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Advocating for Smart Conservation Policies

CTNC’s 2022 Policy Agenda

Conservation can provide solutions to many challenges facing our communities. Through innovative conservation strategies, we can build places to hold excess water after storms, protect trees that absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and offer places for people to relax for their mental and physical health.

In 2021, North Carolina legislators voted to spend nearly $200 million to support efforts that will allow our state to become more resilient to climate change. We urge our state leaders to repeat this important investment in our state’s natural resources. Only with smart conservation policies will we successfully build resilient communities that are prepared to weather any storm.

CTNC’s Policy Goals include:

  • Increase public funding for land acquisition, park maintenance, trail construction, and recreation access
  • Empower communities to invest in flood-resilient strategies
  • Prevent involuntary land loss caused by forced partition sales of heirs property
  • Build capacity within communities through AmeriCorps and other service opportunities

These goals will guide our work with policymakers and legislators for the years to come and key outcomes will prepare our state for whatever comes next.

INCREASING FUNDING FOR CONSERVATION
CTNC supports the continued funding of the conservation trust funds as recommended by Land for Tomorrow. We hope to work with members of the General Assembly to increase recurring funding for the state’s conservation trust funds and state agencies. Read more about the legislative priorities set by members of Land for Tomorrow.

As a member of the Great Trails State Coalition, CTNC will continue to work with members of the General Assembly to bring the economic, health, and environmental benefits of trails to North Carolina communities.

Read more about the legislative priorities set by members of the Great Trails State Coalition.

EMPOWERING RESILIENT COMMUNITIES
North Carolina communities need greater investments, increased capacity, and a cadre of service-minded people to be successful in implementing the recommendations of Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80 and Climate Risk and Resilience Plan. CTNC will advocate for the funding and resources that provide every community with the opportunity to benefit from AmeriCorps service that builds capacity and finds innovative conservation solutions to address the issue of climate change. Learn more about Resilience Corps NC.

Land trusts can lead the way in addressing the impacts of climate change and flood risk. Alongside the Land Trust Alliance, CTNC will promote policies and funding that advance natural climate solutions while supporting the protection, restoration and stewardship of open and working lands that increase climate resilience. Read more about Land Trust Alliance’s policy priorities.

PREVENTING INVOLUNTARY LAND LOSS
Enacting the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) in North Carolina will address how current state laws leave landowners of heirs’ property vulnerable to involuntary land loss. The UPHPA will help families by giving them a solid chance at keeping the land in the family when one or more owners wants to divide or sell the land through a partition action. Currently, the North Carolina General Assembly is considering adoption of the bill that would safeguard families from forced sales through partition action. Read more about the NC Heirs Property Coalition and our effort to adopt the Uniform Act for NC families and landowners.

It All Starts with Collaboration to Seed Better Outcomes
CTNC is committed to participating in coalitions to find a better future for our state. Our team is active members of Land for Tomorrow, the Great Trails State Coalition, and the NC Heirs Property Coalition, Conservation Trust for NC. These coalitions advocate for smart conservation policies and adequate funding on behalf of our members, community partners, and collaborative projects.

Join Us
As a member of the CTNC community, we hope you will stand with us and advocate for smart conservation policies that allow every North Carolinian to benefit from conservation and get the tools needed to build communities that are resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Climate Resilience Leaders – Chris Canfield

Since 2017, Conservation Trust for North Carolina Executive Director Chris Canfield has held the helm of the land protection nonprofit organization. He has steered it to face our state’s greatest economic and environmental foe – climate change.

His career path wasn’t always focused on conservation. His logical mind is balanced with a rational heart. After completing a bachelor’s in mathematics from Birmingham-Southern College, he traveled to England to complete a master’s focusing on 20th Century English Literature from the University of Oxford.

His first direct work in mitigating climate change was in his previous role as Vice President for the Mississippi Flyway at the National Audubon Society. He co-led a national coalition supporting climate resilience for the state of Louisiana and also advised on the formulation and rollout of Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report in September 2014.

