Land provides a significant source of economic stability and
growth for many families. This type of land ownership is common in North
Carolina. As many as 86.5 million acres worth $1.86 billion in North Carolina
is estimated to be under heirs’ property ownership today. Although no one is
immune to the vulnerability of losing their land to a forced partition action,
this issue disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
throughout North Carolina.
A Legislative Solution:
The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
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. This bill has been enacted
in 17 states including Georgia and South Carolina. We hope North Carolina will be next.
Currently, the North Carolina General Assembly is considering
adoption of the bill that would safeguard families from forced sales through
partition action. The NC House
recently passed the heirs property bill (H367) with strong bi-partisan support.
We deeply appreciate those showing leadership on this important issue. The
Senate will soon vote on the bill.
Families in an heirs’ property situation have difficulties
accessing federal funding for sustainable forest and habitat management,
agricultural work, and natural disaster recovery. In states where the Uniform Act
is adopted, federal law allows landowners to gain access to beneficial funding
and aid programs, including FEMA disaster recovery and the USDA Farm Bill.
CTNC has joined a coalition of non-profit and for-profit partners advocating for the adoption of the Uniform Act so North Carolina families can be protected from involuntary land loss.
Who is involved? Black Family Land Trust
Inc., Roanoke Electric Cooperative, Audubon North Carolina, Conservation Trust
for North Carolina, The Conservation Fund, The Land Loss Prevention
Project, members of the North Carolina Bar Association, academic partners,
and other experts.
was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation and Wells Fargo Resilient Communities Program to implement the first
phase of the Floodprint: Seeding Resilience Through Restoration and
Education in Princeville. “Seeding Resilience” will design and install
green infrastructure on the grounds of the recently renovated and flood-proofed
Princeville Elementary School building, so it can better manage future
project will reduce flood risks at the school and the adjacent Asbury Park
apartments, a rental assistance complex for low-income families. It will also
create an educational trail from the school toward the historic Princeville
Museum. Improvement of the landscape areas around the school provides
opportunities for direct water management and storage for the center of the
community and all housing surrounding it. It also will beautify an area that
has long served as the communal hub for the town.
this plan goes far beyond just land. This is about serving alongside the
resilient people of Princeville.
For three years, students living in Princeville had to attend schools in nearby towns after Hurricane Matthew hit the town in 2016 and flooded the town — including the school. With the reopening in January 2020, after a $6 million renovation and flood-proofing, the Princeville Elementary School welcomed back its almost 200 students and has since become a symbol of hope for revitalizing and reconnecting the community. And then, of course, COVID-19 disrupted the reopened school. CTNC and partners believe that realization of a successful, collaborative project at Princeville Elementary, visible and tangible to residents and visitors, will encourage further engagements toward sustainability and resilience in the community that is too often left to build itself back up after disaster.
“To best serve the people of Princeville, the Elementary School campaign will be a collaborative effort just as the Floodprint plan has been since its inception.” – Chris Canfield
are many groups involved in this community-led effort.
Design students from NC State University will collaborate with youth work crews from Conservation Corps NC and local Princeville students in planning and construction.
This is certainly an ambitious enterprise: one that requires many hands. CTNC is grateful for the partnerships in Princeville helping to build a resilient future together. Investing in North Carolina’s rich African American history through conservation-focused resources will lift up a shared vision we can all be proud to support and carry forward.
COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIPS MAKE COMMUNITY-LED CONSERVATION POSSIBLE
The Floodprint plan is the result of years of work among partners with the Town of Princeville, NC State University’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, The Conservation Fund, the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments and Conservation Trust for North Carolina. This project is made possible with support from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and The Duke Energy Foundation. Thank you to these wonderful partners.
Launching the first phase of the Floodprint is made possible by a Resilient Communities Grant from the Resilient Communities Program, a collaboration between Wells Fargo and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).
thank these entities for their generous investment and for seeing the crucial
need to help communities better prepare for and respond to climate-related
natural disasters by investing in green infrastructure.
“This program continues to demonstrate how local communities can use the benefits of natural ecosystems to provide for a more resilient future for our nation,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The 11 grants we announce in partnership with Wells Fargo will work to build resilience locally, to help communities meet future challenges through natural systems and resources, and will benefit habitats for birds, fish and other wildlife.”
