Conservation Led by Climate Solutions

Average temperatures are rising. Extreme weather events have become the new normal. Our state has incurred billions of dollars in damages from natural disasters including hurricanes and mudslides. We’re calling for more rational and human approaches to rebuilding communities in a way that readies its people for future disasters.

The land calls us to conserve forests, wetlands, river floodplains and agricultural lands as vital to lessening the impacts on human and natural communities. We will incorporate the long-term implications of climate change throughout our work and help build a more sustainable environment and economy for our state.

Our Commitment: CTNC will partner with communities who can help identify ways their land can better support people and protect them from extreme weather events in the future.

North Carolina needs a sound resilience planning and implementation strategy where solutions benefit those who have been most impacted by climate catastrophes – communities of color and those with limited economic resources. By convening leaders from conservation to community development and affordable housing, to local governments we can conserve land in ways that are safer, healthier and more just for communities and people impacted by climate change.

Conserving land with the best chance to adapt to a changing climate can restore natural protections for communities.

We have a history of conserving places like Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway, informed by sound science and our commitment to furthering climate resilience. Waterrock Knob is the 16th highest 🏔 peak in the eastern US. which will offer a solution for wildlife to migrate as temperatures slowly rise while offering an outdoor recreation destination that attracts millions of hikers and nature enthusiasts to the region.

Our work continues. By the end of this year, we will acquire another 240 acres of forested land at the headwaters of the Yadkin River that hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents rely on as a source of clean drinking water.

Investing in the power of people

We acknowledge our environment is shifting and we’re facing new challenges. But conserving natural lands can offer new solutions. Won’t you join us in this effort to build resilient communities across the state and address the urgent issue of climate change in North Carolina?

This new journey begins with you.

Conservation Plays a Critical Role in Climate Resilience

In his address to the U.S. House’s Natural Resources Committee, Gov. Roy Cooper made a compelling case for taking a different, more proactive approach to rebuilding after storms, saying, “We spend a lot of money on recovery. Not enough of that money is allowed to be used for mitigation and resiliency.”

CTNC joined partners from Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon North Carolina, American Rivers in penning a response to Governor Cooper’s address.

Read our position published by The News & Observer here.

Conservation will play a critical role in creating a more resilient North Carolina where communities are equipped to weather the next storm. CTNC is committed to working with our conservation partners, land trusts, and local communities we serve to conserve land that makes our state a safer place not just for today, but for future generations.

Addressing the impacts of climate change and environmental disasters won’t happen alone. Thank you to Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon North Carolina, American Rivers, and our network of advocates who continue to move this work forward.

1,000-Acre Conservation Project Promises Clean Water and Pristine Parkway Views

Wildacres Retreat, a 1,076-acre property adjacent to Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway, is now permanently protected thanks to a collaborative partnership among Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), and Wildacres Retreat.

Wildacres Retreat, located in northern McDowell County near Little Switzerland, is a nonprofit conference center governed by a board of directors. The center offers its facilities and surrounding woodlands to nonprofit groups for educational and cultural programming, and for board and staff retreats.

The property is protected under two conservation easements. A state-held Clean Water Management Trust Fund easement will protect stream buffers and critical natural heritage areas, while a second easement held by Conservation Trust for North Carolina will preserve a key portion of forested lands connected to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. Together, the easements will safeguard wildlife habitat and protect water quality in five miles of streams of the Armstrong Creek watershed in the headwaters of the Catawba River.  Foothills Conservancy will monitor and steward these conservation easements on a contractual basis.

“Protection of these lands fills in a very important piece of the puzzle to permanently conserve extensive forests and habitats in the very high-quality Armstrong Creek watershed of the Catawba,” said Tom Kenney, Land Protection Director for Foothills Conservancy. “Wildacres adjoins a Wildlife Resources Commission fish hatchery and more than 10,000 acres of federal Pisgah National Forest Service lands. All this conservation helps ensure Lake James has a very clean water supply protection source.”

