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.

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.

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!

North Carolina’s Local Land Trusts Present Annual Awards to Conservation Leaders

Senator Harry Brown, Bull City Running, Town of Davidson, Muddy Sneakers, Tim Sweeney, Louis Moore Bacon, and former state employees honored by NC land trusts for promoting conservation

A legislator protecting the state’s conservation trust funds, a local business known for its efforts to get people out on trails, a town dedicated to preserving open space, a thriving nonprofit that develops future conservationists, a dedicated conservationist passionate about protecting the eastern Blue Ridge Mountains and Foothills, and a philanthropist dedicated to conserving and protecting land both locally and nationally, have been honored by North Carolina’s land trusts for their work.

Senator Harry Brown, Bull City Running in Durham, the town of Davidson, Muddy Sneakers in Brevard, Tim Sweeney, and Louis Moore Bacon are the 2014 recipients of awards given by North Carolina’s 24 local land trusts to individuals and organizations that have achieved major accomplishments in land and water protection. In addition, the land trusts honored several former state employees for their dedication to land and water conservation across our state and for safeguarding our unique natural heritage and quality of life.

The NC Land Trust awards are given to businesses, nonprofit organizations, governments, and individuals who lead efforts to protect the state’s streams and lakes, forests, farms, parkland, and wildlife habitat, thereby protecting clean drinking water and air quality, local food, and outdoor recreation. The awards were announced Monday night, April 28th, at the annual North Carolina Land Trust Assembly at the Trinity Center in Pine Knoll Shores.

Legislator of the Year: Senator Harry Brown
Nominated by Conservation Trust for North Carolina and North Carolina Coastal Land Trust

As NC Senate Majority Leader and Senior Appropriations Committee Chairman, Senator Harry Brown (R-Jones, Onslow) has been a leader in protecting the state’s conservation trust funds and advancing tax incentives for land conservation. In 2013, Senator Brown was the Land for Tomorrow coalition’s main champion on conservation funding issues. He opposed efforts to eliminate or restrict the state’s conservation trust funds, and led an initiative in the Senate to streamline the trust funds and stabilize their funding source. Senator Brown supported maintaining the functions of the Natural Heritage Trust Fund (NHTF) under the reorganized Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF).

Senator Brown continues to be a strong supporter of the NC State Parks system and the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF). Despite Senator Brown’s efforts, the General Assembly eliminated dedicated revenue streams for PARTF and NHTF and other non-conservation programs. However, Senator Brown fought hard to maintain stable funding levels and recurring appropriations for CWMTF and PARTF, and to focus more of the available funding on land conservation projects.

In addition, Senator Brown has supported efforts to protect our state’s military bases from incompatible land uses. He has been a strong proponent of land and easement acquisition funding for buffers around military bases, which also help protect water quality, wildlife habitat, and farmland. “Senator Brown has a deep appreciation for our natural lands and waterways and knows first-hand the importance of conservation to the local economy. Senator Brown understands the connections between conservation and agriculture, tourism, the military, and hunting and fishing – all important economic drivers in his community,” said Edgar Miller, Government Relations Director for the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

Corporate Conservation Partner of the Year: Bull City Running
Nominated by The LandTrust for Central NC, Eno River Association, NC Rail-Trails, and the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Bull City Running is an extraordinary partner to North Carolina land trusts. Each year, Bull City Running organizes four events that highlight the protected lands and essential work of four partner organizations, and then donates the proceeds from each event to the organization. These running events bring greater awareness to the work of land trusts and provide much-needed funding. Bull City Running coordinates these runs with The LandTrust for Central NC, the Eno River Association, NC Rail-Trails, and the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

“Bull City Running is a first-rate organization and brings nothing but positive publicity for the trails and the work of the land conservation groups that it puts these races together to benefit. We are thrilled to see Bull City Running receive the 2014 North Carolina Land Trust Corporate Conservation Partner Award,” said Crystal Cockman, Associate Director with The LandTrust for Central NC.