This has been an extraordinary journey over the last few months, but boots are now on the ground implementing the visions of so many that are deeply invested in building a thriving future for all in Princeville. Learn more about this collaborative.
**The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources.**
Private Investment in Watershed Protection Advances Triangle Conservation Efforts
Novel partnerships and long-term collaboration enable the region to address watershed health
North Carolina’s Triangle region (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-Cary-Garner) is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. Rapid development threatens the forests, wetlands and grasslands that naturally protect drinking water supplies for 600,000 people in Raleigh, Garner, Wake Forest, Rolesville, Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon areas. Natural infrastructure, like forests and wetlands, can address these challenges by providing basic services from water flow regulation and flood control to water purification and water temperature regulation. But with the rising cost to acquire land in and around the Triangle, protecting these places has become increasingly costly for nonprofits and public agencies.
In recent years, public agencies Raleigh Water, Wake County, City of Durham and Town of Cary have worked alongside local land trusts including Conservation Trust for North Carolina, The Conservation Fund, and Triangle Land Conservancy to acquire and manage land in the Falls and Jordan Lake watersheds. Now, the Caterpillar Foundation is among corporate foundations and private investors stepping up to fill a critical funding need.
The Foundation will invest $250,000 in natural infrastructure and land conservation as part of a new partnership to safeguard important local natural lands.
“Local communities in the
Triangle Region are increasingly investing in natural infrastructure, although
the COVID-19 pandemic has strained public budgets and limited cities and their
utilities resources and capacity to protect vast watersheds at a critical
time,” said Edward Buchan, City of Raleigh.
This initiative fits into a growing movement to
integrate natural infrastructure with traditional concrete-and-steel
infrastructure to improve delivery of core services, like drinking water and
flood protection, while increasing resilience. World Resources Institute, a
global research organization, has advised this alliance on strategies to
combine “green” and “gray” infrastructure by leveraging new partnerships and
funding opportunities. The Caterpillar Foundation is one of the first corporate
foundations to develop a dedicated program to support this new approach.
“Novel partnerships and long-term collaboration are
critical to addressing watershed health across the region,” said CTNC Executive
Director Chris Canfield. “Everyone has a role to play. Public water users
provide the base funding through the utilities, land trusts collaborate on
protection plans and secure the land, and private partners like the Caterpillar
Foundation help get it all over the finish line.”
Caterpillar Foundation hopes to both accelerate the program with this new
financing and encourage volunteer engagement of their locally-based employees.
“This partnership provides us the opportunity to not only
advance an exciting new model for watershed protection, but does so in a
community in which many Caterpillar families call home,” said Caterpillar
Foundation President Asha Varghese. “We hope the success of initiatives like
this can build momentum for new environmental innovation and investment. We
believe multi-sectoral collaboration is key to achieving sustainable
infrastructure solutions, and ultimately, building resilient communities.”
“There are thousands of community water systems that
could benefit from this model to protect and manage natural infrastructure
assets,” said Todd Gartner, Director of WRI’s Cities4Forests and Natural
Infrastructure Initiatives. “Leading initiatives like this set a new high-water
mark for city-led innovation that harnesses nature’s potential to supply clean
drinking water, creates recreational opportunities, and boosts resilience.”
Foundation investment will supplement public and private funds to make possible
the acquisition of land in the Upper Neuse watershed. It will protect river and
stream frontage that are highly vulnerable to development. In addition to
ecosystem services, these natural lands provide important outdoor opportunities
for communities to connect with nature. Creating new outdoor recreational
opportunities can both stimulate the local economy and boost public health.
The Round-Up for Resilience campaign is an easy, stress-free way to make an impact on conservation. With Harness and CTNC, you can set aside your spare change for a monthly donation that will help us conserve more land for climate resilience, racial equity, and community health.
Think about it! If you set aside $0.20 or $0.30 after each credit card transaction, that could add up to real impact by the end of the year. Are you ready to round up for 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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
NC African American Heritage Commission and CTNC: A partnership built on cultural preservation and land conservation
North Carolina’s Black history and culture is rich and diverse; broad and deep. We have a responsibility to know, celebrate, and protect sites of cultural significance — and the stories and memories that they carry — to gain a greater understanding of the realities of the African American Experience in North Carolina.
