilience Corps NC, has partnered with 20 host site partners to deploy 23 members in service to communities with climate risk and capacity needs. These members are now halfway through their service term, which began in September of last year. With members serving in over forty communities across the state, tangible evidence of community resilience is present.  

How do we select these community partners? CTNC seeks to prioritize community partnerships where a high climate-risk to flood, fire, food insecurity, or urban heat effects is affecting socially vulnerable communities and people throughout North Carolina. Using data assessments found in our Community Resilience Model, a GIS map that pinpoints the communities of NC that could benefit the most from climate change resilience work, we can ensure our AmeriCorps partnerships are delivering on CTNC’s goals to build resilience throughout the state.   

See where our partnerships are growing resilience: 

The Resilience Service Network Case for Support demonstrates the need for additional capacity in vulnerable communities across the state. By building capacity in partnership with local leaders, the work being accomplished by these members will successfully increase the capacity of what each organization can accomplish.  

Resilience Corps NC members have built capacity at each of their host sites, whether it be tree planting, organizing volunteer events, community outreach and engagement, land monitoring, environmental education, climate change education, and many other projects designed to seed future resilience.  

CTNC is proud to champion the movements completed by the Resilience Service Network. Advancing community resilience through building relationships and partnerships is a critical component of all conservation efforts. Having members placed in all regions of the state, Western, Piedmont, Central, Eastern and the Coast, ensures that vulnerable communities are both represented and included in statewide conservation initiatives.  

A Path Towards Regional Flood Resilience Strategies

Rivers have molded the landscape of the entire state, with each river basin different from the other.

As an ecologically diverse state, with landscapes varying from the higher elevation of the western Blue Ridge mountains to the low-lying coastline in the east, within each region, one will experience differing average temperatures, manage different growing seasons for plants and agriculture, and enjoy a wide range of water bodies from lakes to streams, and small to large river networks.

North Carolina is home to roughly 37,853 miles of rivers, plus thousands of tributaries or streams that flow into and feed one of its larger river systems. In total, there are 17 river basins in North Carolina. Because every community falls within one of these basins, every community in North Carolina is impacted by the vast destruction to livelihoods caused by flooding.

We must address flood resiliency from the perspective of a basin-wide approach when recommending conservation solutions to mitigate its effects. 

Since each river basin is contrastingly unique, a one-size-fits-all approach is not applicable when designing strategies to mitigate flooding. The impacts look different by region, demonstrating why a basin-wide level approach is necessary to create manageable, coordinated intervention strategies to improve the flood risk for all communities in North Carolina.  

Understanding River Basins 

A river basin encompasses the area of land drained by a river and its tributaries. Each basin serves as a natural watershed, starting with the rainwater and flow of a central river system that shapes the landscape and ecosystems as the water moves through. River basins influence many concepts of the surrounding area, including local agriculture, urban planning and infrastructure, drinking water, wildlife habitat and diversity and the local economy. Each river basin in North Carolina has its own movement of water from the headwaters to an outfall into the ocean, an estuary, or another river.  

With the 17 river basins in North Carolina, each holds a unique ecological and topographical footprint in response to rainfall events that occurred upstream. Starting with rainfall, water accumulates into a basin that flows into subsequent bodies of water through a stream, river, tributary, groundwater, etc. As water accumulates and moves downstream, the river basin acts as a bathtub, collecting all contents and diverting where necessary.

With more severe climate-change caused weather events, an influx of water to a river basin will cascade into surrounding areas, causing floods.   

The North Carolina Flood Resiliency Blueprint will serve as an online decision-support tool for policymakers, stakeholders and all North Carolinians with the knowledge required to make flood management decisions. The initiative was launched by the NC General Assembly and NC Department of Environmental Quality in collaboration with local and state agencies from across the state. In this process, having stakeholders present from various river basins is crucial to creating a tool that serves all communities and residents of the state.  

As a starting point for proposed flood mitigation action, the Blueprint process will develop basin-wide action strategies for six target river basins: French Broad, Tar-Pamlico, Cape Fear, Neuse, Lumber and White Oak River Basins.