As the executive director for CTNC, Chris has been asked to sit on numerous climate resilience coalitions and state committees, including the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency’s Steering Committee advising on the creation of a Community Resilience Planning Guide.

Chris is thankful for the foundation laid by the supporters and leaders before him. “I feel fortunate that the conservation work we and all of CTNC’s partners have been doing, long before most of us heard much about climate change, turns out to be an integral part of the needed response. Our preserved natural lands already provide a refuge that wildlife will need and store carbon and hold water in ways crucial for reducing impacts on communities in the future. Of course, we will need to greatly increase the pace of this work now that we understand that linkage to climate change. But we are already pointed in the right direction.”

When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change?
Like so many of us with long careers in conservation, I knew climate change was a threat decades ago. But what turned that parts-per-million into people-per-place was my return in 2010 to my childhood home state of Louisiana. There I led Audubon’s response to the BP oil spill disaster. I soon discovered that the place I spent the first ten years of my life was changing dramatically and rapidly. It is no longer theoretical when you see land disappearing at the rate of a football field every hour and see people displaced a hundred miles inland. Returning to North Carolina years later, I felt I had to share the story of what I had seen and learned. I would often hear, “yes, but Louisiana is a very different state.” And in so many ways, I, of course, agreed. But enough was similar to a coastal state in the hurricane zone not to give up on pushing for a massive mobilization in North Carolina to mitigate against and adapt to the changes coming.

What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action?
Climate change is not just an issue of science; it is an issue of community. Without strong intentions to change the reality, climate change will further stratify us into communities with more resources and options and those with markedly fewer. So any process for responding to its effects equitably has to bring all community voices to the table.

What does climate resilience mean to you?
Climate impacts are asking us to see resilience in environmental terms, but also social and economic ones. If we meet the challenge with that broad view, communities can end up not just able to survive the next hurricane, but actually fairer and more cohesive places for people in their everyday lives.

How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina?
It is increasingly well documented that we have more and stronger hurricanes and other storms and increasing droughts in North Carolina as a result of climate change. Those make the headlines. But personally, I see it in the shift in birds in my backyard, the timing of their arrival and nesting and migration. The changes in our gardening season and hardiness zone are likewise very real. I also see it (and feel it) in the increase in pollen, which has a longer and more intense season. And many places in the state I know and love that only thought about flooding in extreme conditions now see standing water and inundations without seeming direct causes – so-called “sunny day flooding.”

What are actions that organizations in NC can take right now to make our state more resilient?
The most important thing is acknowledging that this is happening and that we need to respond. I’m happy to see the 2021 legislative session in North Carolina embrace reality and support more than $200 million in planning and implementation of projects to help improve the state’s resilience. Of course, that is only a down payment. Louisiana has already committed to a 50-year, $50 billion plan. Many there acknowledge even that isn’t enough. Studies show that as high as those price tags sound, failing to plan and act now will cost many, many times more in damages later. And I’m convinced that we can also create economic resilience through climate resilience work.

Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going?
First, I try to minimize the blame and shame part of climate change work because we all are complicit out of ignorance or denial in getting us here, and second because it is exhausting. I’d rather expend the energy on working together toward solutions that help build that more resilient North Carolina community by community. That is why the work with the people of Princeville is so important to me. Together we are creating a model that we believe many other communities can be inspired by and follow. On a tough day, just thinking about the resilience and hopes of the people of Princeville gets me up and at work again.

Do you want Chris to collaborate with your organization on climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation solutions or speak at your next event? Contact Chris – chris@ctnc.org.

Princeville Elementary School teachers volunteer during a community planting day.

Seeds of Climate Resilience: FEMA Buyout Program

“Seeds of Climate Resilience” is a blog series to inspire ideas to help our state weather our changing climate. We can protect our families, economies, and the environment. The seeds of change planted today will help communities thrive for generations to come.