The Uwharrie Mountain Run, now in its 23rd year, benefits The LandTrust for Central NC. It has 8 mile, 20 mile, and 40 mile option. This race, held in February, was voted best trail run in the southeast by Competitor magazine. The Eno River Run will be held in October this year; this beautiful trail run, with 6 mile and 11 mile options, features the work the Eno River Association is doing at Eno River State Park. Bull City Running also hosts a 5K in the fall to benefit NC Rail-Trails, and a 50K and 12-mile trail run at Falls Lake in March to benefit the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Government Conservation Partner of the Year: Town of Davidson
Nominated by Davidson Lands Conservancy

The town of Davidson embraces the preservation of open space, has hundreds of acres of parks and miles of greenways, is bicycle and pedestrian friendly, and values the overall health of its citizens. The town’s planning ordinance, which received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Smart Growth Award in 2004, makes specific recommendations about maintaining and preserving open space. Among the core values identified in the plan are preserving undeveloped rural areas, working with neighboring jurisdictions to preserve contiguous and valuable open space, protecting scenic views along greenways and roads in rural areas, and monitoring and minimizing development impacts on significant ecosystems.

Roy Alexander, Executive Director of Davidson Lands Conservancy, is proud that the town recognizes the benefits of, and its responsibility for, providing green infrastructure. “Through its development ordinances, stream buffer protections, tree canopy policies, and other progressive actions, the Town will continue to pursue its adopted goal of protecting 50% of its area as open space. We are thankful for the town’s commitment to open space and natural areas and look forward to helping the town reach its goal.” The town currently has 167 acres of developed parkland and 3.8 miles of developed greenway. It owns 246 additional acres and has committed to three more miles of greenway. Between publicly-owned and privately-owned conservation easements, nearly 700 contiguous acres are protected in Davidson. In addition, the town of Davidson received Tree City USA Recertification for 2013 and was designated as a Walk Friendly Community, joining the ranks with 44 other pedestrian-friendly communities around the country.

Community Conservation Partner of the Year: Muddy Sneakers
Nominated by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy

Muddy Sneakers brings 5th-grade students onto nearby protected lands with the goal of introducing them to the wonders of the natural world through a science curriculum using experiential methods. Muddy Sneakers strives to create in children a life-long love of nature and to do it in a way that enhances academic achievement, inspires the joy of living, and instills an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things. Among young students, Muddy Sneakers’ environment-based education has been shown to produce gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math, improve standardized test scores and grade-point averages, and develop skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making.

Muddy Sneakers is in its seventh year of bringing an experiential format to teaching science at participating public schools across western North Carolina. Muddy Sneakers began as a pilot program in the spring of 2007 with Brevard and Pisgah Forest Elementary Schools in Transylvania County, and has grown each year. This year marks the largest season to date, with 18 participating schools representing four counties: Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe, and McDowell. Muddy Sneakers has provided educational opportunities that have helped connect thousands of young people with the outdoors and helped shape them into the conservationists of the future.

Kieran Roe, Executive Director of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, believes that the work being done by Muddy Sneakers plays an important role in connecting youth with nature. “Muddy Sneakers is an innovator in designing curricula that inspire a love of the outdoors in schoolchildren while improving their academic performance. CMLC is proud to be a partner with Muddy Sneakers in promoting a conservation ethic among the next generation.”

Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year: Tim Sweeney
Nominated by Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina

Since 2011, Tim Sweeney has wholeheartedly dedicated himself and considerable personal financial resources to acquiring large tracts of land to achieve ecological connectivity and landscape-scale conservation between the South Mountains and the Blue Ridge Escarpment, a critical wildlife corridor and one of Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina’s primary protection focus areas. He has also made similar conservation-minded acquisitions in western North Carolina and in Chatham County.

