On this global day of giving – November 29 – your donation to Conservation Trust for North Carolina will be matched thanks to our generous board members. That means the gift you make before midnight will go three times as far.
As we move into 2023, our goals are even more ambitious:
Expanding Jeffress Park, and the borders of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Wilkes County by more than 433 acres;
Building the model for a Community Capacity Corps (CCC) deployed across the state that can further community resilience;
Planting more than 50 trees and thousands of additional native and ecologically adapted ornamental plants to absorb more than 250,000 gallons of water and 2,900 pounds of carbon per year in and around Princeville, NC;
Working with a new cadre of partners to improve the Asutsi Trail and open the recent Florence Boyd acquisition to the community;
Exploring new and exciting ways to permanently protect land for the purpose of storing additional carbon in Western North Carolina.
One way CTNC facilitates permanent land protection in Western North Carolina is through our Mountain Revolving Loan Fund small grant program. This fund allows land trusts to secure funds for critical, transaction-related expenses that are not always covered by other sources.
This year, CTNC provided six grants to five land trusts totaling over $83,000:
Blue Ridge Conservancy
Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina
Mainspring Conservation Trust
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
This investment will help protect and manage 1,013 acres of land in Western North Carolina.
The CTNC Mountain Revolving Loan Fund has two significant benefits for our partners:
First, it provides bridge financing with minimal interest to land trusts in Western North Carolina to purchase conservation land and easements. As loans are repaid, the money becomes available to re-lend.
A percentage of the balance of the loan fund is given out each year in grant awards. Grants of up to $25,000 are not required to be paid back.
In late September, Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) joined National Park Service leaders along with representatives from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and numerous partners in land conservation to celebrate the work to protect the Blue Ridge Parkway and Waterrock Knob.
We joined our partners from The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Blue Ridge Conservancy, Conserving Carolina, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Piedmont Land Conservancy, Mainspring Conservation Trust, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and others to celebrate the historic and current stewardship of the important natural and cultural resources along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the generous donors who make it possible.
In 2016, land trust partners announced a large-scale protection effort that would ultimately expand Waterrock Knob conservation area by over 5,300 acres. To date, conservation partners acquired and donated nearly 3,400 acres to the National Park Service. More properties are slated for transfer to the park over the coming months.
The addition of all the new land now enables NPS to prepare a new strategic vision for the greatly expanded Waterrock Knob area. These lands are part of a larger set of 16 separate tracts being donated to NPS by the nonprofit groups thanks to long-term support from major private and public funding sources, including Fred and Alice Stanback and the North Carolina Land and Water Fund. Five of the 16 have already been donated by CTNC, bringing the total number of properties donated to the Blue Ridge Parkway by CTNC to 29, dating back to 1997!
Waterrock Knob is located at milepost 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and features views of a vast landscape of rare Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests visible from the visitor center and 6,273-foot summit. It is one of the highest visitor centers along the Blue Ridge Parkway and one of the most critically biodiverse landscapes in the Eastern United States. Elk, rare salamanders, flying squirrels, and high-elevation spruce-fir forests all inhabit the area, which is also home to rich Cherokee history.
“Approaching the protection of Waterrock Knob area from a large-scale conservation perspective requires partners and communities to share a recognition that healthy ecosystems, vibrant communities and economies, cultural heritage, and local sense of place are best protected at a landscape level,” said Tracy Swartout, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent. “The National Park Service is privileged to work alongside our partners in this work, and we look forward to how these lands will enhance and enrich the Blue Ridge Parkway experience for generations to come.”
National Public Lands Day, established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship, and encourages use of open space for education, recreation, and health benefits.
Together, we were able to share the success of this partnership with national audiences at the national Land Trust Rally in New Orleans, LA. The Town of Princeville’s Dr. Glenda Knight, Commissioner Linda Joyner and Historical Outreach Coordinator Kelsi Dew presented alongside the Open Space Institute’s Hallie Schwab, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey’s Barbara Davis and CTNC’s Mary Alice Holley. Each speaker presented creative and varied approaches being implemented to deal with increased rainfall and flooding while developing place-based solutions for climate resilience.
Watch this video to see their work in action.
These partnerships demonstrate the power of land conservation to mitigate flooding and equip communities with the tools to harness nature for community benefit when rebuilding and protecting against climate-related disasters. Sharing our experiences with land trusts from across the nation inspires more organizations to implement similar conservation strategies to address climate impacts.