Get to know these focus regions:


  • Total miles of streams: 3,985 
  • Counties within basin: 8  
  • Size: 2,829 square miles 

CTNC has a deep history of conserving land in Western NC including throughout the French Broad River Basin. CTNC’s Land Protection Director, Rusty Painter, has culminated relationships in communities across this basin through the years to ensure that protected land offers solutions to climate change impacts including flood-related challenges. The Asheville Watershed conservation easement was originally designed to provide a sustainable, clean drinking water source for the City of Asheville, but it also serves as a collection vessel for water flow, helping slow water before it reaches the French Broad river.

CTNC’s Western Conservation Manager, Aaron Flannery, highlights the importance of preserving land to enhance community resilience. “Protecting land in western North Carolina is crucial to the health of NC’s river basins that are fed from waters along the Parkway. Ensuring that the land along the Blue Ridge Parkway is preserved impacts everything that occurs downstream, including water quality, economic development, local and state parks, community resilience and the wildlife that calls the ecosystems of NC home.” 


  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 2,521 
  • Counties within basin: 18  
  • Size: 6,148 square miles 

Princeville, NC is no stranger to the impacts of floods from the Tar River, a part of the Tar-Pamlico River Basin. CTNC’s partnership with the Town of Princeville and NC State’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab inspired the development of CTNC’s Community Resilience Model. This map uses GIS technology to help identify communities at greatest risk to flooding where conservation solutions can provide a community benefit. The NC Flood Resiliency Blueprint will allow the integral flood mitigation work that occurred in Princeville to be utilized at a greater level – within entire river basins. 


  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 3,409 
  • Counties within basin: 18  
  • Size: 6,062 square miles 

Serving as the third largest river basin in North Carolina, protecting the land along the Neuse River Basin is critically important to the cities within the basin by providing drinking water in nine dedicated reservoirs – Falls Lake, Lake Michie, Little River Reservoir, Lake Holt, Lake Orange, New Hillsborough Lake, Corporation Lake, Lake Ben Johnson and Lake Rogers. The basin also holds wetland forests that divert water from flooding nearby communities and captures runoff and rainfall to prevent impacts to downstream communities. For 12 years, CTNC partnered with the City of Raleigh to administer a watershed protection program, The Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative, designed to raise funds to help land trusts protect land upstream of a rapidly growing region and critically important source of drinking water for the Triangle region.  

Cape Fear 

  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 6,584  
  • Counties within basin: 26  
  • Size: 9,164 square miles 


  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 2,247  
  • Counties within basin: 9  
  • Size: 3,329 square miles 

White Oak  

  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 320  
  • Counties within basin: 6  
  • Size: 1,382 square miles 

Community Expectations 

Protecting these bodies of water is crucial to the flow of water from the mountains to the sea. With the tool created in the Flood Resiliency Blueprint, members of each river basin’s communities can expect to gain a deeper understanding of their floodplain, the history of flooding in that region and the best strategies to combat the impacts of flooding specific to that area. 

Collaboration from all regions of the state is important to ensure that all communities are represented and heard when creating tools like the Flood Resiliency Blueprint. The decisions made upstream in the Western part of the state will impact communities downstream throughout NC. To address the increasing threat of climate-change caused events, like flooding, community and county boundaries will be crossed to foster collaboration in creating effective solutions. CTNC’s relationships with local government organizations, statewide conservation partners and landowners will be prioritized to ensure a holistic approach to flood mitigation strategies occurs in communities across every river basin in North Carolina.  

Navigating Extreme Weather Events: North Carolina’s Flood Resiliency Blueprint 

In response to increasing climate risks, state leaders will deploy tools to help communities impacted by flooding across the state 

In a state that often experiences the unpredictable forces of nature, North Carolina stands at the forefront of climate resilience with the Flood Resiliency Blueprint – an effort launched by the NC General Assembly and the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Representing the largest statewide flood mitigation investment in its history, this initiative is designed with the goal to revolutionize how communities are resourced to respond and recover to climate change-caused disasters. 

Historic flooding events over the years have left many communities across North Carolina in a state of long-term recovery. Day to day, nuisance flooding challenges towns from the mountains to the coast, disrupts the livelihood of North Carolinians. With the increased severity of rainstorms, flash flooding, hurricanes and extreme weather events, action must be taken to ensure that communities can become more resilient to current and future events.  

Serving as an online decision-support tool, the comprehensive statewide flood resilience blueprint will provide policymakers and stakeholders with the knowledge required when making decisions related to flood management. The tool will allow communities to use this resource to understand adaptation and preparedness for extreme weather events.  

