Fall is in full swing in North Carolina! During this season of gratitude, we celebrate the cooler weather that allows us to enjoy the natural beauty of our state, from mountains to the sea. Whether it’s seeing the leaves change in the Blue Ridge Mountains, walking along the coast at sunset (we have over 300 miles of ocean shoreline!), or enjoying deer hunting season, our state offers endless opportunities to relax, recharge, and reflect.
We are grateful for the dedicated work of North Carolina’s conservation organizations and our partners that make it possible to conserve the land and preserve our state. The conservation trust funds benefit us all and play an important role in supporting a healthy environment, clean water, and a vibrant economy.
North Carolina’s conservation trust funds have worked in concert to fund the projects that keep our state beautiful and help it thrive. Thanks to North Carolina’s conservation organizations, we can enjoy:
Jobs and a strong local economy in both urban and rural areas
Preservation of historically and ecologically significant places
Thriving family farms and forests
Places to exercise, hunt, fish, and watch wildlife
The conservation trust funds have been the backbone of our state’s big conservation wins throughout the decades. We applaud our legislators for prioritizing funding for the conservation projects that will protect our state for generations to come.
While the past year brought us untold challenges, it’s also brought an opportunity to step back and be grateful for our blessings. The outdoors offers us all the chance to gather with friends, connect with family, and be one with the beauty of the land.
Now we want to hear from you. What outdoor place are you thankful for in our beautiful state? Snap a photo and share it on your social media channels through Thanksgiving! Follow the hashtag #SeasonOfGratitudeNC to see other photos of favorite spots around the state.
Funding Critical Land Conservation in Western North Carolina
Through the Mountain Revolving Loan Fund, CTNC awards small grants to land trusts conserving critical lands in Western North Carolina.
From direct assistance with land protection to awarding small grants, CTNC is proud to work alongside and support the efforts of our land trust partners throughout North Carolina. Each year, CTNC offers low-interest loans, and awards small grants through our Mountain Revolving Loan Fund to facilitate critical conservation projects spearheaded by local land trusts in Western North Carolina.
The purpose of the Mountain Revolving Loan Fund (MRLF) is to provide bridge financing with minimal interest to North Carolina land trusts for the purchase of conservation land and easements. This fund was established with the help of a generous donor with a passion for conservation in Western North Carolina. A unique component of the MRLF Program is our small grants program, whereby CTNC awards grants of up to $25,000 each to eligible land trusts for land and easement acquisitions. Unlike the loans, these grants do not have to be paid back by the recipient.
“CTNC’s MRLF loans and grants have been crucial components of many conservation successes by our partners in Western North Carolina,” said Rusty Painter, Land Protection Director. “By the very nature of the MRLF Program, as loans are repaid, the money becomes available to re-lend, thus continually providing a stream of financing that allows land trusts to respond quickly to properties highly threatened by development. A percentage of the balance of the loan fund is given out each year in grant awards.”
Each year CTNC receives many fantastic applications from our partners. This year, CTNC awarded $113,400 to seven land trusts. Here is a list of the great projects we are proud to support:
The Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina (FCNC) was awarded $20,000 to help fund the new Oak Hill Community Park and Forest. FCNC will manage and develop this land near Morganton in central Burke County for a community park, forest, and farm. Establishing a free, public park and forest will improve the quality of life for all citizens of Burke County and Morganton through easy access to nature for passive outdoor recreation, environmental education, community agriculture, and archeological exploration.
Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) was awarded $12,650 to design the Valle Crucis Watauga River Access in Watauga County. BRC purchased the 2.5 acre property in partnership with a conservation buyer to create a public access to the Watauga River. This project is in connection with a greater mission to provide public access to land and water resources, especially recreation as this land will become a public access site for fishing, tubing and paddling.
Mainspring Conservation Trust was awarded $17,500 for their Wood Farm project in Cherokee County, an important acquisition to protect 391.53 acres of land and the largest intact farmland tract in Western North Carolina. This is a strategic acquisition for Mainspring as the land adjoins three adjacent conservation easements, which together will protect agricultural soil classified as Prime and Soil of Statewide Importance, 2- miles of Valley River (classified C and Trout Waters), and four tributary streams.