“Later this year, the Land Trust Alliance is launching a series of trainings on how land trusts can improve climate resilience in their communities. It will focus on exploring and expanding their water-focused work through a process outlined in our recently released water quality guide, “Taking the Plunge”. The collaboration between these land trusts and community partners undoubtedly encouraged more organizations to participate in this programming. More importantly, their examples are already serving as aspirational “North stars” for many as they start to navigate this intricate and difficult area of work.” Andrew B. Szwak, AICP (he|him|his), Land Trust Alliance, Mid-Atlantic Program Manager
The Resilience Corps NC program recently launched its latest cohort of service members who will work in communities to deliver climate change, community resilience, capacity building, and environmental education services to host sites across the state. In order to make this the most successful year yet, CTNC has added and promoted staff, and welcomed 17 service members including four who have returned for their second year of service.
Here’s where our 2022-23 Corps members are serving:
Balsam Mountain Trust Emily Taylor
Cape Fear River Watch Kristen Rhodes
El Futuro Maiya Garrett-Peters
Eno River Association Audrey Vaughn
Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Elizabeth Warfield
Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust Hope Corbin
Keeping Charlotte Beautiful Lance Nathaniel
Keeping Durham Beautiful Eleanor Dilworth
Meals on Wheels Durham Lula Zeray
North Carolina Coastal Land Trust Madison Woodard Bryce Tholen
North Carolina Zoo Grace Sigmon Mawadda Al-Masri Sabrinah Hartsell
Piedmont Triad Regional Council Haley Bock
The Regional Stormwater Partnership of the Carolinas Kelly Hendrix (Norris)
Triangle J Council of Governments Taylor Weddington
Read about more of our staffing and member updates below!
Please join us in extending congratulations to Michaella Kosia, who was recently promoted to AmeriCorps Program Director. Michaella will lead the Resilience Corps NC program by supporting host site supervisors and their members coordinating trainings, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability. Michaella brings to this role a unique public health background where she worked to address health disparities amongst marginalized communities. Our partners and members are excited to work with Michaella in this new leadership role. Get to know Michaella and her passion for community-focused service work.
As part of our commitment to working alongside community partners to achieve resilience, CTNC and the Environmental Defense Fund will sponsor three additional members to work with community leaders with the Town of Princeville, the Lumbee Indian Tribal Council in Lumberton, and The Orchard at Altapass in Little Switzerland. These members will be focused on increasing community capacity, supporting local food systems through community gardening, and engaging in community outreach through a lens of climate change and land stewardship. Learn more about our Resilience Corps NC program.
Resilience Corps NC is still recruiting for the 2022-23 cohort!
We had a great time at this year’s Conservation Celebration at Gideon Ridge Inn, raising more than $22,000 dollars in support of CTNC’s work. That’s more than double what was raised in 2021! This year, we also had more than 29 total event sponsors, the largest number of event sponsors we’ve had!
The owners of the beautiful Gideon Ridge Inn, Cobb and Cindy Milner, generously donated the food and beverage, staff time, and the use of their inn for this year’s fundraiser. As always, they were amazing hosts and we appreciate their time and effort to make this event memorable.
We were so very fortunate to have CTNC President, Brandon Robinson, and CTNC Executive Director, Chris Canfield, share with us an update on CTNC’s work and how the money raised during the event supports it. Proceeds from the celebration will help us continue our work to build resilient communities here in North Carolina.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for your support and we hope to see you all next year!
A special note of appreciation to this year’s sponsors – we couldn’t do this work without your support.
2022 Conservation Celebration Sponsors!
Patron Sponsors Jo Scott Dorsett Cobb & Cindy Milner Tom & Susan Ross Julia Truelove Joe & Tina Vrabel John & Ashley Wilson
Host Sponsors Chip Anderson Anna Neal Blanchard Philip & Langley Borneman Dodd Haynes & Clara Martinez Haynes Ray Owens & Sally Higgins Megg & Robert Rader Kelley Russell John & Marguerite Stanback Walter & Jean Wilkinson
Supporter Sponsors Kathy Hamilton Gore & Lucian Stamper Juliana Henderson Mark Kirkpatrick & Debbie Arnold Hamp & Katty Lefler Bill & Cindy Leslie Mozine Lowe Pat Mauldin Margaret J. Newbold and Liz Watson Alton Perry Marc Rudow & Deborah Miles Lisa & Aidan Waite William & Judy Watson
CTNC’s community-led projects are inspiring the nation to build stronger communities in the face of climate change.
In July, as a recipient of the EJ4Climate grant fund, CTNC staff were invited to Mexico to discuss the accomplishments and plans of the Princeville Collaborative with government leaders from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. CTNC’s Chris Canfield and Mary Alice Holley traveled to Merida, Mexico, for the 29th Annual Session of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Council and Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) Public Forum. The invite-only Forum was attended by the top environmental officials from the three North American countries, as well as youth, Indigenous groups and local communities.
