Asheville Riverside Park

An Equitable Vision for Conservation

CTNC strives to seed equity and inclusion throughout the conservation community 

We’re born on the land. Eat food grown in it.  Drink water that flows over it. Build our communities within its hills, valleys, plains and rivers. There’s not a single aspect of our lives that’s not touched by land.

While land connects us all, it has also been used historically to separate us. Entire communities of people – especially people of color – have been intentionally displaced and excluded. That shared history of inequity means that collectively our conservation work does not benefit all people as we intend it to. 

If CTNC is to be successful building resilient, just communities, we must emphasize how racial equity can be seeded throughout our work.

From Diversity to Equity

For over a decade, we have focused on increasing the racial diversity within the conservation sector of North Carolina through the Diversity In Conservation Internship Program. The program was founded to create a pathway for rising leaders of color to find careers in conservation. Our work has not only connected many young people of color with a professional conservation network, it has also helped organizations understand their own role in promoting race equity in their culture and practice. 

“It’s really important for us to build these connections for youth of color in conservation because there isn’t a network like there is for other populations in conservation.”

Dawn Chávez, Asheville GreenWorks 

We all benefit from greater inclusion. 

While CTNC is proud of the strides made over the past decade, our collective history and the current state of conservation indicate that there’s still so much to be done. Our work must not only create pathways to employment for rising leaders of color, but also change our culture and practices. We must honor the stories of black, indigenous and other people of color who have felt the loss of access to productive land for living, farming and for preserving their heritage. 

CTNC understands that the historical legacy of conservation must be acknowledged in order to build more resilient, equitable communities for the future.

The stakes are high.

A conservation movement powered by people must include all people, not just those who have traditionally been seated at the head of the table. That’s why CTNC is committed to promoting equity through our work. Our vision is for all communities, regardless of race or economic status, to have a seat at the table.

Conserving land can be one facet of a larger effort to protect the stories, natural, and cultural heritage of historically marginalized communities across the state. 

Save the Green In-Between

The parks, greenways, trails, and overlooks that you love in North Carolina are not there by accident. They are the result of careful, consistent and dedicated conservation efforts happening every day throughout North Carolina. These places are protected in large part because of partnerships between land trusts, government agencies, and lawmakers who appropriate money to fund land and water conservation through the State’s Conservation Trust Funds.

A total of $1.24 billion has been given towards worthy land, water, farmland, and park projects through the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. 😲

If conservation organizations are able to continue our work to preserve the diverse beauty of North Carolina communities – from the rolling mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to the sandy dunes of the Atlantic coast – we need you to join us. Take a stand as an advocate for land and water conservation and help conserve the places you’ll love for life. 🤗

Many land trust-protected properties on our map have been protected thanks to funding awarded by the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. While you’re out discovering the beauty of No. 21 Waterrock Knob; No. 23, The Orchard at Altapass; or No. 105, Springer’s Point Preserve, remember that public funds made it possible for these places to stay wild and green.

Money from the trust funds don’t simply go toward acquiring conserved lands, but it also goes to the continued upkeep and maintenance required. 🔨 Without adequate and consistent funding, park staff will not be able to maintain the infrastructure of already existing parks and recreation areas.

We need your help to continue conserving properties like these.

Join this growing movement. We need you to remind your elected officials that land and water conservation is a priority. 🗣

North Carolina voters believe land and water conservation are important assets. 77% of registered voters say that protecting the forests is important and 78% say that protecting fishing and wildlife is important. If you agree, now is the time to add your voice to an important cause. Help us cut through the noise surrounding our local lawmakers with a single, resounding cry: Conserve North Carolina Lands.

So many things that we can accomplish in our lifetime are fading – but the land can be forever. If, as North Carolina residents, we want to continue to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us every day, we need to unite and advocate for that beauty. Speak up for the conservation issues close to your heart. 

If we’re not already connected through email, join our action alert network and be notified when we need you to join with us in our mission to protect North Carolina’s diverse beauty and stand with us.

Margaret Newbold honored with the Order of the Longleaf Pine

Conservation Trust for North Carolina congratulates Margaret Newbold, former Senior Associate, who was recently honored with the Order of the Longleaf Pine by the Governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper in appreciation for more than 20 years of exemplary service for land conservation through her work with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

Margaret has forged partnerships across the state to support the growth and development of local land trusts. She focused on diversifying the land trust community and making conservation more inclusive through CTNC’s comprehensive diversity and equity program, which included an internship program, workshops and trainings, and small grants. Margaret’s passion, expertise, guidance, and commitment to partnerships has led to North Carolina’s land trusts, other conservation organizations, and local communities across our state protecting and elevating the importance of our natural and cultural treasures.

