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.

Upper Neuse Initiative Boasts Impressive Accomplishments

In 2006, the UNCWI partners, subject-matter experts, and local stakeholders developed a sophisticated conservation plan that identifies the most important tracts of land to conserve to protect water quality. Since then (as of January 2019), the land trusts and other partners have protected 115 properties that include 113 miles of stream banks on 10,491 acres. Another 10 projects with 7 miles of stream banks on 555 acres are in the works.

In 2014, the program was expanded to include the Swift Creek watershed, another local drinking water source. Also, the partners and stakeholders began working on an updated conservation plan to include current land cover data and to refine and refocus land protection priorities. The Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative 2015-2045 Conservation Strategy identifies 260,000 priority acres and sets a goal of protecting 30,000 acres over the next 30 years.

In addition, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and the Natural Resources Conservation Service provided UNCWI with a generous three-year grant in 2010 as part of the Endowment’s Healthy Watersheds through Healthy Forests Initiative. The grant enabled the partner land trusts to work with forest landowners to place conservation easements on their properties and/or implement forest stewardship plans.

Learn about the projects already completed through the program.

Latest Project to Conserve Headwaters of Honeycutt Creek and the Blue Ridge Parkway

Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) recently acquired a 12-acre tract adjoining the Blue Ridge Parkway on Bear Den Mountain Road. The property, known as Honeycutt Creek Cascades, augments recent protection of 208 acres purchased by Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina below Bear Den Overlook. The properties will be donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Blue Ridge Parkway.

CTNC’s Honeycutt Creek Headwaters property contains a scenic cascade in the headwaters of Honeycutt Creek in McDowell County. Permanent protection of this property protects the site of a scenic cascade and water quality further downstream in Honeycutt Creek and the North Fork Catawba River. CTNC has now protected twelve properties totaling more than 3,700 acres in the area around Altapass and North Cove between Linville and Little Switzerland along the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 319 to 330). In addition to the 208 acres below Bear Den Overlook, Foothills Conservancy has protected 127 acres in the area between Bear Den and Linville Falls.

“This beautiful property was on the market and could have easily been developed,” said CTNC Executive Director Chris Canfield. “We are grateful to Fred and Alice Stanback for providing the funds that enabled us to move quickly to protect the property.”

Conservation of the Honeycutt Creek Cascades property helps protect scenic views from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Bear Den Mountain Road near the popular Bear Den Campground. The property is visible from the Parkway near milepost 325.

Canfield added, “We’re also grateful to the Dispiter family for their commitment to land conservation and to Jann Godwin at Timberline Properties who helped broker the deal between CTNC and the landowner.”

“Our family has wonderful memories of camping on this property and enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway and nearby attractions,” said Monica Pattison, a member of the Dispiter family.  “We are grateful to the Conservation Trust and Foothills Conservancy for helping us leave a lasting legacy for future generations.”

CTNC works with voluntary landowners along the Blue Ridge Parkway to protect streams, forests, farms, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat, parks, and trails. The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has now conserved 65 properties on the Blue Ridge Parkway, totaling 34,361 acres. For more information on Blue Ridge Parkway land protection efforts visit:  www.ctnc.org/blue-ridge-parkway/ and  protecttheblueridgeparkway.org/.

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.

Newly Acquired Property to Conserve Headwaters of Little Tennessee River Basin

Conservation Trust for North Carolina recently acquired 21 acres in Jackson County’s Hi-Mountain subdivision. The property, known as Woodfin Creek Headwaters, abuts a 25-acre property owned by CTNC at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 447. CTNC will donate both properties to the National Park Service to expand the boundary of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Read what local media had to say about Woodfin Creek:

The property conserves a portion of land at the headwaters of Woodfin Creek, upstream of Woodfin Falls in the Little Tennessee River basin. It will contribute to the complex of land assembled around Waterrock Knob establishing a 5,000-acre recreation area near the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Conserving land along the Blue Ridge Parkway enhances the landscape’s resilience to our changing climate by providing protected places where human and natural communities can move and adapt. With an elevation range from 4,840 to 5,060 feet, the newly-protected Woodfin Creek Headwaters has the potential to support significant numbers of rare plant and animal species.

“With the addition of the Woodfin Creek Headwaters property, we’re pleased to expand the boundary of protected lands along the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Rusty Painter, CTNC Land Protection Director. “This property lies within a state-designated Natural Heritage Area, contains pockets of spruce-fir forest that will preserve the ecological diversity of the region, and is in close proximity to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.”

The property is visible from the Mt. Lyn Lowry Overlook at Parkway milepost 445. It was generously donated to CTNC by John J. Scelfo. A native New Yorker and now Florida resident, Scelfo was introduced to the beauty of North Carolina by his business partner, George Escaravage, with whom he owns a 182-acre development in Asheville.