At the event, the CTNC team added meaningful experiences to the “Community-led Environmental Education for Sustainable Development” theme. North American grantees shared their activities with communities directly impacted by our changing climate.
“What really stayed with us were those side conversations that gave us new perspectives about the challenges conservation and environment leaders are facing across our three countries. These encounters brought us a deeper appreciation for the work we get to do here in North Carolina. Perhaps what was most heartening about our visit was the affirmation that what CTNC aligned to support a few years ago in our new strategic plan – community-climate-equity – is what each country in North America, each in its own way, is embracing, too.”
-Mary Alice Holley, Director of Community Innovation
The 29th Council Session of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation addressed many of the most pressing environmental challenges facing North America’s communities, particularly vulnerable communities and Indigenous Peoples. This is a joint meeting between Canada, Mexico, and the United States (CUSMA, T-MEC, USMCA), led by their respective environment ministers as part of each country’s commitment to the Environmental Cooperation Agreement.
“I was proud to share that North Carolina is on the leading edge with our newly underway $20 million effort to build a statewide flood resilience model and plan. I’ve been collaborating with state officials on the process and am heartened by the holistic, community-driven approach they are undertaking. Flooding is not just a coastal issue, as the devastating recent events in Eastern Kentucky remind us. And conservation plays a crucial role in mitigating that threat.”
The crew’s first stop was Heritage Park, 428 Mutual Boulevard in Princeville. This park, along the river, is an important piece of Princeville’s resilient future. By claiming it for public use, it offers much-needed overflow for river flooding and runoff. It will also be the future site of a permanent Farmer’s Market and an accessible walking trail. The crew’s efforts this summer have complemented the current use of the park while supporting future goals slated by Town leadership and community members.
At Heritage Park, the youth installed exercise stations, pollinator gardens, benches and trash receptacles, and walking paths, and also re-mulched the playground. They also installed trail signs that will serve as educational tools for parkgoers about the importance of pollinator plants, wildlife habitat, and stormwater management.
At Heritage Trail and the Elementary School, the youth completed maintenance of conservation projects installed in 2021 through similar partnerships. They mulched the newly established Heritage Trail, cleaned up debris, and removed weeds from the rain gardens designed and installed by NC State and M&M Landscaping.
Thank you to the young adults from Tarboro High School who worked with community leaders for six weeks to complete this project. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Nick DiColandrea isn’t new to CTNC. For six years, he served as the Resilience Corps NC Program Director. In 2022, he returned to a new role – Climate Strategies Officer, a position that still involves him with AmeriCorps. He works to connect AmeriCorps service opportunities to communities in need of expanded climate mitigation and recovery capacities.
This work builds on his extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, holding positions across multiple organizations dedicated to community capacity building, youth leadership, mentoring, and community service. His free time activities focused on service also follow this theme: Board Treasurer of the Museum of Life in Science in Durham, the school PTA as VP of Fundraising & Volunteer Chair, and as Board Treasurer of his neighborhood’s HOA.
When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change? I probably realized we were living in a climate-change-affected world a few years ago when we stopped getting annual snow storms of any significance in North Carolina. Having grown up here since the late 1990s, I distinctly remember colder and wetter winters, and even during my time in college. However, over the last 10 years, I can trace the lack of an actual winter now, and how it has happened more times in the lives of my children than my entire life in the state.
How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina? When the state was hit by multiple hurricanes over 2016 and 2017, I got to see firsthand, and still do to this day, the impacts these more frequent hurricanes are causing people down east. Working with other disaster relief partners, I have heard stories about how even years later people are living in homes not yet fully restored and families permanently displaced outside of our state. These devastating disasters will occur more frequently and are going to result in a state we may seldom recognize in the decades to come.
What does climate resilience mean to you? Climate resilience is helping communities be able to bounce back stronger after the climate crisis hits their homes. It means assisting standing communities’ economies back up, working with families suffering from the loss of their community, or developing plans or actions that will lead to quicker recovery through mitigation. It essentially means being there for people in their communities who will suffer from climate change.
What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action? That no matter how small your action is, it will make a difference. We do not affect meaningful changes with just big ticket items on climate action, but that light you turn off, that conversation with your best friend or that walk to take to the store instead of the drive, all add up in profound ways to address climate change.
What are actions that organizations in NC can do right now to make our state more resilient? Be a part of the conversations around resilience in your community. Find where your mission niche is and see how it connects to environmental and community resilience, and then dig in and get to work. Mitigating and surviving the climate crisis is not going to be solved alone by environmental organizations, and it is going to take everyone in the community being a part of this work in the years ahead.
Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going? Lots of coffee and lots of positive thinking. I take more mental health breaks now, sitting for quick meditation moments, and stopping more to unplug from the work and just enjoy being.
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