*Click the double arrows in the top left-hand corner to view a legend and reveal more locations*
By better understanding their mutual interests, cultural preservation and land conservation organizations can work more diligently to build relationships and collaboration efforts that meet shared goals, and benefit diverse communities across the state. North Carolina lands hold a deeply-rooted history of African American and Black experiences dating back centuries. Throughout our 100 counties, our land holds the stories of significant African American heritage sites along the Underground Railroad to the Civil Rights Movement, once-segregated parks and beaches, Rosenwald School sites, and much more.
Our history is directly tied to land and people’s relationship to land.
CTNC and AAHC have collaborated on projects for several years to educate advocates and supporters to the importance of our shared goals for land preservation and conservation. In order to effectively conserve land for community benefits, we must understand how people’s relationship with these places have been formed over time.
This map can be used as a tool for people across the state to elevate our awareness of rich African American heritage and culture. The map will also serve to help cultural preservation and land conservation organizations better visualize the connections between African American cultural assets and natural resource values of land.
An Iterative and Collaborative Process
Through this map, we hope North Carolinians can explore their own understanding of land and culture and learn about new experiences they never knew.
We also acknowledge that this map is not complete. If you know of a significant African American cultural site that should be included, please contact us. We empower our network to help make this tool a robust resource to all North Carolinians so we can expand our collective knowledge of our past. By learning about the connection between people, place, and cultural histories, we can all do our part to make land conservation more equitable and inclusive in an effort to achieve a more resilient North Carolina.
Edgecombe County native works to discover and preserve lost history of Princeville
Born and raised in Edgecombe County, Kelsi Dew enrolled in Appalachian State’s Anthropology program to seek a different experience from her Eastern North Carolina childhood. But now, Kelsi has returned to her roots and can’t imagine ever leaving her home.
Kelsi’s passion for Eastern North Carolina history from 1850-1900 and the Reconstruction Period called her back to Princeville where she now helps to shape the community’s resilient future as an AmeriCorps member through CTNC.
“I want to understand where I came from and why things are the way they are. Princeville is too important to not care about, locally and nationally. It’s a historical gem. I hope more people can care and understand, visit and experience, and ultimately respect what Princeville is.”
Kelsi Dew, AmeriCorps Member
Under the supervision of Princeville town manager, Dr. Glenda Knight, Kelsi is now an integral member of the Princeville team. Kelsi is actively building a record of Princeville’s history and heritage to be put on display in the Town’s Mobile Museum and permanent museum that is currently being restored from damage inflicted by Hurricane Matthew.
Repetitive flooding makes it difficult to fully document Princeville’s history.
Despite the flooding and the hardships faced by the people of Eastern North Carolina, Princeville embodies a story of resilience. Land conservation and cultural heritage directly weave into Kelsi’s work because this land has an inspiring story to tell.
Looking ahead to a bright future.
“Even though the town still floods, it rebuilds. The people
are what make Princeville resilient. We may have lost physical structures after
each storm, but the town and its people are still here.”
Kelsi is filled with hope about what is ahead for the citizens of Princeville. Her work on behalf of the Town is bridging the past, present and future. She is part of a collaborative effort among dozens of organizations, government agencies, and town residents, working toward a shared goal of revitalizing Princeville with a commitment to sustainability and resilience. This shared vision has brought together many projects and partners in the Town of Princeville, local businesses and residents, and outside organizations like CTNC, The Conservation Fund, and NC State’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab.
Kelsi has made Princeville her home. She met her fiance here and intends to raise her own children here. She will continue to explore all that Princeville has to offer even as her AmeriCorps service concludes.
Kelsi says her next steps are not only to continue her research, but to figure out ways to share the stories she’s uncovered. She wants to find ways to present history in a way that celebrates the Town because Princeville deserves to be celebrated for its history, culture, tourism, and conservation efforts.
How service and community work drives this future stormwater planning leader
North Carolinians are all too familiar with the damage of stormwater as we face severe flooding with worsening hurricane seasons annually. This stormwater floods towns and cities all over the state, damaging infrastructure and polluting clean water sources. Stormwater planning will directly contribute to a more resilient North Carolina for years to come.
These are the issues Stephen Peters explored during his 10-month AmeriCorps service term as he worked directly with the Kernersville community to provide stormwater education.
As a native of Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks, Stephen is familiar with the coastal environment of NC and the impact of storms on towns. He has first-hand experience witnessing how stormwater can damage a community. After graduating from Wake Forest University in 2020, Stephen was trying to figure out how he could combine his degrees in biology and environmental studies with his goal to serve. As a second lieutenant in the army reserves and a longtime volunteer, Stephen wanted to make sure his next steps were service-oriented. That’s where AmeriCorps came in.
