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.  

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.  

AmeriCorps Members Honor MLK Jr. Through Service 

Members completed service-based volunteer events to benefit communities across NC  

As we reflect on this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we would love to share some of the enriching experiences that our Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps members enjoyed. Each member dedicated the day to volunteering in honor of Dr. King. The active participation of members was present in service projects aligning with the principles championed by Dr. King, with the common goal of enhancing community resilience. The MLK Day of Service contributes to our local communities across the state and provides an opportunity for our members to learn and reflect on the enduring impact of Dr. King’s teachings.  

CTNC’s AmeriCorps service members Austin Duncan (Central Pines Regional Council), Rae Cohn (The Hub Farm),Hannah Rhodes (American Rivers), Anna Behnke (CTNC), Lauren Howard (Green River Preserve) and Eli Haines-Eitzen(Eno River Association) spent the day in Durham assisting Urban Community Agronomics. UCAN strives to connect the community with sustainable agriculture to combat food insecurity and provide environmental-based education to visitors. During this day of service, volunteers spread mulch, helped build beds for the greenhouse, reclaimed wood among the property along with many other tasks.  

Another member in the Triangle, Ellen Davis (Central Pines Regional Council), spent the day with the repairs program of Habitat for Humanity of Durham. Their group focused on assisting a home impacted by flooding through replacing a waterline. Within their day of service, immense progress was made on an 18” deep trench that will be used with the new waterline.  

In the Piedmont, Tanya Balaji (Keep Charlotte Beautiful), in partnership with her host site, held four litter cleanup events around the city to commemorate Dr. King. With the help of 82 total volunteers, 97 bags of litter were collected, removing roughly 1940 lbs. of litter from impacting the environmental well-being of the streets of Charlotte.   

Cindy Rassi (El Futuro) participated in a day of service held by her host site in partnership with Keep Durham Beautiful. They had 29 adults, and 4 children participate in the MLK Clean-up of the Lakewood Plaza and a Storytime Reading of “Todo el Mundo Cabe Aqui” (“All Are Welcome” in English) for the children. During this day of service, 43 bags of waste, 27bags of recycling items, 1 mattress, 4 tires, and metal scrap were collected by the volunteers.  

In Henderson, member Charlie Robinette (Kerr Tar Regional Council of Governments) joined ACTS of Henderson (Area Christians Together in Service) in a food distribution event. Charlie helped prepare and hand out the warm lunches to members of the community.

In Western NC, member Jessica Blackburn (Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust) joined HCLT staff and volunteers on a litter clean-up at Sunset Rock, one of HCLT’s most populous hiking spots. The event showed how simple it can be to gather and provide service to your community while being a steward for the environment.  

Along the coast of North Carolina, Lauren Waibel and Jordan Pilcher (North Carolina Coastal Land Trust) spent their day cleaning up and removing litter from a local park in Wilmington. They collected trash from Maides Park and Maides Cemetery, a historic African-American Cemetery with graves dating back to the 19th century

As we remember Martin Luther King, it is also essential that we remember the dedication he had to his mission of liberating and uniting all people. To accomplish our mission, we too must dedicate our services to changes we wish to have in the world. 

Learn more about the impact of community partnerships delivered through service.

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.

State Legislators come through with a conservation win

Help us send a big thank you to North Carolina’s legislators and governor for allocating over $100 million to the conservation trust funds and other conservation projects in the 2023 State Budget. This funding will benefit people and our land for generations to come.

Land and water are economic drivers for our state. Protecting these vital natural resources is essential to North Carolina’s bottom line – boosting spending and providing jobs. Read the press release from the Land for Tomorrow Coalition for a full rundown of the funding allocated to the conservation trust funds.

Land for Tomorrow is a statewide coalition of community leaders, conservation, and wildlife organizations, and parks and recreation advocates with a common goal: increasing land and water conservation in North Carolina. The state’s three conservation trust funds, the North Carolina Land and Water Trust Fund (NCLWF), the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) are essential tools that allow state agencies and nonprofit partners to protect North Carolina’s valuable natural resources. 

The Coalition recognizes these conservation heroes who went the extra mile to protect our state’s most loved places. The Land for Tomorrow Coalition applauds the following legislators:

  • Speaker of the House – Representative Tim Moore
  • President Pro Tem – Senator Phil Berger
  • Majority Leader – Representative John Bell
  • Majority Leader – Senator Paul Newton 
  • Appropriation Chairs
    • House: Lambeth, Saine, Arp, Kyle Hall, Strickland, Brisson, Elmore, Faircloth, Jones, Sasser
    • Senate: Jackson, Hise, Lee
  • Subcommittee Chairs
    • House: Dixon, Gillespie, Goodwin
    • Senate: Sanderson, Johnson, Craven

If you have time, please send a thank you note to your local legislators for protecting our state’s natural resources through the budget this year. Their perseverance in protecting this funding should be commended.

CTNC is dedicated to stewarding smart conservation policies for the benefit of North Carolina’s resilient communities. Join us in supporting this important mission.

Gardens Spring Up Across Princeville

Stormwater interventions offer climate solutions

As communities experience increasingly heavy rainfall, communities across North Carolina are experiencing nuisance flooding. Instances of standing water can disrupt routine day-to-day activities, put added strain on infrastructure systems such as roadways and sewers, and cause minor property damage. 