“The land seemed so appropriate for conservation purposes that the initial intention of developing or selling to a developer quickly changed,” said Scelfo. “We are proud to help protect the beauty and natural heritage of the region by donating this property to CTNC and the Blue Ridge Parkway.”

CTNC works with voluntary landowners along the Blue Ridge Parkway to protect streams, forests, farms, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat, parks, and trails. The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has now conserved 66 properties on the Blue Ridge Parkway, totaling 34,472 acres. For more information on Blue Ridge Parkway land protection efforts, visit protecttheblueridgeparkway.org.

Other land trusts that conserve land in Jackson County include: Mainspring Conservation Trust, based in Franklin; Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, based in Asheville; Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, based in Highlands; and Conserving Carolina, based in Hendersonville.

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, tkenney@foothillsconservancy.org

Mary Alice Holley, CTNC Communications Director, Ph: 919-864-0428, mholley@ctnc.org

See what others are saying!

Revitalizing Redlair: Haywood Rankin’s lifework

North Carolina is fortunate to have a strong network of 22 local land trusts, community-based nonprofits that have compiled an impressive record of land protection; NC land trusts have conserved nearly 429,000 acres in 2,750 locations across our state. CTNC promotes, assists, and represents our local land trust partners so they can preserve more conservation lands in the communities and build greater awareness and support for conservation.

On a sunny day in June, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the Catawba Lands Conservancy took a visit to Redlair Preserve located in Gaston County, NC. The preserve is maintained by Haywood Rankin and his wife Sabine, and has belonged to his family for generations.

Haywood’s grandfather first purchased land to grow cotton – a fraction of the expansive property now known as Redlair Preserve. In addition to the family’s old barn, Redlair consists of hundreds of acres of barely-touched forest.

Rankin knows this forest better than any map can tell you, leading visitors through the trees and topography without any hesitation.

While hiking with Haywood and his two dogs, he discusses the Preserve and its significance as a prized and truly natural space and how its’ proximity to Charlotte makes it truly unique.

The Rankin property sits on the South Fork of the Catawba River with Spencer Mountain to the West. It has become a hotspot for plant conservationists to study, as its location creates the perfect environment for two federally-endangered plants to thrive: the Bigleaf Magnolia and the Schweinitz Sunflower. The leaves of even the smallest of the Magnolias live up to their name, measuring about two-thirds of an arm’s length.

But Redlair was not always a spacious untouched nature preserve. When Haywood’s grandfather purchased what was only a small piece of Redlair, there were several other family farms built across the property. Haywood pointed out several locations in the forest where the farming practices of clear-cutting and plowing still remain and how to spot the new growth forest through the species of trees.

Every once in a while you’ll spot a small sign marker with two or three numbers indicating the directions of different trail combinations. As we walked, Haywood cleared the path ahead of us stopping occasionally to move big sticks or logs and even pull up a few invasive plants. Haywood is in a constant ongoing war with several species throughout his property, from Chinese privet to Japanese Stiltgrass.

It is hard to believe that such a space exists so close to urban sprawl. Though Redlair isn’t open to the public, Haywood will occasionally offer guided hikes as well as a tour of the magnolias during their blooming season.

Redlair Preserve is now owned by the State of North Carolina and is one of just 18 state plant conservation preserves in our state, which provides the highest level of protection for a property. Catawba Lands Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the property.

To find out more about this collaboration with Catawba Lands Conservancy and Haywood’s efforts to preserve this expansive property, watch our latest video!

Pepsi Bottling Ventures Renews Support for CTNC Initiatives

On June 6, Pepsi Bottling Ventures (PBV) donated $10,000 to the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) for the fifth consecutive year. The generous grant will support both the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative (Initiative) and the North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps (NCYCC).

“Improving access to clean drinking water is an objective which makes sense, both from a business perspective, but also as citizens of this area,” said Paul Finney, President, and CEO of Pepsi Bottling Ventures. “The Conservation Trust for North Carolina serves a key leadership role in this effort and we are pleased to continue our support as they strive to find new preservation techniques while also educating the next generation on the importance of water quality.”

The Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative is a partnership of land conservation organizations working with the City of Raleigh and other local governments to conserve high priority lands along streams in the Upper Neuse River Basin, which provides drinking water to more than 600,000 people. The Upper Neuse basin drains into Falls Lake, the main drinking water source for Raleigh, and eight other reservoirs. Falls Lake supplies water to PBV’s bottling plant near Garner.

“The partners in the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative greatly appreciate Pepsi Bottling Ventures’ generous donation,” said Caitlin Burke, CTNC Associate Director. “As our region experiences unprecedented growth, it’s partnerships with companies like PBV that make it possible for us to preserve more land around streams and waterways to ensure clean drinking water, healthy communities, and our great quality of life.”