“Service has always been important to me,” Stephen said. “This was another way for me to serve my community and state.”
Stephen provided stormwater education while serving with Stormwater SMART, a cooperative partnership between county and municipal governments to provide outreach programs educating about stormwater pollution, clean water, and water conservation. The Kernsville community is not unfamiliar with the impacts of stormwater. In 2018, the Kernersville citizens dealt with substantial flooding and damage from Tropical Storm Michael, and the local residents too often witness overflowing creeks with every downpour.
Kernsville was a town that needed the help of Stephen and the rest of the Stormwater SMART team who put together programs to mitigate the ongoing flooding issues. This task has even inspired Stephen, who was moved by his ability to help a rural community, build for a resilient future.
Stephen said AmeriCorps helped get him connected with a mentor, Danica Heflin, who coordinated environmental programs for Stormwater SMART,and helped him discover his passion for stormwater education. Now, Stephen is sure he wants to pursue a masters degree and eventually work for a local government focused on smartwater planning. He’s dedicated to engaging with rural communities and inspiring stewardship for their own environments.
In addition to educating elementary, middle, and high school science and environmental classes about water pollution, Stephen was involved with:
Planning Alamance Creek Week
Creating educational videos when schools moved online
Leading projects on I-Naturalist
“It was an eye-opening experience to get out in the community and teach people of all ages about how stormwater is impacting them every year,” Stephen said. “I really felt included in the community and felt inspired by their interest to continue this work. Stormwater will continue to damage towns all over NC, but hopefully I can begin to help residents build for a better future through my work.”
Stephen is still planning his next steps, but there are two big plans on his radar: completing his basic training camp as a second lieutenant in the army reserves and going back to school.
“I really appreciate that Americorps, as an organization, focuses on the members and getting their own professional development,” he said. “It’s cool because you can take that time to work on yourself and develop yourself as a professional. It was definitely an incredible experience.”
Wetland monitoring to COVID-19 Disaster Response, AmeriCorps members can do it all
As COVID-19 uprooted lives all across the country, our own North Carolina communities were greatly impacted. All of us are proud to say that a group of brave AmeriCorps members responded to the call to serve during a time of great struggle. Members like Katie Sullivan helped connect food-insecure North Carolinians to her community’s local food bank as part of CTNC’s AmeriCorps Disaster Response efforts.
When Katie first joined AmeriCorps — a ten-month national service program designed to support environmental education, stewardship, and outreach to connect conservation organizations with local communities — she was not expecting to find herself working at a food bank packaging thousands of potatoes for the Wilmington citizens.
When Katie began her service, she worked with Storm Surge Protectors, a UNCW MarineQuest citizen-science project whose aim is to collect data to study the ecological condition of coastal wetlands. Katie worked in wetlands across Wilmington to monitor vegetation for seasonal changes and impacts of storms. Katie was invested in sharing wetland education at community events in the area to share the importance of this ecosystem on NC coasts and studying hurricane mitigation work while in the field.
But when COVID-19 spread across the state and citizens of Wilmington were laid off or furloughed at rapid rates, Katie was remobilized and began taking action to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Despite the risk of exposure, Katie jumped at the opportunity to continue serving her community.
“It’s been a great way to connect with the community again in a different way, in a different setting and show what AmeriCorps members are. It’s been a great experience at both ends. As much as I miss the field, I love going to the food bank, too.”
Through working at the community food bank and packaging meals for distribution, Katie has been able to help mitigate the economic impact the pandemic has had on so many Wilmington residents. She has since been able to continue field work, while also volunteering at the food bank, to balance her two passions.
“I don’t know if I could really tell you what service meant before this. I’m learning what it means to step up in a community, and rally and engage with people.”
Katie said she has become so immersed in the Wilmington community that she is soon starting her master’s degree in environmental studies at UNC Wilmington to continue her research of NC wetlands. She plans to remain in the state for years to come to take advantage of the opportunities for environmental education and to continue her work connecting the public with coastal science.
“Connecting people to the outdoors and making sure that land is available to make those connections, the work CTNC is doing to ensure that is huge. We need tons of greenspace. That was what was super important to me. I want places for people to develop their own love for the coast.”
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