During her tenure, CTNC was able to conserve 34,500 acres of land along the Blue Ridge Parkway, support local land trusts with $15.05 million in low-interest loans leveraging protection of $46.6 million in land value, and connect hundreds of young people from diverse backgrounds to careers in conservation through the Diversity in Conservation Internship Program, NC Youth Conservation Corps, and CTNC AmeriCorps.

Thanks to Margaret, CTNC is recognized as a national land trust leader tackling issues related to racial equity, diversity, and inclusion seeking to build a conservation sector that represents all of North Carolina’s communities. Margaret has enabled CTNC to thrive as a leader because of the strong foundation she helped to build. Margaret’s impressive legacy for land and communities in NC will live on for generations to come.

“I feel strongly that the conservation sector must work closely with the community economic development sector to chart a course that fosters healthy, whole communities, as land is the foundation of this work and the common ground we all share,” said Margaret. “I am filled with gratitude to be recognized with this incredible honor and join the ranks of Order recipients who came before me. I accept this award on behalf of all my partners and colleagues who have worked with me to conserve our land for the enjoyment of all.”

Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Chief Deputy Secretary Reid Wilson presented Margaret with this distinguished award on behalf of the Governor. A group of Margaret’s friends, family, and colleagues gathered for the celebration at Irvin Farm, a Triangle Land Conservancy property.

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is among the most prestigious awards presented by the Governor of North Carolina. The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is presented to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. Margaret joins an esteemed group of award winners, which includes Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and fellow land trust staff colleague Janice Allen of the Coastal Land Trust.

In addition to the Order, Margaret was also named Land Conservationist of the Year during the North Carolina Wildlife Federation 55th Annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards.

CTNC Awarded $100,000 by Environmental Enhancement Grants Program

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office Environmental Enhancement Grant Program to apply toward the remaining balance of the 1,076-acre Wildacres Retreat conservation project.

By protecting this expansive landscape from future development, the Wildacres conservation easements will offer permanent protection of extensive aquatic and forest habitats that boast a rich diversity of native plants and animals. Additionally, the conservation easements managed by CTNC, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, will safeguard clean drinking water for downstream residents, enhance wildlife habitat, preserve scenic vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway, provide environmental education opportunities for retreat visitors, and ensure public access to six miles of hiking trails.

CTNC and Foothills Conservancy completed the project at Wildacres in December 2017 with funding from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Cannon Foundation, Open Space Institute, and generous donations from Wildacres and the Blumenthal family. A low-interest loan from the Will Henry Stevens Revolving Loan Fund covered the remaining balance allowing CTNC to leverage existing funding and complete the transaction by the end of the year. The funds awarded by the Environmental Enhancement Grants Program will help replenish the fund that allows us to continue offering assistance to land trusts working to acquire future lands.

The Wildacres property lies on the Blue Ridge Escarpment in McDowell County in the upper reaches of the Catawba River basin. The property offers a unique array of natural habitats as it sprawls from the top of the escarpment at the Blue Ridge Parkway to the valley below Armstrong Creek at Highway 226 A.

This natural and scenic landscape will have a lasting impact on our environment and will be enjoyed by future generations as visitors to the retreat center, the Blue Ridge Parkway and millions of others who will enjoy the benefits of clean and safe drinking water, healthy fisheries and spiritually nourishing recreation opportunities.

Conserving the Wildacres Retreat was possible because of our strong relationships with the local land trust, a committed conservation-minded landowner, grants from our generous partners, and donations from supporters of our Blue Ridge Parkway land protection work. We have all worked together on this opportunity over a long period of time. For more information on the Wildacres Retreat conservation project, read our blog post celebrating the project completion.

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!

CTNC Board of Directors Extends Heartfelt Thanks to Departing Executive Director Reid Wilson

On January 19 North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced his appointment of CTNC’s executive director, Reid Wilson, to be Chief Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Board thanks Reid for 14 years of leadership and service to CTNC and the NC land trust community.

“On behalf of the Board, we are proud that Reid was recognized by the Governor for such a position of honor at a critical time for our state,” said CTNC Board President Ray Owens. “Reid’s distinguished career in conservation, his strategic mind, his ability to listen, and his passion for conservation issues is exactly what our state needs. He has the qualities and skills necessary to help lead the department and protect North Carolina’s natural resources for the health of all citizens.”

