Asheville Watershed

CTNC Seeks Public Comments for Accreditation Renewal

Conservation Trust for North Carolina is pleased to announce it is applying for renewal of its accreditation status. 

The Land Trust Alliance accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. CTNC became accredited in 2009 and successfully renewed its status in 2014.  We are now seeking renewal for a second time.

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;
  • Ethical operations;
  • Accountability to donors and the public; and,
  • Compliance with all laws, such as IRS Code §170(h) and §501(c)3.

Review the full list of standards.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.orgor 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.

Bikes, Water & Conservation

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.

A video celebrating the “Bikes, Water & Soul” tour and all the young riders who took part in the journey

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. 

A Triangle Bikeworks rider sports an “I am Revolutionary” tee shirt to commemorate Spoken Revolutions and the bike tour.

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. 

Triangle Bikeworks riders learned about natural heritage along their journey.

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 Spoke’n Revolutions tour is only the start. We’d love to keep you updated on future CTNC partnerships and collaborations through our emails. So what are you waiting for? Get your hands dirty!🚴🏽‍♂️🌿

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:  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.

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, [email protected]

Mary Alice Holley, CTNC Communications Director, Ph: 919-864-0428, [email protected]

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!

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.


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.