The blueprint aims to reduce North Carolina’s annual losses to lives, property and livelihood because of extreme storms and flooding events, and their overall vulnerability. Another goal of this initiative is to decrease the weight of taxpayer dollars used to rebuild infrastructure damaged in said events. The strategic investments to flood resilience planning in specific areas of the state will benefit multiple departments, including water quality, the local economy, the public health system and outdoor recreation.  

Funds allocated to the NC Department of Environmental Quality by the North Carolina General Assembly allowed this initiative to advance, evolving the project to the next step of involving stakeholders in developing the tool. The blueprint is a culmination of collaboration from local and state agencies, along with CTNC, combining shared resources and knowledge to be utilized on one shared platform for all. The primary objective is to empower decision-makers at each level with the tools and strategies required to mitigate flood risks effectively.  

CTNC is proud to be a part of the planning and implementation of this project with the collaboration of other resiliency-driven organizations.

Nuisance flooding is a direct result of a changing climate, where change is needed now more than ever. Combatting the impacts of flooding is an issue CTNC is not new to. In Eastern NC, Princeville, located alongside the Tar River, was hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, leaving the town in disarray from flooding. The collaborative partnerships with Princeville after Hurricane Matthew showed that flood resiliency is attainable. The initiative of a statewide action to combat flooding drives CTNC’s goal of fostering community resilience through climate action.  

In response to the flooding events in Edgecomb County, CTNC, in collaboration with NC State’s Coastal Dynamic Design Lab, created the Princeville Floodprint. The goal of this project was to mitigate the impacts of flooding and involve the local community in efforts to strategize and prepare for future flooding events. This project supported state agencies and local leaders to effectively engage in a community resilience framework.  

With the North Carolina Flood Resiliency Blueprint, multiple communities will be offered support like the model created by the Princeville Community Floodprint. Replicating this process on a broader level will allow the project to evolve into a larger, statewide movement with similar seeds of success seen in Princeville.  

As the next steps of the blueprint unfold, the State has identified six river basins to engage more deeply with community and elected leaders to better understand the scope and scale of flood resiliency planning and investments.  

With a clear, unified framework in place, lives and communities will be better prepared and protected from nuisance flooding. North Carolina will serve as the groundwork for the first-of-its-kind flood resiliency program, that could aid other states across the country in preparing for the future of their respective communities.  

CTNC Grants Fund Eight Conservation Projects in Western NC

Through the Mountain Revolving Loan Fund, CTNC allocates small grants to preserve critical areas of land protected and stewarded by our land trust partners.

Through the Mountain Revolving Loan Fund (MRLF), CTNC works with land trusts to conserve land in Western North Carolina. In addition to providing critical bridge loans to eligible land trusts, CTNC’s MRLF provides small grants to fill funding gaps that enable completion of projects that preserve the ecosystems and cultural sites along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The CTNC Mountain Revolving Loan Fund has two significant benefits for our partners

  • It provides crucial bridge financing with minimal interest to land trusts in Western North Carolina to purchase conservation land and easements. As loans are repaid, the money becomes available to re-lend. 
  • A percentage of the balance of the loan fund is given out each year in grant awards. Grants of up to $25,000 are not required to be paid back. CTNC’s grants help cover transaction-related costs, land management, project administration, and long-term stewardship; often the most difficult project funding to raise.

This year, CTNC awarded grants to four land trusts totaling over $90,500. We’re proud to support the costs associated with ensuring that 516 acres of land will be protected in perpetuity. We look forward to more opportunities to work in partnership with key stakeholders to protect and steward this living legacy.

The land trusts that were awarded grant funds by CTNC during the current cycle include: 

  • Blue Ridge Land Conservancy  
  • Conserving Carolina 
  • Highlands-Cashier Land Trust 
  • Mainspring Conservation Trust 

The eight properties that will be protected by our partner land trusts offer ecological, agricultural, recreational, and cultural-historic benefits to communities of Western NC.

“The projects and properties supported by this year’s grant awards will enhance collaborative partnerships with local land trusts working toward the common goal of conserving land and ensuring that the future of Western NC landscapes are protected,” CTNC’s Land Protection Director Rusty Painter said. “The land conservation work done by CTNC and our partners is critical to serving community needs and combatting the impacts of the climate crisis.

CTNC is proud to partner with organizations across the state to accelerate our collective efforts to build a more resilient state.