All too often, flood-prone communities are dotted with vacated lots that are scraped clean of man-made structures and left for nature to reclaim. These lots are usually deemed prone to future flooding, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has given the landowners a path to sell their property and move away from the potential of repeated flooding.

What are FEMA buyouts?
Buyouts are the primary federal program designed to increase disaster resiliency.

After a presidentially-declared disaster, local officials may decide to request money from the state to purchase properties that have either flooded or been substantially damaged. The state chooses to offer buyouts using FEMA’s money through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to reduce future disaster losses.

Buyouts are voluntary, and no one is required to sell their property. As part of the federal buyout program, the area is deed restricted and cannot be developed with permanent structures in the future. Existing properties and structures are demolished, cleared, and permanently maintained as green space by the local government.

The voluntary buyout program gives property owners the option to sell their property and move away from the potential of repeated flooding while reducing property damages and expenses incurred from flooding. The flood buyout program can be an extremely useful tool for communities recovering from a natural disaster.

How does it help lessen climate change?
As our climate changes, communities are experiencing more frequent and severe rainfall as well as greater swings between rains and drought. Creating permeable spaces designed to capture water benefits people, plants, and wildlife.

Once homes are bought, the land is vacated and development rights removed. This provides communities with an opportunity to restore the land to a natural space that can be designed to store water and be flooded again while keeping future residents out of harm’s way.
North Carolina relies on FEMA-funded buyouts to create more open space and reduce future disaster risks.

What if these abandoned spaces were given new life through conservation work?
Land where buyouts occur is eventually deeded over to the town or other local government agency. The rules say that such lots can never be built on again. Too often they remain vacant and are seen as a blight to the remaining community members. But there are other options.

Organizations and local governments can sometimes turn these buyout lots into community use spaces. While these spaces are not safe for human habitation or businesses, with a little imagination, they can be transformed into spaces that support a thriving community. Communities where voluntary buyouts have occurred then have an opportunity to convert that land to a conservation use like a public park, managed wetland, community garden, or other non-permanent use.

North Carolina Success Story: Princeville
Finding effective land uses for FEMA buyout properties is a cornerstone in Princeville’s flood mitigation strategy.

In a project funded by an EJ4Climate: Environmental Justice and Climate Resilience grant from the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation and EPA, CTNC will work with the Town of Princeville to convert vacant and underutilized parcels to conservation benefits, including managed wetlands and a model community garden. This new grant program addresses environmental inequality and promotes community-level innovation and climate adaptation. The leaders and residents of Princeville hope this will become a replicable model that flood-prone communities across North Carolina will implement to protect their residents from the damage caused by severe flood and rain events.

In 2021, the NC General Assembly included over $200 million in the state budget to fund resilience projects that will aid communities in addressing flooding and building resiliency through conservation solutions.

How can citizens help determine how vacant land created from buyouts could be used or maintained?
Advocate with your local elected officials for shared community green space and conservation projects on vacant and underutilized land owned by your city, town or municipality. Where possible, a local land trust or conservation organization may offer programs to support this effort.

Over the past 20 years, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey has worked with communities impacted by ongoing, damaging storms. In many of these municipalities, FEMA cannot provide the relief residents need to leave their properties and settle elsewhere. The Land Conservancy office worked with these towns, the State of New Jersey, and homeowners to purchase more than 200 homes and convert the land to open space. Restoring the land to its natural condition provides additional capacity to hold stormwater, offers safety to residents, reduces further loss of property, and saves the lives of emergency responders who continue to put themselves in harm’s way during these dangerous situations. It creates a park where none existed before and answered a community’s needs to reduce the harmful and serious effects of repetitive, overwhelming storms in some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Learn more about CTNC’s efforts to conserve land in watersheds as a climate mitigation tool protecting NC communities.