Conserving Carolinahas been awarded $15,000 to fund theFranklin Bog property that will protect over 17 acres in Henderson County. By protecting this important land tract, Conserving Carolina will prevent upland development that would impact the recent, expensive bog restoration done under the direction of expert Dennis Herman. Protecting this site will also preserve a pond adjacent to the DOT restoration site, a pond which the US Fish and Wildlife Service has documented to provide key habitat to southern bog turtles who enjoy basking at the edge of the pond. Additionally, the pond offers an excellent opportunity for restoration to enlarge the bog in the future.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) has been awarded $20,000for the Chestnut Mountain property to protect 448 acres in Haywood County. The majority of the property will be a conservation easement with forest and trails. SAHC is already drafting an exciting future for the location by planning to build a 91-acre “park hub” that will contain park infrastructure such as a pavilion, some parking, a bike skills progression course for all ages, and bathrooms. This large tract under protection will also permanently protect 9 miles of stream in the French Broad River Basin, as well as secure habitat for NC wildlife, including three rare species: white bear sedge, upland bladder fern and the Cherokee melanoplus grasshopper.
Piedmont Land Conservancy (PLC) has been awarded$12,500 to complete a donated easement on 322 acres of the Womble family land in Alleghany County. The property is completely undeveloped with several headwater streams and forests. This property is situated in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Mitchell River, which has been a key protection initiative of PLC since 1999. In addition to protecting Mitchell River headwaters, another conservation value of the Womble property is that it is located on the Blue Ridge Escarpment, one of the most ecologically diverse regions in North Carolina.
Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust (HCLT) has been awarded $18,350 to place a 25-acre easement on the Horse Cove Bog property in Macon County. The Horse Cove conservation easement is a new project but has been on HCLT’s high priority list since 2011, and the land trust has worked with the land owner on three other easements. The Horse Bog Cove is currently unprotected, but it holds special conservation value: it is the site of an existing bog and a wetland complex associated with seeps at the toe of Rich Mountain. The property also has a rich heritage: the valley bottom of Horse Cove is the gateway to the Highlands/Cashiers Plateau and was settled as early as 1835 to build pasture lands and homes.
These are just a few examples of critical projects CTNC is able to support in Western North Carolina with the support of generous land conservation donors. From parks to farms to bogs, CTNC is proud to support the diligent efforts of our land trust partners. The Mountain Revolving Loan Fund and small grant program serves as an important reminder that we are all allies in the work to build a more resilient and just North Carolina.
Private Investment in Watershed Protection Advances Triangle Conservation Efforts
Novel partnerships and long-term collaboration enable the region to address watershed health
North Carolina’s Triangle region (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-Cary-Garner) is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. Rapid development threatens the forests, wetlands and grasslands that naturally protect drinking water supplies for 600,000 people in Raleigh, Garner, Wake Forest, Rolesville, Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon areas. Natural infrastructure, like forests and wetlands, can address these challenges by providing basic services from water flow regulation and flood control to water purification and water temperature regulation. But with the rising cost to acquire land in and around the Triangle, protecting these places has become increasingly costly for nonprofits and public agencies.
In recent years, public agencies Raleigh Water, Wake County, City of Durham and Town of Cary have worked alongside local land trusts including Conservation Trust for North Carolina, The Conservation Fund, and Triangle Land Conservancy to acquire and manage land in the Falls and Jordan Lake watersheds. Now, the Caterpillar Foundation is among corporate foundations and private investors stepping up to fill a critical funding need.
The Foundation will invest $250,000 in natural infrastructure and land conservation as part of a new partnership to safeguard important local natural lands.
“Local communities in the
Triangle Region are increasingly investing in natural infrastructure, although
the COVID-19 pandemic has strained public budgets and limited cities and their
utilities resources and capacity to protect vast watersheds at a critical
time,” said Edward Buchan, City of Raleigh.
This initiative fits into a growing movement to
integrate natural infrastructure with traditional concrete-and-steel
infrastructure to improve delivery of core services, like drinking water and
flood protection, while increasing resilience. World Resources Institute, a
global research organization, has advised this alliance on strategies to
combine “green” and “gray” infrastructure by leveraging new partnerships and
funding opportunities. The Caterpillar Foundation is one of the first corporate
foundations to develop a dedicated program to support this new approach.
“Novel partnerships and long-term collaboration are
critical to addressing watershed health across the region,” said CTNC Executive
Director Chris Canfield. “Everyone has a role to play. Public water users
provide the base funding through the utilities, land trusts collaborate on
protection plans and secure the land, and private partners like the Caterpillar
Foundation help get it all over the finish line.”
Caterpillar Foundation hopes to both accelerate the program with this new
financing and encourage volunteer engagement of their locally-based employees.
“This partnership provides us the opportunity to not only
advance an exciting new model for watershed protection, but does so in a
community in which many Caterpillar families call home,” said Caterpillar
Foundation President Asha Varghese. “We hope the success of initiatives like
this can build momentum for new environmental innovation and investment. We
believe multi-sectoral collaboration is key to achieving sustainable
infrastructure solutions, and ultimately, building resilient communities.”