Along with the conservation values of these properties, each contains crucial ecological and agriculture benefits to the local landscape and communities of Western NC.

CTNC’s support of statewide conservation initiatives is made possible through generous donations from CTNC supporters. Your generous support enables us to carry out our mission to foster community resilience in Western NC and throughout our amazing state.

CTNC Names New Executive Director

CTNC is proud to welcome Cynthia Satterfield as the new Executive Director of our organization. 

Cynthia joins us with a strong background in community-driven conservation. Her dozen years at the Tar River Land Conservancy as the Director of Development and at the Eno River Association as Director of Development and Outreach ground her in the land conservation work central to CTNC. Her most recent role as State Director of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club expands her strategic leadership skills. Cynthia holds an English and Anthropology Bachelor’s Degree, Master of Business Administration, Certificate in Non-Profit Management and Equity Training. 

Cynthia’s personal commitment to CTNC’s values of collaboration, boldness, inclusiveness, compassion, authenticity, openness, and curiosity inspired confidence in the CTNC Board.

“Cynthia’s personal commitment to CTNC’s values of collaboration, boldness, inclusiveness, compassion, authenticity, openness, and curiosity inspired confidence in the CTNC Board”, said CTNC Board President Brandon A. Robinson. “We are fully confident that the wealth of experience Cynthia brings will lead CTNC to new growth and new opportunity, making it possible to fulfill our mission of building resilient, just communities by delivering conservation solutions across the state.”

Cynthia will join CTNC officially on December 11th as Chris embarks on his retirement journey. We are excited to begin this new chapter as an organization and enter the new year as a strong-knit group of staff, board members, donors and supporters.

You can help ensure that CTNC enters this new season poised to grow. Your support before the end of the year will seed the next season of growth in conservation for a more resilient North Carolina.

CTNC and Bald Head Island Conservation Partners Collaborate to Build New Prioritization Tool

Climate and Conservation Resilience Data to Drive Future Land Protection on Bald Head Island

The beauty and unique ecology of Bald Head Island needs to be protected. The abundant nesting sea turtle population, vital maritime evergreen forest, and coastal ecosystems need specialized care to ensure they survive for generations. This summer, CTNC and partners on the island teamed up to develop a conservation prioritization tool that will inform how to deploy future work. 

Since 2001, CTNC has collaborated with the Bald Head Island Conservancy and Smith Island Land Trust (SILT) to conserve habitat on Bald Head Island in Brunswick County. CTNC holds 28 conservation easements on Bald Head Island, the southernmost barrier island in the state and a true ecological gem.

The Bald Head Island Conservation Prioritization Tool, developed by Hanna Bliska, a CTNC 2023 Stanback Summer Fellow, is a model that identifies individual properties on the island with the highest conservation value. This will enable Smith Island Land Trust and its partners to focus efforts and limited resources on properties with the most significant conservation impact.

CTNC Summer Fellows Hanna Bliska (left) and Emma Childs (right) visited Bald Head Island in June to ground-truth the results of the prioritization model. 

To make the tool come to life, Hannah collaborated with CTNC Bald Head Island conservation partners and CTNC staff to build the prioritization tool in ArcGIS. This tool is inspired by CTNC’s Blue Ridge Parkway prioritization model that we use to streamline efforts and strategic goals. The plan focuses on protecting undeveloped land on Bald Head Island. The model has incorporated a variety of ecological data, including data on coastal and terrestrial resilience to climate change developed by The Nature Conservancy. 

Undeveloped acreage is critical to both natural and human success on the island. Beyond protecting vital forested and coastal areas, these conserved acres become buffers to soften the impacts of climate change on Bald Head Island. The maps inform SILT’s communications with landowners and educate islanders about conservation opportunities. This will, in turn, ensure a resilient future for the communities that call Bald Head Island home.

The Bald Head Island Conservation Prioritization Tool further demonstrates CTNC’s commitment to creating sustainable programs in collaboration with partners to utilize data-driven approaches to conservation. SILT will maintain the tool to update it as more conservation progress is made on the island. Through partnerships like this, CTNC is helping North Carolina build resilience in the face of climate change.

Thank you to the development team – Hanna Bliska, Rusty Painter, Mary Alice Holley, and Emma Childs. Funding for the project was provided by SILT and Hannah’s time with CTNC was made possible by the Stanback Fellowship Program at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.