SOURCES:

Seeds of Climate Resilience: Rain Gardens

“Seeds of Climate Resilience” is a blog series to inspire ideas to help our state weather our changing climate. We can protect our families, economies, and the environment. The seeds of change planted today will help communities thrive for generations to come.

Rain gardens offer an attractive and effective solution to address flooding and increased rainfall on a property.

According to the North Carolina State Climate Office,

Heavy rains from hurricanes and other weather systems will become more frequent and intense. Annual precipitation is also expected to increase. These changes are driven primarily by increases in atmospheric water vapor as the climate warms. Extreme rainfall in North Carolina can result from hurricanes, Nor’easters, or other weather systems like thunderstorms. Severe thunderstorms are also likely to increase in a warming climate and can cause flash flooding, especially in urban areas.

https://climate.ncsu.edu/learn/climate-change/

Water containment will be increasingly important as our communities in low-lying areas or near lakes, rivers, and streams see rising waters and flooding.

What is a rain garden?
A rain garden has grasses, flowers, and shrubs that can survive in water-soaked soil after a rainstorm. Rain gardens are located in the low points of yards so that the water that runs off of roofs or driveways can be directed towards the rain garden. After the storm, the soil and plants absorb the rain, and the area dries out quickly.

A rain garden is NOT a wetland, a place for mosquitos to thrive, or difficult to maintain long-term. This garden area is dry to lightly moist most of the time. And it is naturally beautiful!

How does it help mitigate climate change?
As our climate changes, communities are experiencing more frequent and severe rainfall and greater swings between rains and drought. Creating permeable spaces designed to capture water benefits plants, wildlife, people, and the built environment.

If rainwater has nowhere else to go, it will often result in flooding or standing water. However, if rainwater is captured where it lands, it can promote healthy plants and sustainable ecosystems that provide a conservation benefit to nearby residents.

Supporting habitat: Rain gardens capture and store water after heavy rainfall. The water is held in the garden area, absorbed by the water-loving plants, and naturally filtered back into the soil.

Managing stormwater: Any water that does not infiltrate the groundwater then moves through a canal, ditch, drain, or pipeline until it reaches a larger body of water such as a river, pond, or wetland area.

Rainwater is not treated at a facility to remove pollutants before entering larger waterways. This means that rain gardens are essential to help naturally filter the water that passes through them.

This process allows communities to better manage heavy amounts of rainfall and stormwater by slowing it down and using natural spaces to provide an added layer of filtration before the water reaches your home.

North Carolina Success Story: Princeville Elementary School
After Hurricane Matthew devastated Princeville Elementary School in 2016, students had to go to schools in surrounding communities for three years until their school could be renovated and flood-proofed. Finally, in 2020, the Princeville Elementary School welcomed back its almost 200 students.

As part of a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo Resilient Communities Program, CTNC worked with local organizations to install rain gardens at the school to capture and redirect water. Today, the gardens work to protect the school from excess water. The gardens were designed by the NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab and installed by volunteers from Conservation Corps NC, CTNC, NC State, M&M Landscaping Co. and residents of Princeville.

Learn more about our work in Princeville.

How can citizens help build a rain garden in your community?
This article from NC State has great tips to bring this climate adaptation strategy to your community:
“Why Your Yard Might Need a Rain Garden”

SOURCE: Rain Water Guide developed by NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab

Turning the tide for flood-prone communities

Photo: NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab arial view of the Tar River.

There is even more great news about the Princeville – Seeding Resilience project! 2022 brings many exciting actions to protect this community from the changing climate.

Since the debut of our latest video, this story has captured the attention of conservation champions nationwide. The project was featured in:

As we conclude the first phase of executing recommendations outlined in the Princeville Floodprint, the collaboration is turning our attention to Phase II. This phase will further lay the groundwork toward establishing an effective model of community-driven climate change adaptation that can be replicated in communities across the state. Throughout North Carolina, rural communities established along rivers, the coast, and lakes face repeated flood events. With the increasing threat of climate change, more communities will experience these impacts.