There are nearly six miles of hiking trails on the property for public use, including one trail into the property from Deer Lick Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The project was primarily funded by a $1 million grant from North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded to Foothills Conservancy and a $26,000 donation from Philip Blumenthal, director of Wildacres Retreat. In addition, CTNC secured a Duke Water Resources grant, $50,000 grant from the Cannon Foundation, a $100,000 grant from the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, and $177,240 from the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which is made possible with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Resilient Landscapes Initiative seeks to build the capacity of land trusts working to respond to climate change. A grant of $34,779 from the Duke Energy Water Resources Fund, administered by the NC Community Foundation enabled CTNC to pay off a loan secured to purchase the easements.

Clean Water Management Trust Fund Executive Director Walter Clark described the organization’s reasons for contributing to the project to conserve what he calls an “incredible piece of property.”

“The Clean Water Management Trust Fund supported the Wildacres project for multiple reasons, including its protection of five miles of high-quality trout waters, which contain headwater streams in the Catawba River Basin,” said Clark. “The project also protects multiple forest communities important to North Carolina’s natural heritage.” Since its establishment in 1996, Clean Water Management Trust Fund has protected over 500,000 acres, including 2,500 miles of streams.

“The Wildacres Retreat property has been among CTNC and Foothills Conservancy’s highest priority projects for years,” said Rusty Painter, CTNC Land Protection Director. “Conserving its ecologically diverse habitat between the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest achieves the type of landscape-scale conservation that’s one goal of our Blue Ridge Parkway conservation plan. Successes like this would not be possible without the commitment of champions like Philip Blumenthal and the Wildacres Retreat Board of Directors.”

Blumenthal added, “It’s been a long-term goal of the Blumenthal family to ensure the ecological integrity of this unique property for the benefit of Wildacres Retreat visitors and all who enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’re fortunate to have land trusts like CTNC and Foothills Conservancy who work tirelessly to save places we all love in North Carolina. They ensure our state’s most valuable assets will be protected forever.”

“Permanent conservation of the Wildacres property marks a major milestone for the protection of habitat in North Carolina,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President of Conservation Capital & Research Programs. “As the climate changes, this highly resilient property will provide a long-term haven for sensitive plants and animals. The Open Space Institute is proud to have supported this project and we applaud Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina for their collaboration and tireless work to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Federally-protected land in this region is fragmented and thousands of acres are still vulnerable to development. Western North Carolina land trusts frequently partner to preserve National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway lands for the benefit of all North Carolinians.

For more information, contact:

Tom Kenney, Land Protection Director, Ph: 828-437-9930,

Mary Alice Holley, CTNC Communications Director, Ph: 919-864-0428,

See what others are saying!

Climate Stories NC Screening a Success at the Rialto

Conservation Trust for North Carolina partnered with Climate Stories NC for a special viewing, discussion and dessert with Director David Salvesen, PhD. The event highlighted local and regional voices impacted by our changing climate, showcasing how land conservation efforts can ensure a greater quality of life for all people and wildlife of North Carolina. Help us save the places you love.

Climate Stories NC is a series of short videos capturing the voices of North Carolinians who are impacted by the changing climate. Watch the videos here.

A special thank you to our Host Committee:

Megg and Robert Rader
Kelley and John Russell
John and Ashley Wilson
Carole and Rick Marcotte
Bob and Louise Orr
John and Margaret Ann Gonella
Brandon A. Robinson
John and Megan Stanback

See all the event photos on CTNC’s Facebook page!

The Climate Stories NC screening was the first in a series of spring and summer events. CTNC has arranged exclusive opportunities to hike on protected lands and we hope you’ll join us.

Climate Stories NC was made possible by the Institute for the Environment at UNC with generous support from the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation.  

CTNC Awards $90,000 to Land Trusts to Identify & Protect Lands Resilient to Climate Change

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), in partnership with the Open Space Institute and with generous support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, awarded $90,000 to six local land trusts and one partnership of land trusts to identify for protection the areas within the state that will be most resilient to climate change. The grants will enable the land trusts to apply climate resilience science to prioritize conservation efforts and ultimately help humans and wildlife stand up to the impacts of climate change.