Sweeney’s earliest land acquisitions, in the heart of this conservation corridor, now make up the 5,185-acre Box Creek Wilderness, a registered State Significant Natural Area. Since securing Box Creek, Sweeney has coordinated closely with Foothills Conservancy and systematically acquired other highly significant tracts across this corridor, which Foothills Conservancy, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and NC State Parks have long sought to protect.

In 2012, Sweeney provided the resources necessary for Foothills Conservancy to complete the “South Mountains to Blue Ridge Corridor Analysis” which defined the boundaries of this critical conservation corridor and identified key acquisition goals. At Foothills’ request, he also bought a critical 2,100-acre property that borders three miles of South Mountains State Park and signed a purchase option with the land trust giving them three years to raise funds to buy it at the price he paid.

“North Carolinians today and for centuries to come are very fortunate that Tim Sweeney has stepped forward at this particular time to protect our region’s mountain forests, creeks, rocky outcrops and all that is wild and wonderful within them,” said Susie Hamrick Jones, Executive Director of the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina.

Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year: Louis Moore Bacon
Nominated by North Carolina Coastal Land Trust

Louis Moore Bacon is an inspirational advocate for conservation and the protection of natural resources. Raised with an appreciation for the outdoors, Bacon developed a respect for the natural world, which has driven his enthusiasm for land and water conservation. In 1992, he created the Moore Charitable Foundation to support organizations that preserve and protect wildlife habitat. The foundation has provided significant funding to more than 200 local, national and international conservation organizations.

Louis Bacon’s philanthropy has had a great impact on North Carolina. He first worked with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust by preserving 31 acres on Ocracoke Island; this tract is now Springer’s Point Nature Preserve, one of NC Coastal Land Trust’s most popular public preserves. In one of the largest conservation easement gifts in its history, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust announced in January 2014 that Orton Plantation Holdings, LLC, owned by Bacon, had donated more than 6,442 acres at Orton Plantation. The conservation easement was given in December 2013 and followed the expansion of the historic boundary of Orton Plantation by including the woodlands, agricultural fields, restored rice fields, water courses and gardens on an adjacent 1,100 acres that are part of a new nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

The conservation easement is characterized by a variety of natural features, including forestland, creeks, streams, and ponds. Conserved forestland includes stands of Longleaf Pine and wiregrass; mixed Longleaf and Loblolly Pine; and, Cypress-gum Swamp. Wildlife habitat includes the federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, quail, wild turkey, and other upland game birds.”

“Louis Moore Bacon is uniquely qualified to be recognized as one of the inheritors of Fred Stanback’s conservation legacy. His donation of a conservation easement over more than 6,442 acres at Orton Plantation is one of the most significant conservation donations in the history of the Coastal Land Trust,” said Camilla Herlevich, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.

Former State Employees Honored by all Land Trusts

North Carolina’s land trusts also recognized nine former state employees for their many years of dedication and commitment to conservation across our state — former Natural Heritage Program Director Linda Pearsall and staff members Shawn Oakley, Janine Nicholson, Bruce Sorrie, Ann Prince, and Steve Hall; former Natural Heritage Trust Fund Director Lisa Riegel; and former NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund Director Richard Rogers and staff member Christopher Fipps.

The motto of the NC Natural Heritage Program is “Science Guiding Conservation.” The staff’s expertise in identifying natural communities and rare species has allowed the land trusts to prioritize conservation efforts to make the most of limited funds and manage properties to maintain and enhance forests, streams, working farms, and scenic vistas.

With recent state budget cuts, six Natural Heritage Program staff are no longer with the agency. The NC Natural Heritage Trust Fund, which funded acquisition of significant natural heritage areas, was dissolved, though its functions were transferred to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. The Clean Water Management Trust Fund is a major source of conservation funding to preserve water quality; it has similarly faced substantial budget cuts.