Phase II focuses attention toward converting vacant and underutilized land.
The Town of Princeville, North Carolina State University Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, Conservation Corps NC, and Temboo Software will work to complete another round of conservation projects designed to better manage flood and stormwater, establish recreation opportunities for residents, build a model community garden to support locally-grown food operations, and connect youth and adults to environmental education opportunities. This phase focuses on transforming underutilized town-owned lots and property that FEMA has determined to be at risk of future flooding into absorbing flood impact while making them usable spaces for the community.

Over the next two years, this partnership will work to complete:

  • Installation of 6,000 square feet of rain gardens and managed wetlands on vacated lots to hold up to 28,000 gallons of water per rain event
  • Opening of a 24-bed model community garden on vacated lots to promote local, low-carbon agriculture
  • Planting of trees and native plants for 250,000 gallons of water absorption and 2,900 pounds of carbon storage per year
  • Creation of trails with educational and health-benefit elements at Princeville’s riverfront Heritage Park

“Our town has already seen the rewards from our collaboration with Conservation Trust, NC State, and all our partners,” said Princeville Town Manager Dr. Glenda Lawrence-Knight. “This next phase will only further prepare our town for the next flooding incident while showing a true investment in the health and well-being of our citizens.”

This is possible in part to a grant from the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, supported by the EPA, called EJ4Climate: Environmental Justice and Climate Resilience. This new grant program addresses environmental inequality and promotes community-level innovation and climate adaptation. CTNC was one of 15 projects across three countries to receive a grant award through the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a tri-national effort to promote and facilitate sustainable development in North America.

In tandem with the on-the-ground work, CTNC and our partners are writing an effective model for building a resilient community. We hope this community-based model can be replicated to benefit others facing similar challenges.

“Communities across North Carolina will benefit from the lessons learned as a result of the partnerships and outcomes in Princeville,” said Andrew Fox, FASLA, PLA of NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab. “It’s exciting to see people benefit from the principles that we’ve studied and developed.”

Your support fuels all this work. Together, we can turn the tide for flood-prone communities, and you are the first line of defense.

This work will be carried out with financial support from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the Anonymous Trust, and generous donors who have made an investment in resilience through CTNC and our partners.

View of the Tar River. Credit: NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab

Rebuilding for Resilience – Together

Meet the people of Princeville, N.C. who are utilizing conservation to build a resilient future

As extreme weather events impact communities across North Carolina, places like Princeville are finding innovative ways to rebuild with greater resilience to our changing climate.

In partnership with the Town of Princeville, the Princeville Elementary School, NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, NC State Design + Build Lab and Conservation Corps North Carolina, we are working with citizens to install conservation and restoration projects that will support their goals to build back bigger, better, and bolder.

You can join us in the next phase of this partnership.

Contact Mary Alice Holley, Director of Community Innovation to get involved with our work in Princeville or another community partnership.

N.C. Budget is a Huge Win for Conservation

The 2021 budget for North Carolina has been passed with bipartisan support by the NC legislature, and officially signed by Governor Cooper, in a huge win for conservation. This legislation will substantially increase funding for land acquisition projects; major investments in parks, trails, and open space statewide; and new investments to advance resilience planning and floodplain protections that will help communities facing the impacts of climate change.

With a total of nearly $200 million for resilience and more than $300 million for conservation projects, this is the greatest investment in conserving North Carolina communities since before the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

What Does This Mean for Our Work?
Since 2018, CTNC has been a leader among conservation groups across the state dedicated to achieving special funding for a statewide resilience planning initiative. In partnership with our colleagues at Environmental Defense Fund, NC Conservation Network, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund and many others, we collectively have brought models from other states and our own examples of working with communities to make the case for funding these critical projects. Collaborative partnerships and bipartisan support, like that fostered by the Land for Tomorrow Coalition, ensure we all move conservation forward in ways that benefit communities.

