Discover Dog-Friendly Trails Near You

The polls are in! You told us you wanted to explore North Carolina’s outdoors alongside your furry friends, and we listened.

CTNC worked with our land trust partners across North Carolina to create a map detailing all the greenways, trails, parks, and overlooks you should explore. Now that it’s spring, you won’t want to leave your dog behind! Access the map here and start discovering the dog-friendliest places near you.

Download the Map!

They’ve been waiting all winter for this…

Now is the time to get outside with your little guy or gal! The sun is coming out more, the birds are here to stay, and you actually have a bit of free time that you need to fill! Instead of doing “normal” things like going to the movies that wouldn’t allow you to bask in this sunshine (finally), go outside! You can’t let the perfect weather just pass you by unappreciated. You’ve also been going to work every day and not having as much time for your furry friends as you (and they) would like.

A walk would be nice, but you’re getting a little tired of the same neighborhood loop and the usual park is getting old as well. You’re ready for some new options and a little adventure.

We know just as well as the next person that your everyday routine gets a little dry… so just mix it up.

Grab a raft and float down the New River, just like Nikki and Levon from the Blue Ridge Conservancy!

Or, why not work on acclimating your new puppy to a leash by taking them to the half-mile trail at Jumpinoff Rock Park, located just a 30-minute drive from the heart of Boone? These locations and more are a click away.

Keep us posted along the way!

We want to see the different ways you’re recreating outdoors with your 🐶. Snap a photo of you and your dog (we know you’ve got plenty to choose from) at one of the locations on the map and post it to Instagram or Twitter using #ncdogsoutside for a chance to be featured by CTNC!

You know yourself better than we do – find how you like to get outside with your dog and don’t forget to keep us updated along the way!

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: and

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,

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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!

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


Triangle Farms for Food Strategy + Action Plan Provides Road Map for Farmland Preservation and Local Food Economy

Click Here to Download the Triangle Farms For Food: Strategy + Action Plan.

The market for fresh local food continues to grow in the Triangle region, but development pressures on existing farms and the lack of access to farmland for new farmers are major barriers to increasing local food production. There is a critical need to protect farmland to provide long-term food security for all Triangle residents.

The Conservation Trust and its partners have completed a regional farmland preservation and agricultural economic development strategy for the Triangle. With grant support from the Triangle Community Foundation and Sustainable Foods NC, CTNC has published, “Triangle Farms for Food: Strategy + Action Plan.”

Click here to download the full report and additional supporting materials.


In addition to the Triangle Community Foundation and Sustainable Foods NC, partners included Community Food Lab, Triangle Land Conservancy, Eno River Association, Center for Environmental Farming Systems and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. The overall goals of the partners are to protect existing farmland and keep it in production, support existing and beginning farmers, advance agricultural awareness and build a strong local food economy in the region.


The strategy covers Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake Counties. These five counties combined have lost more than 63,500 acres of farmland since 1997. The strategy uses Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis to prioritize farmland for protection in the five-county region. The criteria for prioritizing rural farmland included prime soils, agricultural land cover, farm size, proximity to protected farmland, development pressure and distance to markets.  The strategy also prioritizes smaller farms in proximity to urban areas and food deserts that can serve as the focal point for farmland preservation and urban agricultural development.


The report identifies 788 parcels consisting of more than 50,000 acres of farmland in rural areas and 65 parcels consisting of more than 850 acres in urban areas as high priority farmland. Based on the GIS data and feedback from stakeholders throughout the region, the project partners developed six place-based strategies and six regional strategies to promote farmland preservation and agricultural economic development across the Triangle.

The Conservation Trust will continue working with partners in the region to implement the strategy and three-year action plan to achieve our collective vision: active, productive, and economically-viable farms are common sights throughout the Triangle’s rural and urban landscapes, contributing to sustainable communities and a resilient regional food system.

This post was co-authored by Edgar Miller, Government Relations Director and Caitlin Burke, Special Projects and Grants Coordinator. To learn more about Triangle Farms for Food click here

NC Land Trusts Gather and Honor Conservation Leaders

North Carolina’s 24 local land trusts gathered May 25-26 for the annual Land Trust Assembly.

Some of the biggest names in NC politics made an appearance: Governor Pat McCrory spoke during Wednesday’s dinner, and Attorney General Roy Cooper addressed the group at Thursday’s lunch. Susan Kluttz, Secretary of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, also spoke to the group. The presence of these major political figures shows how crucial land conservation has become in the public eye.

Assembly attendees participated in workshops covering a wide variety of issues including farmland preservation, equity in conservation, effective conservation messages and storytelling, legislative issues, community conservation, climate change, and leadership development.