“North Carolina’s local land trusts are forever indebted to the state agencies and staff members who so expertly worked to ensure that conservation efforts protected the best of the best natural areas throughout our state, for the benefit of all North Carolina families,” said Reid Wilson, Executive Director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

Take Advantage of the NC Conservation Tax Credit

Due to tax reform legislation passed by the NC General Assembly, the NC Conservation Tax Credit will expire on January 1, 2014.  This income tax credit for landowners who donate or make bargain sales of land and easements for conservation purposes has helped protect over 230,000 acres of forests, farms, waterways, wildlife habitat, wetlands, and other natural areas. If you’re a landowner interested in donating land or an easement, please get in touch with CTNC or your local land trust right away.  For more information about conservation tax incentives, click here. Time is running out to protect your land!

State Senate Budget Boosts Conservation

The 2013-14 state budget that the NC Senate passed on May 23 provides roughly level conservation funding as the current year and more than doubles the conservation funding levels in Governor Pat McCrory’s recommended budget. The next steps in the budget process are that the House will propose and pass its own bill, then the Senate and House will need to work out any differences before presenting a final version to Gov. McCrory to either sign or veto.

The Senate budget consolidates two of the state’s four existing conservation trust funds (Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Natural Heritage Trust Fund) into one, the Water and Land Conservation Fund. The new trust fund would fulfill the existing missions of those two trust funds and receive $12 million in fiscal year 2013 and $14 million in FY 2014. The states’ remaining conservation trust funds, the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PRTF), would remain as separate trust funds.  PRTF, which funds expansion and maintenance of state parks and also provides matching grants for local governments to develop and expand local parks projects, would receive an $11 million appropriation in FY 13-14 and $13 million in FY 14-15. ADFPTF, which funds working farm conservation easements and other farm preservation projects, is slated to receive level funding of $1.7 million.

As with the Governor’s recommended budget, the Senate budget eliminates the dedicated funding source for conservation (a portion of the deed stamp tax). Land for Tomorrow, a coalition of conservation (including CTNC), hunting and fishing, agriculture, business, and local government groups, is asking the House to maintain that dedicated revenue. Dedicated funding is essential for land conservation because it provides stable and secure revenue.

Read Land for Tomorrow’s news release on the Senate budget here.

State conservation funding has been cut significantly since the recession hit (the Clean Water Management Trust used to be funded at $100 million/year), and demand for conservation project funding continues to far outpace available funds. Identified conservation needs exceed $50 million, and the Senate’s budget takes a positive step toward fulfilling those needs.

Conservation projects help protect drinking water and air quality, provide trails and parks for families to enjoy, support family farms that produce fresh and local foods, and maintain healthy wildlife habitat. And, importantly, conserved lands support NC’s biggest industries – agriculture, tourism, the military – and are a powerful draw for new businesses.

In addition to the budget, Land for Tomorrow will also be working with legislative leaders to ensure that the state’s income tax credit for donations of conservation properties is not eliminated. Bills have been introduced in both houses that would do away with this essential conservation tool which has helped protect more than 230,000 acres of forests, farms, and other natural areas. Click here to find out more about the NC Conservation Tax Credit and send your legislators a message that you support conservation.

Asheville Council Votes to Strengthen Watershed Protections

On December 11, 2012, the Asheville City Council voted unanimously to strengthen the conservation easement that covers the city’s 17,000-acre watershed in the Black Mountains. This is an important step towards providing stronger permanent protections for the forested mountains and two reservoirs that comprise the watershed.

Since 1996, CTNC has held a conservation easement on the property to safeguard its spectacular conservation values. That easement was excellent for 1996, but we’ve learned a lot since then about how to ensure better land protection. That’s why over the last several months the city, CTNC, and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) have worked together to strengthen the agreement. The new draft easement strengthens permanent protections for drinking water quality, forest health, wildlife habitat, and scenic views along fifteen miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Among other things, the draft easement prohibits any commercial logging, ever, on the property.

The Asheville City Council (particularly Marc Hunt) deserves a great deal of credit for taking this positive action. We still have some I’s to dot and T’s to cross, but within a few weeks, we hope to have a brand new conservation easement approved by both the city and CTNC’s board of directors. We’ll keep you posted.