Through this funding and the other resources it will attract, we hope to collaborate with additional
partners to:

  • Provide resources and funding to local governments to create resilient strategies to protect their communities.
  • Assist every small community across the state in creating flood plans, and with funding to implement. We are already a key advisor to the state on a resilience handbook for communities.
  • Create jobs in rural communities to restore and build natural infrastructure and other adaptive measures to reduce flood risk.
  • Prioritize economic investment in local communities, so they thrive.

The 2021 State Budget includes:

Land and Water Fund
This is the primary source of grants allowing hundreds of local governments, state agencies, and conservation nonprofits to protect clean water and conserve ecologically, culturally, or historically significant lands. This investment will directly benefit acquisitions and easements sought along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • $49.5 million new revenue in FY21-22 and $51.5 million new revenue in FY22-23
  • $15 million in FY21-22 specifically for projects to protect & restore floodplains to reduce flood risk

Parks and Recreation Trust Fund
This fund supports land acquisition and improvements within the State’s park system. PARTF is the main funding source for local parkland acquisitions, facility improvements, and public beach and estuarine access.

  • $45.5 million new revenue in FY21-22 and $45.5 million new revenue in FY22-23
  • $10 million new revenue in FY21-22 specifically for local parks projects to increase access for persons with disabilities

Additional Funding for Community Resilience
In recognition of North Carolina’s continued and increasing exposure to the impacts of climate change — particularly storms and flooding — this funding launches a new critical level of statewide planning and investment to support the resilience of our communities.

  • Nearly $200 million in resilience investments to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding.

Other Highlights

  • $40 million for a Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund
  • $25 million for a Small Project Mitigation and Recovery Program
  • $20 million to create a “statewide Flood Resiliency Blueprint”
  • $15 million to the Land and Water Fund for floodplain projects
  • $15 million for a Disaster Relief and Mitigation Fund
  • $15 million for a Transportation Infrastructure Resilience Fund
  • $4 million for a Dam Safety Emergency Fund
  • $3.5 million for floodplain pilot projects
  • $1.15 million to the Resilient Coastal Communities Program

TAKE ACTION
We’ve thanked legislators for these sweeping investments in conservation, but they want to hear from you, the people they represent. Join us by sending a short thank-you note to your local lawmakers for investing in our state.

Youth to Help Seed Resilience at Princeville Elementary School

The Princeville partnership is a model for how conservation can meet community needs.

After Hurricane Matthew flooded many Eastern NC communities in 2016, the Princeville Elementary School was shuttered for four years while renovations took place. This year, as students return to campus, local teens will help install conservation amenities at the school and in the town. The work is designed to help students and their families understand the impacts of future floods, learn how to manage storm water, and participate in their community’s effort to rebuild in ways that are bigger, better, and bolder.

Conservation Led by Community Needs

A collaborative of state and local partners — including CTNC, NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, Conservation Corps North Carolina, and Resilience Corps NC — has been working alongside the Town of Princeville and Princeville Elementary School to develop the community-led conservation project.  The project addresses storm water management challenges while investing in outdoor education amenities for the school and surrounding neighborhood.

Community members provided feedback on the design of the Heritage Trail.
Map created by NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab.

“Princeville is rich in history, traditions, and culture. I’m excited that students will have access and opportunity to learn more about this amazing place we call home.” – Principal Mercer, Princeville Elementary School

A Summer to Seed Resilience

A Floodprint, developed by NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, identified the newly re-opened elementary school as a hub for the community that would benefit from innovative, natural solutions to capture storm water and manage flooding.

NC State’s Design + Build lab students will be installing shaded seating areas, education stations, garden planters, a bee hotel and bird feeders along the School breezeway behind the Library. These installations will support the school’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) curriculum goals while connecting students to nature through experiential learning. 

Rendering developed by NC State Design + Build students.