The town of Princeville knows that well, as do many climate-impacted towns in North Carolina. A spot of historic and devastating flooding as well as every-day challenges resulting from nuisance flooding, this town invested in building natural stormwater capture devices while enhancing once-vacant land throughout the community.

In the summer of 2023, CTNC spearheaded a project to install green infrastructure with wetland enhancement projects on vacant, town-owned parcels along the Tar River. These are now sites where stormwater can naturally flow and reduce nuisance flooding that causes inconveniences to residents, roads, and neighborhoods in populated areas. The project created 6,000 square feet of stormwater retention strategies, including bioretention cells and rain gardens designed to hold 27,740 gallons of water per rain event.

Princeville elected leaders worked with residents and partners to identify three locations throughout town where standing water was already creating safety hazards following large rain events. By turning these sites into managed wetland areas with trees, shrubs, and pollinator plants, each site can now absorb stormwater and address standing water issues. This is all while beautifying each plot with seasonal colorful blooms and leaves, supporting native wildlife, including birds and other pollinators.


Site 1 is located at Town Hall and Freedom Hill to help add stormwater runoff at a high-traffic intersection of Princeville. The site includes NC native pollinator plants including Soft Rush, Walker’s Low Catmint, and Black-eyed Susan.

Site 2 is located at the corner of Church and Walston Streets, and Site 3 is located at the corner of Beasley and Walston Streets. These locations were selected due to their proximity to the elementary school rain garden installations completed in 2020.

The project is continuing with an important science component. The Town of Princeville seeks to incorporate community education into every conservation project that takes place. In the case of the stormwater infrastructure improvements, CTNC received funding from TELUS to purchase sensors that track the water absorption rate of the wetland areas. These sensors are offered by Temboo, a technology company that utilizes data to engage communities in understanding their environmental impact locally. The sensors will be installed this summer and will collect data that will be shared with town leaders, educators, students and families to showcase the importance of conservation as a natural solution to flooding and other climate-related issues being experienced by Princeville and surrounding communities.


Communities across North Carolina are experiencing greater occurrences of precipitation and rain events that cause minor and major flooding. Conservation solutions, like installing rain gardens and other stormwater management techniques, are a great way to manage flood water while benefiting communities and residents. These types of installations are beautiful, offer a benefit to wildlife like birds and pollinators, effectively manage stormwater, naturally filter contaminants from water flow before it reaches a river or stream, and are low maintenance options for long-term care. CTNC supports natural solutions like stormwater infrastructure to benefit communities seeking to build resilience to flood challenges exacerbated by our changing climate.

The stormwater designs and plant selections were created by NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab based on recommendations from the Princeville Community Floodprint. It was informed by input from Princeville residents and approved by the Town of Princeville Board of Commissioners. The project will be installed by M&M Landscaping – a local contracting partner participating in the conservation projects being funded through CTNC.

Funding for this project was generously provided by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation EJ4Climate grant.

Stella’s Acres Joins Another CTNC-Protected Parkway Property

A Full Circle Moment for Blue Ridge Parkway Land Protection

In June, CTNC secured another 36 acres of pristine protected views along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The property known as Stella’s Acres abuts the very first property CTNC ever conveyed to the Blue Ridge Parkway – our 22-acre Redbank Cove property, donated to the National Park Service in 1997.

This new plot lies along Timberlane Road, just northeast of Balsam in Haywood County. The tract adjoins the Parkway at milepost 442. Protection of the land will enlarge the protected habitat connection between the Parkway and the 328-acre Haywood County Community College conservation easement property.

“We are thrilled to announce this success and look forward to celebrating the transfer of the property to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the very near future. We are especially grateful for the generosity of the land donors and the support of National Park Service staff, without whom we could not carry out this important work,” said Rusty Painter, CTNC Land Protection Director.

This land holds ecological value, protects clean water, and augments climate solutions to Western North Carolina communities.

A stream originating on the property flows into Richland Creek, which continues into the Town of Waynesville through a municipal park and Richland Creek Greenway. Protection of this headwater stream further ensures clean water from the source to communities downstream. Furthermore, protecting headwater streams helps mitigate the impacts of downstream flooding during heavy rain events.

This is a value add for climate mitigation as the property’s mature hardwood forest allows for carbon sequestration from the atmosphere and protection of carbon stored in the soil. Additionally, CTNC’s protection of the property expands protected acreage along the Parkway’s south-to-north habitat migration corridor, enabling plants and animals to escape to northern latitudes with cooler climates.

CTNC’s partnership with the National Park Service ensures long-lasting preservation of an iconic area of our state.

Millions of visitors to the Parkway (locals and tourists) will benefit from protection of scenic properties like Stella’s Acres and others like it. The property is visible from the Parkway, especially while driving north from Balsam Gap Overlook, as most of the tract rises upslope from the Parkway toward the ridge of Wesner Bald. At its closest point, the property is as little as 320 feet from the Parkway motor road. The property is also highly visible from a nearby section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. While not accessible by public transportation, the Blue Ridge Parkway is free to all visitors, unlike many national parks that charge user fees. Public access to nature is always a value add.

Thank you to the National Park Service, previous landowners Charles & Donna Bryan, and our corporate donor for making this project possible. The property will be donated to the National Park Service in the next few years.

This is the 76th property CTNC has protected along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Still, more is needed, as most land visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway is privately owned with no land use restrictions, leaving it vulnerable to destructive land uses that can compromise the scenic views that attract millions of visitors each year.

Join us in this effort to conserve vital land in an effort to build resilience for communities in Western North Carolina.