During Reid’s tenure, CTNC conserved thousands of acres along the Blue Ridge Parkway, dramatically boosted financial support and assistance to 24 local land trusts, built diversity and inclusion into its work, and created an Emerging Leaders program (including Diversity in Conservation internships, NC Youth Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps) to cultivate the next generation of conservation leaders and supporters.

Reid’s achievements will have a lasting impact on the conservation community. CTNC has built a strong foundation to continue working to ensure Blue Ridge Parkway vistas are protected, more families have access to parks and natural areas, and natural lands are protected for open space, fresh local foods,  and clean drinking water for generations.

“It’s an exciting time to join the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to protect, enhance and promote the state’s diverse natural and cultural resources for the benefit of public health, quality of life, and economic development,” Reid said. “Having said that, I have mixed emotions because I will miss my CTNC family – tremendous board, talented staff, and committed supporters.  Fortunately, our paths will continue to cross.  So much important and urgent work lies ahead for CTNC, and I am confident that the organization will continue to grow, innovate, thrive, and lead.”

We extend our deepest gratitude for Reid’s commitment to land conservation and all he accomplished for CTNC, and we wish him well as he transitions to this new role within the Cooper administration.

Associate Director Margaret Newbold will serve as CTNC’s interim executive director. Margaret’s experience and love for the organization make her an invaluable asset during this transition. With Margaret’s leadership, our talented staff, and dedicated supporters like you, CTNC will continue to serve as a national leader in land protection, providing assistance to land trusts, connecting young people to nature, and championing equity and diversity in conservation.

The CTNC Board has launched a job search for a permanent executive director. We are confident we will find someone well-equipped to lead CTNC and help achieve our vision for growth. For questions, contact Communications and Marketing Director Mary Alice Holley at 919-864-0428.

Federal Budget Deal Supplies Two Huge Conservation Victories

The giant compromise spending plan and tax policies that President Obama signed into law on December 18 include two key victories that will result in more natural lands being protected in the coming years.

The budget deal makes PERMANENT a set of enhanced federal tax deductions for landowners who donate a lasting conservation agreement on their land. These agreements protect clean water, family farms, and wildlife habitat by preventing development on the properties. Congress had been extending the enhanced deductions most years on an annual basis, but now that the incentives are permanent, landowners will have more certainty as they plan how to conserve their family lands. Conservation organizations across the country have been pushing for this tax law change for a decade. The result will be safer drinking water, cleaner air, more fresh local foods, and more open space!

In addition, the bill restores the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years and increases its funding level from $306 million to $450 million. Congress had allowed this incredibly successful 50-year program to expire this fall, but the spending bill brings it back to life. The LWCF has helped fund creation and protection of hundreds of federal, state, and local parks and wildlife areas all across the country. The Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are just two of the North Carolina treasures that have received LWCF funding to acquire high priority lands. The increased funding will mean more parks, trails, and wildlife refuges in all 50 states!

While we would have preferred a permanent reinstatement for LWCF, the three-year authorization gives us (and you) time to educate our congressional delegation about why it’s essential to restore the program long-term.  A key point is that LWCF has never been a hit to the budget – the funding comes from royalties from offshore oil and gas exploration. Senator Richard Burr has been the Senate champion on this issue, and we thank him for his dogged persistence in resuscitating the program.

New Report Ties Land and Water Conservation to a Strong North Carolina Economy

The Land for Tomorrow Coalition today released its 2015 Conservation Yearbook as members of the group came to Raleigh to educate state legislators about the need to increase public conservation funding. Land for Tomorrow is a statewide coalition of community leaders, conservation and outdoors organizations, businesses, and local governments with a common goal: increasing land and water conservation in North Carolina. The coalition works to ensure that the state’s conservation trust funds – Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) are well funded.

In addition to publishing county-by-county totals of state conservation funding, the Yearbook features a number of people from across the state who make the case that land and water conservation is crucial to a strong economy and healthy communities.

Former legislator Ruth Samuelson, a Republican who represented Mecklenburg County for 8 years, says that recreational opportunities provided by land and water conservation are important to public health and economic health. “The younger generation of employees wants open space and water access for recreational purposes,” she explains. “The retiring population is also attracted to green space when looking to relocate in new communities. Both are good for our economy.”

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says providing recreational opportunities are vital to attracting the best talent. “Our biggest competition isn’t for our customers, it’s for the best talent,” he says. “The best and the brightest have their choice of where to work. We are finding that quality of life is a major determinant of where top talent chooses to live and work. I am constantly asked by people we are recruiting about the recreational opportunities in North Carolina.”