Conservation Corps North Carolina, formerly the NC Youth Conservation Corps, will manage two youth crews staffed by Princeville and Tarboro youth ages 15-18. They will assist with construction, maintenance, and installation of storm water management features, outdoor classrooms and the Heritage Trail that connect the elementary school to the Princeville History Museum. The youth will be paid, gain skills in landscape design and maintenance, and participate in networking and professional development opportunities.

Photo provided by Conservation Corps North Carolina.

Neighboring residents are most excited about a trail that will provide a walkable path to the center of town as well as the potential for community gathering spaces like picnic tables.

This summer’s work is but the start of many collaborations over the coming years to fulfill the vision of the Floodprint and other town plans for greater resilience and revitalization. With additional funding, we look forward to implementing more bold ideas generated from, with, and for the Town of Princeville.

Who is involved:

The Town of Princeville and Princeville Elementary School, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, Conservation Corps North Carolina and Resilience Corps NC.

This project is made possible through a grant awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/Wells Fargo Program for Resilient Communities, Seeding Resilience Through Restoration and Education in Princeville (NC).

A Dedication to Climate Resilience

Championing climate-resilient conservation to achieve statewide systemic change

“A resilient North Carolina is a state where our communities, economies, and ecosystems are better able to rebound, positively adapt to, and thrive amid changing conditions and challenges, including disasters and climate change; to maintain quality of life, healthy growth, and durable systems; and to conserve resources for present and future generations.”

Executive Summary, North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan, June 2020

Addressing North Carolina’s Current Needs

Our state needs to prepare for the challenges our communities face today and tomorrow.  Historically, land protection efforts have been driven by a property’s conservation value scored by biology, geography and hydrology. Today, we must strive to bring additional focus to how people – all North Carolinians – may be impacted by the lands we conserve and how they benefit best from that work.

Our resilience strategy is all about protecting people just like you.

At CTNC, we seek to deliver conservation with this deeper purpose. Our diverse range of expertise in land protection along the Blue Ridge Parkway, our successful young adult service and education programs, and our commitment to advancing race equity in the conservation sector have well-positioned CTNC to respond to the needs of North Carolina communities in innovative and holistic ways. 

Guided by our values, CTNC’s staff and board have adopted a holistic approach to land conservation. Alongside our community partners, CTNC seeks to understand people’s relationship with land so we can better understand how conservation can support better outcomes related to public health, economic development, access to recreation and healthy foods, and building communities resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

-Chris Canfield, CTNC Executive Director

A strategy that’s catching on

A community-led approach to conservation is emerging in the state. The recently released North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan – which CTNC contributed to – emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to statewide resilience. This plan provides CTNC and our partners with shared, foundational goals we can build on.

The report states that “immediate focus must be on developing strategic priorities for public and natural infrastructure improvements as well as actions that integrate climate resiliency into agency operations, local disaster recovery programs, and long-term planning.”

Our resilience work is inspiring a new approach to conservation

CTNC is well equipped to deliver on that focus: we have already begun to work with community partners to develop a long-term resilience plan in Princeville and look forward to modeling this approach across the state.

Embracing equity as a guiding priority for our work, we’re inspired to see North Carolina leadership acknowledge the need to build capacity among our most marginalized communities. That emphasis is key to seeding systemic change toward greater resilience. Our state now has the opportunity, and the responsibility, to adopt policies that promote statewide resilience for the health of our land and all our people.

A close-up on the strategy in action

CTNC’s holistic resilience strategy is already taking shape.

Using a variety of resources, we will assist the Princeville community to build a more resilient future

With the help of amazing community partners, the expertise of the NC State’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, and the trust of the Princeville citizens, we are completing the Floodprint this fall. This detailed plan shows how smart conservation and landscape planning can help the town survive future floods while building a vibrant economy that preserves and celebrates Princeville’s proud history. 

But a plan is only as good as the action it guides. CTNC is now launching on-the-ground action to begin a first phase of work outlined in the Floodprint.