Land protection is one of the most effective ways to protect drinking water sources and limit runoff pollution. Since 2005, partners in the Initiative have completed nearly 100 projects protecting more than 8,000 acres along 89 miles of streams. Most recently, the Eno River Association completed a 56-acre purchase along the Eno River upstream of Hillsborough. Conserving critical lands like this property not only prevents pollution from entering our drinking water but it also helps maintain wildlife habitat, preserve open space, and create recreational opportunities so our region continues to be a great place to live and work.

The North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps (NCYCC) provides paid summer jobs for 16-24 year olds, with the goal of teaching them valuable work and life development skills through hands-on outdoor work on high priority conservation projects that benefit the public. Projects include trail construction and maintenance, habitat restoration, and invasive species removal. The NCYCC has six crews working on conservation projects across the state this summer, including a crew in the Upper Neuse River Basin at Falls Lake.

“I absolutely loved my contribution to conservation; being outside made conservation tangible,” said Peter Chege, NCYCC crew member. “Working directly on conservation projects and seeing the way it impacted the environment made me more self-aware of my position in my community.”

Pepsi Bottling Ventures’ support for the NCYCC will provide young people opportunities to make meaningful and long-lasting contributions to the Triangle community and sources of clean drinking water while they work outdoors and connect with nature.

Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative Recognized for Land Protection

The Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative (Initiative) was recently recognized for its expansive efforts to protect drinking water and the watersheds that support citizens in central North Carolina. The North Carolina Source Water Collaborative awarded the Initiative its 2017 Award of Excellence for Surface Water Planning and Surface Water Implementation. The award was presented at the Water Resources Research Institute conference in Raleigh.

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized by the North Carolina Source Water Collaborative for the critical work of conservation partners and local governments across the region,” said Caitlin Burke, CTNC Associate Director. “Land protection is one of the most effective ways to protect drinking water sources and limit runoff pollution while maintaining wildlife habitat, preserving open space, and providing recreational opportunities for local communities.”

As of December 2016, partners had completed 98 projects protecting 8,048 acres and land along 89 miles of streams in North Carolina’s Upper Neuse River Basin. In fall 2016 alone, partners protected 40 acres in Wake County, 33 acres in Durham County, and 114 acres in Orange County, and ensuring protective buffers along 6,851 feet of streams.

Additionally, 10 projects currently are in process. One those are completed, the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative will celebrate another milestone – conserving 10,000 acres and more than 100 miles of streams so local residents have access to safe, clean drinking water.

The Initiative is made up of nonprofit organizations and local governments that protect the lands most critical for ensuring the long-term health of drinking water supplies in the Upper Neuse Basin, which serve more than 600,000 people in Wake, Durham, Orange, Granville, Franklin, and Person counties.

NC land trusts involved in the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative include the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (coordinator), Ellerbe Creek Watershed AssociationEno River AssociationTar River Land ConservancyTriangle Greenways CouncilTriangle Land Conservancy, and The Conservation Fund.

30 Acres Protected Along Parkway and Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Last week, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) purchased a 30-acre property along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Watauga County. The Elk Mountain tract shares a quarter-mile boundary with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Because of the close proximity to the Parkway, the Elk Mountain tract is a high priority for acquisition by the National Park Service.

Portions of the property are visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 274, just off Highway 421 near Deep Gap. Conservation of this tract complements CTNC’s recent protection of an 86-acre property, just across the Parkway below Elk Mountain Overlook. The conserved forest region protects water quality in a tributary of Gap Creek, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail passes within feet of this property, ensuring a more desirable experience for hikers.

CTNC is working with Blue Ridge Conservancy to donate this land to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Parkway’s official boundary. The addition of the Elk Mountain property to the Parkway will help increase the connectivity of protected lands in the area to preserve the natural corridor and scenic vistas. Conserving land along the Blue Ridge Parkway also enhances the landscape’s resilience to our changing climate by providing protected places where ecological diversity can resist damage and recover quickly.

“Protection of properties like this contributes to the integrity of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which attracts millions of visitors to the High Country each year,” said Margaret Newbold, CTNC Interim Executive Director. “The addition of the Elk Mountain property also enhances the experience of hikers along this section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail near Boone and Blowing Rock.”

“My concern for preservation dates back a number of years as a member of a local preservation task force, hoping that others would be able to experience the beauty and joy of the world, especially being on the Parkway,” said property owner Bill Asti. “Working with the National Park Service, I learned so much about preserving the surrounding environment and in particular the ‘visual watershed’ as an integral component of conveying the history of places and events. Conserving more land is so important to the future of our country.”

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has now conserved 63 properties on the Blue Ridge Parkway, totaling 33,166 acres. Blue Ridge Conservancy has conserved 221 properties in Allegheny, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties, totaling 20,008 acres. The New River Conservancy, based in West Jefferson, also conserves land in Watauga County. For more information on Blue Ridge Parkway land protection efforts visit www.protecttheblueridgeparkway.org.

 

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