Not only did attendees have the chance to hear others speak, but they also engaged in roundtable sessions and conversations that allowed ideas and collaboration to develop.

To ensure that great conservation leaders have an opportunity to be recognized, the Assembly hosted its annual awards ceremony. The NC Land Trust awards are given annually to businesses, nonprofits, governments, and individuals who lead efforts to protect streams, farms, parks, forests, and trails to help provide safe drinking water, clean air, fresh local foods, and abundant recreational opportunities for all North Carolina families. Five winners were chosen this year.

Pepsi Bottling Ventures won the Corporate Conservation Partner of the Year award for providing generous financial support to the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative and the NC Youth Conservation Corps.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service was named Federal Government Conservation Partner of the Year for partnering with NC land trusts on many conservation and habitat restoration projects. The Service has provided both technical and financial assistance to land trusts and landowners alike.

Chimney Rock State Park was awarded State Government Conservation Partner of the year, given its many partnerships with conservancies and other non-profits to expand, improve, and maintain parklands.

Two individuals also received recognition. Tony Doster was named Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year. His professional management of forests, as well as past and present involvement with a number of forestry boards and conservation organizations, show his commitment to protecting natural lands in the Coastal plain.

Hanni Muerdter was awarded Rising Conservation Leader of the Year for her stewardship work in the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and her involvement in other conservation and community organizations.

Congratulations to these deserving winners!

$361,655 Awarded to Local Land Trusts in 2015

Every day local land trusts across North Carolina protect water quality, fresh local foods, healthy communities, scenic vistas, and outdoor recreation through land conservation. These projects are bolstered by the support of landowners, private donors, federal, state and local governments, and foundations. Even then, the costs of completing the deals and stewarding properties over the long term can add up. That’s why the Conservation Trust for North Carolina has created three grant programs to help NC land trusts cover the necessary “transaction costs” involved with protecting a property: surveys, appraisals, environmental assessments, baseline documentation reports, legal fees, closing costs, and staff time, as well as future monitoring, stewardship, and legal defense expenses.

Our Mountain Revolving Loan Fund grant program supports conservation projects in the mountains. The Piedmont-Coast grants program supports conservation projects in the Piedmont, Sandhills and coastal regions. The Farmland Forever Fund helps pay for transaction costs incurred when working farms are conserved, regardless of region.

In 2015, CTNC awarded 28 grants totaling $361,655 to 12 local land trusts. The grants supported 14 land acquisitions and 14 conservation easements that will permanently protect 1,306 acres in the mountains, 334 acres in the Piedmont and coast, and 844 acres of farmland.

We awarded a grant to Catawba Lands Conservancy to support their Pumpkin Creek Preserve along the Rocky River in Stanly County.  This project will protect water quality and provide public access to the river via a blueway launch site along the Carolina Thread Trail.

We also awarded Piedmont Land Conservancy a grant for their Ingram project, which adjoins Pilot Mountain State Park in Surry County. Protecting this property will provide a much-needed access point to the park from the north, connecting residents from the Town of Pilot Mountain, and will benefit water quality in Pilot Creek.

Another grant was awarded to Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) for their Bresnahan project in Transylvania County. This one-acre project had an enormous impact on conservation of rare habitat in western NC, as it was the linchpin in helping the US Fish and Wildlife Service secure a $750,000 grant, while also protecting a parcel that contains habitat for green salamanders. Peg and Dan Bresnahan’s gift to CMLC and the availability and flexibility of the Conservation Trust’s grant program enabled the USFWS to secure a sizable grant that will permanently protect the endangered mountain sweet pitcher plant and other mountain bog species on nearby properties.

CTNC is proud to help local land trusts complete these projects that provide access to clean water, local foods and the outdoors, support local economies, and protect the unique places we love in North Carolina.

CTNC Grants Help Land Trusts Conserve Ten Properties

So far this year CTNC has awarded over $173,000 to land trusts in the NC mountains to pay for transaction costs involved with conserving ten properties. CTNC made the awards, ranging from $8,000 to $25,000, to six land trusts to protect conservation values on 616 acres. The grants are made from a portion of CTNC’s Mountain Revolving Loan Fund. Grants are available for surveys, appraisals, environmental assessments, baseline documentation reports, legal fees, closing costs, and staff time, as well as future monitoring, stewardship, and legal defense.

Funded projects include Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy’s Happy Hollow project, a conservation easement on 35 acres visible from the Whitewater Way Scenic Byway, and Pacolet Area Conservancy’s project in Polk County to protect 90 acres of mature hardwood forest along the Green River and its tributaries. In October, land trusts submitted ten more project applications which will compete for the remaining $145,000 that CTNC has available this year.

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.