We are collaborating with partners to build water-absorbing, green infrastructure around the Princeville Elementary School. The school building, at the hub of the community, has been recently renovated and flood-proofed. CTNC’s project adds rain gardens, bio-swales, and other natural approaches to water management on the expansive school grounds. A Conservation Corps North Carolina crew will do much of the work, including building an educational trail for public use. A CTNC AmeriCorps service member will help develop an environmental education curriculum in partnership with students and faculty.

We are documenting our steps during this process to learn from, improve our work, and share lessons toward developing a statewide, community-based model for building resilience.

These are only the beginning steps in a multilayered and multiyear partnership. We know that achieving resilience will be an ongoing, challenging mission, but we are excited – and hopeful – that you will join us to help build a resilient, more just North Carolina.

Princeville continues to struggle with flooding from the Tar River.

Learn more about our Princeville Collaborative by joining our email list. You’ll receive updates as we launch new projects with the Town and other communities throughout the state.

Stewarding Land — Forever

Each CTNC property is a commitment to conservation of land in perpetuity

“We’re in this forever. It’s about the work that’s done after the signing of the documents. After the glory and success of protecting a new property, the real work begins. We’ve made a commitment to the donors, landowners and government agencies to uphold the conservation values of every property we protect.”

– Land Protection Director Rusty Painter

It is always exciting to share each new conservation success with our supporters. Once an acquisition is closed or a conservation easement is recorded, behind the scenes, the real work to steward land begins and, where we hold the land or easement forever, lasts in perpetuity. 

CTNC is driven by a goal to be good stewards of more than 30,000 acres currently under our protection so all people can share in the benefits that land provides. These 77 properties require annual inspections, management reviews and, at times, enforcement action.

Stewardship and Monitoring Ensure Resilient Lands

While we transfer many properties we acquire to public agencies, conservation easements held by CTNC on private land remain under our care and supervision forever. 

CTNC is required by law, Land Trust Alliance accreditation standards, and our founding mission to steward, monitor, and be prepared to legally defend every property we own or on which we hold a conservation easement. CTNC’s Stewardship, Monitoring, and Legal Defense Fund is our primary source of funding to ensure these services continue in perpetuity. 

Summer Intern, MC Murphy, monitoring Flatwood Farm

Each year, CTNC’s Land Protection Director, Rusty Painter, and his summer interns travel to each property ─ from the Blue Ridge Parkway, to the Piedmont and on to the coast where we hold easements on Bald Head Island. 

In 2020 alone, CTNC will monitor 31,290 acres on 77 individually protected properties across the state. This is rewarding work, but requires significant time, cost, and staff resources – nearly $30,000 annually. This includes costs for mandatory annual monitoring visits to each property, employees and the technology needed to maintain each property and providing CTNC with the financial resources to defend property rights and conservation values if needed.

Legal Defense Upholds Our Commitment to Conservation

Unfortunately, our commitment to our protected properties will occasionally require legal action to stop imminent or ongoing threats to conservation land. As partners in protection of the property, this often means working with the landowner to defend the landowner’s property rights along with our conservation easement. An example might be a logging operation on a neighboring property that cuts timber from the protected property. The landowner and CTNC would pursue action as needed to recoup the lost timber value and ensure restoration of the protected property. While litigation in defense of an easement is rare, CTNC must be prepared to uphold our commitment to conservation.

“Property monitoring visits give staff and interns the opportunity to put boots on the ground, experience our conservation work first-hand, and sustain strong relationships with our landowner partners. Forming these lasting connections with the land and the people who love it is crucial to our stewardship work.”

Rusty Painter, CTNC Land Protection Director

Our annual monitoring ensures that CTNC-conserved lands remain intact, that established conservation agreements are followed, and that the natural and scenic value of these properties is preserved, forever. Building resilient, just communities starts with stewardship. 

Continue learning about our recent land protection projects driven by our partnership with the National Park Service along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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