“There are thousands of community water systems that
could benefit from this model to protect and manage natural infrastructure
assets,” said Todd Gartner, Director of WRI’s Cities4Forests and Natural
Infrastructure Initiatives. “Leading initiatives like this set a new high-water
mark for city-led innovation that harnesses nature’s potential to supply clean
drinking water, creates recreational opportunities, and boosts resilience.”
Foundation investment will supplement public and private funds to make possible
the acquisition of land in the Upper Neuse watershed. It will protect river and
stream frontage that are highly vulnerable to development. In addition to
ecosystem services, these natural lands provide important outdoor opportunities
for communities to connect with nature. Creating new outdoor recreational
opportunities can both stimulate the local economy and boost public health.
The property contains a spring that feeds Little Glade Creek near milepost 228. Both properties provide a scenic natural buffer along the Parkway and protect Little Glade Creek from negative impacts of development. Conservation of natural buffer land along creeks and streams preserves water quality and reduces flooding risks downstream. That is particularly important in the Yadkin River basin, a river system that supplies drinking water to almost one million downstream residents in 21 counties and 93 municipalities in North Carolina.
CTNC’s purchase of the property was made possible entirely by a generous price reduction offered by the sellers and a contribution from a North Carolina couple with a passion for the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“Our family is very pleased to work with Conservation Trust to protect our property. Their work aligns with our hopes and vision for ensuring the land remains in its natural state. We are proud of the work the Conservation Trust is doing to use this land to extend the borders of the Blue Ridge Parkway, an amazingly beautiful road and a national treasure.”
“CTNC’s Little Glade Creek project adjoins the Skunk Cabbage Wetland along the Blue Ridge Parkway,” added CTNC Executive Director Chris Canfield. “Ensuring this land will never be developed, logged or otherwise degraded augments the protection of this wetland that’s already provided by the National Park Service.”
The Accreditation Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how Conservation Trust for North Carolina complies with national quality standards & practices. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. They are based on the following indicators:
About Land Trust Accreditation
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. Accreditation status is important to CTNC, as it strengthens our organization and fosters public trust in our work.
Responsible governance of the organization;
Protection of the public interest with sound and sustainable land transactions and stewardship;
Accountability to donors and the public; and,
Compliance with all laws, such as IRS Code §170(h) and §501(c)3.
To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment. Comments may also be mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.
Comments on CTNC’s application will be most useful by February 24, 2020.
A group of young bikers engage in community, conversation and reflection along the Neuse River
If you can say you’ve biked 700 miles in 14 days, you’re in a pretty elite group. Last summer, 14 young adults accomplished that extraordinary feat as part of Triangle BikeWorks’ Spoke’n Revolutions “Bikes, Water & Soul” tour. Following the path of the Neuse River from its headwaters in Durham to the Atlantic coast, the teens explored some of our state’s robust natural resources 🏞 as well as its complex cultural heritage for people of color.
Triangle Bikeworks, a group that encourages youth of color to build community and courage through cycling programs, 🚲collaborated with Conservation Trust for North Carolina and Triangle Land Conservancy to take teens on the trip of a lifetime. Along the way, riders visited historical sites and spaces preserved by North Carolina land trusts. They also reflected on the connection between land, water and community resilience.
The CTNC team was proud to work with the young riders and help empower them to protect the land and water in their local communities. We understand that, in order to serve all communities through land conservation, we must invest in the power of people. 🙌🏻
Throughout the ride, the riders visited cultural and natural heritage sites along the Neuse River. They reflected on the complex relationships between land, water and people in the American south.
Itza, a tour coordinator with Triangle Bikeworks, calls these types of trips “bike therapy.” 💕☀️
“There’s a lot of reflecting,” she says, “And sometimes you’re processing things you didn’t even know you had to process.”
Cindy, a student who participated in the bike tour, says it was an experience in independence.
“A lot of my life has been doing what other people expect of me, like taking AP classes or trying out some clubs that I’m not really interested in,” she said during the tour. “This is something I really want for myself.”
Coach Lisa, a volunteer with Triangle Bikeworks, put it best:
“You guys don’t even realize how amazing you are,” she told the team of students. “Nobody’s going to push you, nobody’s going to pull you. Every hill, every valley, you’re going to be by yourself.”
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.
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: www.ctnc.org/blue-ridge-parkway/ and protecttheblueridgeparkway.org/.
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.
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.
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!
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