Climate-resilient lands provide “natural strongholds” that bounce back from natural disturbances such as drought or wildfire, maintaining their ability to function and support human and wildlife communities. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has developed data identifying these strongholds based on the complexity of landscape features – such as valleys, peaks, caves and wetlands – and the barriers to movement between them. Using TNC’s data, and aided by technical support from the Open Space Institute, some of North Carolina’s leading land trusts now will be able to integrate resilience data into their planning efforts and accelerate conservation of these critical areas.

CTNC’s partnership with the Open Space Institute and the investment from Z. Smith Reynolds and Doris Duke Charitable Foundations are key to North Carolina’s local land trusts’ efforts to identify places to protect that will be valuable conservation areas long into the future, even as natural areas, wildlife habitat, and species change in response to the climate.

The seven funded proposals are:

  • Integrating Resiliency and Connectivity Models for Conservation Planning in Western North Carolina – $30,000 to Blue Ridge Forever and Wildlands Network to create an interactive online conservation planning and storytelling tool for western North Carolina that reflects the current state of conservation and combines climate resilience science with other data to identify key properties with the greatest conservation impact. Blue Ridge Forever is a partnership of land conservation organizations operating in the North Carolina mountains, and is based in Asheville. Wildlands Network provides science and strategic support to conservation organizations and government agencies with the goal of connecting protected areas on a continental scale to sustain wildlife and nature over the long-term.
  • Connecting Conservation and Climate Resiliency Data in the Cape Fear Arch Region – $22,000 to North Carolina Coastal Land Trust to reevaluate land conservation priorities in light of climate change in an area with unique geology and high diversity of plants and wildlife, and to examine and test the components of The Nature Conservancy’s climate resiliency data using two specific high priority sites as case studies.
  • Climate Resiliency and Working Lands in North Carolina’s Triangle Region – $14,000 to Triangle Land Conservancy to develop a conservation plan that accounts for the potential of agricultural lands to contribute to climate resilience and identify restoration activities that could augment working farms and forests as climate resilient corridors and refuges.
  • Conservation Planning for Priority Resilient Land in SAHC Focus Areas – $9,000 to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to update their land protection strategic plan and their farmland protection strategic plan with climate resilience data to identify the highest resilience lands for future land protection efforts.
  • Three grants for Conservation Planning for Priority Resilient Land in the Southern Blue Ridge – $5,000 each to Carolina Mountains Land Conservancy, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, and Mainspring Conservation Trust to update their land protection strategic plans, integrating resiliency data and identifying priority criteria and parcels.

“The impacts of climate change threaten our air, water, and food sources, and the integrity of the places that people treasure for recreation, scenic beauty, and nature,” said Reid Wilson, Executive Director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. “These grants will help ensure that human and natural communities endure as climate changes by identifying and protecting highly resilient lands.”

In March 2016, trustees of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation awarded a $95,000 grant to CTNC to support land trusts’ efforts to preserve natural areas that will be the most resilient to climate change. The grants to local land trusts flow from the Foundation’s grant, as well as from the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscape Initiative, funded generously by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation believes in protecting North Carolina’s varied species and unique natural landscapes for current and future generations,” said Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, assistant director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. “The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has a strong record of promoting this value through innovative work with land trusts across the state. We are proud to be a partner with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina as it works to promote resiliency in light of impending climate change.”

The Open Space Institute has provided input and technical expertise to CTNC based on its experience working with land trusts to protect resilient sites and to promote the use of resilience science through its Catalyst Grants program.

“Preserving climate-resilient lands today will help protect tomorrow’s wildlife, drinking water and other critical resources that go hand-in-hand with conserved land,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President. “We applaud these local land trusts and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, which are on the forefront of protecting some of the world’s most celebrated and biodiverse lands.”