The yearbook includes testimonials from farmers, foresters, members of the military, hunters and anglers.  John Robbins, a developer who chairs the North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Board of Directors, says that protecting land and water is better for the bottom line than restoring degraded land and water. “People fail to appreciate the cost of degradation – water pollution, construction runoff, and loss of critical habitat,” he explains. “If we fail to conserve, then we are imposing additional costs on ourselves and future generations. These costs are very real.”

The Land for Tomorrow coalition asked legislators to increase funding for the state’s three conservation trust funds in each year of the biennial budget – $25 million for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, $25 million for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, and $5 million for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.

U.S. House Comes Up Short on Conservation Incentives

On December 11, the U.S. House of Representatives came up just short of enough votes to pass a bill that would have accelerated the pace of land conservation across the country. HR 5806, the “Supporting America’s Charities Act,” fell just 9 votes shy of the 2/3 majority it needed according to the special rules under which it was considered.

The bill would have made permanent the enhanced federal tax deductions for landowners who donate conservation easements.  The deductions are a key factor that enable landowners to preserve the land they love.

There were 275 votes for and 149 votes against. All 228 Republicans who were present (including all 9 from NC) voted yes, the correct vote from our viewpoint.  The measure failed to pass because of Democratic opposition.  Forty-seven Democrats voted for it, but 149 voted against.  It’s not that they opposed the provisions in the bill per se, but the politics of tax legislation are complicated, and those political considerations won out.  President Obama had threatened a veto if it had passed.

Of NC’s 4 Democratic representatives, only Rep. McIntyre voted for the bill.  Reps. Price, Butterfield, and Adams voted against.  This is a big disappointment, and all hopes for making the incentives permanent this year are dead.

Please get in touch with the NC representatives who voted yes (Reps. Jones, Coble, Ellmers, Pittinger, Holding, Hudson, Meadows, McHenry, Foxx, McIntyre) and thank them profusely for their vote. It’s never too early to start building relationships and support for next year’s efforts to pass this critical legislation.

And thank you to all of you who called or emailed your Member of Congress to urge them to support the bill!

CTNC Releases Report Detailing Importance of NC Conservation Tax Credit

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina released a report, “Sprint to the Finish: The Final Days of the North Carolina Conservation Tax Credit,” documenting the public benefits provided by the state income tax credit that made it economically feasible for private landowners to conserve their family land.  The report also details the Conservation Trust’s “Money in the Ground” initiative, which provided local land trusts with private funding to complete land conservation projects that utilized the tax credit before it expired at the end of last year.  Read the report HERE.

North Carolina was the first state to establish a conservation tax credit, recognizing the importance of encouraging private lands conservation to provide clean drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, farmland for growing fresh local foods, and recreation opportunities for North Carolinians.  Since its inception in 1983, landowners have used the tax credit to voluntarily protect more than 250,000 acres of conservation land, while leveraging six dollars in land or conservation easement donations for every dollar of tax credit granted.

When the North Carolina General Assembly repealed the Conservation Tax Credit in 2013 as part of broad tax reform legislation, a popular incentive for landowners to conserve their land was eliminated.  Coupled with reduced funding for the state’s conservation trust funds over the last six years, this decision could significantly limit future voluntary conservation of private lands, slowing efforts to protect streams, farms, forests, and scenic vistas throughout North Carolina.

In response to the repeal of the NC Conservation Tax Credit, North Carolina’s 24 local land trusts intensified efforts in the final months of 2013, collaborating with landowners to conserve as many properties as possible before the tax credit expired on January 1, 2014.  Last year, local land trusts saw an 80% increase in donated land and conservation easements over the previous year, suggesting the tax credit was a powerful motivator for private land conservation.

Another indicator of the tax credit’s importance is the success of CTNC’s “Money in the Ground” initiative, a grant program that helped local land trusts complete tax credit-eligible projects with interested landowners. This grant program provided private funding for payment of transaction costs (appraisals, surveys, legal fees, etc.) to complete land or easement donations.  Often, neither the landowner nor the land trust has funds on hand to cover these costs.  The Conservation Trust granted $1.06 million from its own funds to 16 land trusts to conserve 63 properties totaling almost 7,400 acres of natural lands, leveraging more than $28 million.

“The tax credit worked because it enabled voluntary private land conservation and provided important public benefits like clean water, parks, and fresh local foods, all at a bargain to the state,” said Reid Wilson, Executive Director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.  “We urge the General Assembly to restore this successful and popular tax credit in the future