Three Key Properties Totaling 123 Acres Donated to Blue Ridge Parkway

Latest Donations to Expand Conserved Area Surrounding Waterrock Knob

Raleigh, N.C. – Conservation Trust for North Carolina recently donated three properties totaling 123-acres to the National Park Service (NPS) for addition to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The land, made up of three tracts, contains a significant section of Woodfin Creek upstream of the Woodfin Cascades, between Parkway mileposts 446 and 450 in Jackson County. Each of the tracts adjoin other properties protected by CTNC that will also be donated to NPS for inclusion in the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which hikers can access directly off the Parkway at Woodfin Cascades Overlook, hugs the boundary of two of the tracts. The third property rises to 6,000-feet elevation and hosts a healthy population of native spruce. All of the land is highly visible from Waterrock Knob and is part of a growing area of protected public land around Waterrock Knob near Cherokee and the southern terminus of the Parkway.

Hiker stands on a bridge along the MST.

“This is a region that attracts millions of visitors each year due to its natural beauty and unique heritage, said Conservation Trust for NC’s executive director Chris Canfield.  “Our partnership with the National Park Service, local communities, and other land conservation organizations ensures all these qualities will endure for generations.”

CTNC owns three more adjoining properties that will also be donated to the NPS and has already donated four others in the immediate area totaling 205 acres. These transactions are part of a collaborative effort to bolster the area’s resilience to climate change, protect water quality in the Little Tennessee River basin, and strengthen the local economy by expanding tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities.

A creek found on the low-elevation tract of the property

“We are proud to have partners like the Conservation Trust for North Carolina who value the preservation of land for the protection of imperiled natural communities and for the enjoyment of future generations,” said Acting Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Neal Labrie. “We are happy to do this important work together.”

Conservation Trust purchased these properties in 2013 below appraised value. In addition to the seller’s generous donation, the purchase was made possible by Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, N.C.

Conservation Trust for North Carolina has conserved 70 properties on the Blue Ridge Parkway, totaling 34,614 acres. Other land trusts that conserve the land surrounding Waterrock Knob include: The Conservation Fund; The Nature Conservancy; Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy; Mainspring Conservation Trust; Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust; and Conserving Carolina.

Map of protected lands around Waterrock Knob

For additional information contact Mary Alice Holley, CTNC Communications Director at 919-864-0428.

AmeriCorps Members Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic

Living our values, CTNC AmeriCorps members respond to the needs of communities through service

Since the COVID-19 pandemic was first reported in North Carolina, we have seen real heroes in action: doctors, nurses, health care professionals, grocery store workers, food suppliers and the many other selfless individuals on the front lines of the pandemic. These unsung heroes have helped us navigate one of the strangest and most difficult moments in many of our lives while selflessly working to keep us safe and secure.

CTNC’s AmeriCorps service members have also answered the call to serve as seven members have worked on the front lines of our communities to support local food security organizations. These individuals are delivering goods to the people of the state through Durham FEAST, Meals on Wheels of Gaston County, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina in Durham and Wilmington, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, and more locations. 

Volunteers are currently serving with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and other community partners in need. Credit: Emma Jablonski/Keep Durham Beautiful AmeriCorps Member

Responding to a growing need for capacity and support

Now, the AmeriCorps program will move forward in taking advantage of new rules laid out by the CARES Act passed by the United States Congress by partnering with direct service relief agencies to place new members with more organizations. These nonprofits and organizations of faith fall outside of CTNC AmeriCorps’ charge to deliver environmental education to children and families, however, with an experienced program staff, CTNC has the ability to serve the most vulnerable through these federal resources.

From May to December, CTNC will hire over 20 NEW AmeriCorps members to serve in organizations that are responding to the needs of communities who face challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These organizations have set goals to deliver hot meals, provide food security, address housing insecurity, connect food to rural and urban families in need, connect Latinx communities to vital COVID-19 information, and offer volunteer services.

Partners include Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Dig In! of Yancey County, Meals on Wheels of Wake County, Durham Co-Op Extension, El Futuro, Oak City Cares and more. 

Not only will these new AmeriCorps members build capacity for local disaster groups to more effectively deliver goods and services, but CTNC is helping individuals regain meaningful employment that entitles them to a living allowance and an education award. In this spirit of collaboration and partnership, CTNC has identified a unique way for our organization to respond to communities’ needs in the wake of an unprecedented disaster.

Even though we find ourselves isolated from friends, family, and work colleagues through social distancing, community-driven support is more critical than ever!

We will share more about this disaster response effort in the coming weeks and months. To stay up to date with CTNC’s community-driven projects and service programs, join the conversation.

Conservation Voices Newsletter

September 2020

Read the September 2020 issue of Conservation Voices to find out how we’re delivering a holistic vision for conservation alongside our community partners throughout the state.

Read past issues of Conservation Voice.

Asheville River Park

Complete Our Supporter Survey

You have a voice and we want to hear it!

Here at CTNC, we are always looking to make sure we are serving communities across North Carolina in the best, most effective ways possible. And who knows more about your community than you?

In less than 15 minutes, help CTNC understand why you care about conserving land in North Carolina and what you want to see from us in the coming year.

It’s simple. 

We aren’t asking tough questions — we just want to know about your connection to CTNC, your conservation passions, and your goals for the future of our work.  With your help, we will have enough information to prepare for our future projects.

Do you want more to see more work involving:

  • How to seed diversity, equity and inclusion through conservation?
  • Service projects through AmeriCorps and Conservation Internships?
  • The beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway and land acquisition?

Tell us!

We’re looking forward to learning how we can best serve you and your community through our conservation work in 2020 and for generations to come!

Take the survey here.

A New Vision for Conservation

Our land is facing new threats.

It’s time to offer new solutions. 

From the Blue Ridge Parkway to the eastern coast of our amazing state, the Conservation Trust is working alongside communities to conserve land in ways that build resilient, just communities throughout North Carolina. 

We are committed to finding land-saving solutions that benefit all people. 

We need you to join us.

A bold new approach 

CTNC has developed a courageous new vision for conservation that is powered by the people of our state. Our work now focuses on addressing communities’ greatest needs: climate resilience in a changing state, conservation that is led by communities, and seeding an equitable sector that benefits all people regardless of race or economic status. 

CLIMATE: Climate change has increased the ferocity of extreme weather events like floods, mudslides, and fires, but it has also increased our drive to combat those effects. Our climate resilience strategy mitigates the effects of climate change by conserving land in North Carolina’s most vulnerable spaces.

EQUITY: CTNC is dedicated to seeding racial equality throughout every project, every investment, and every hire. Because all North Carolinians, regardless of race, should share in the benefits of healthy land. 

COMMUNITY: What does success look like? At the end of the day, saving land should help communities thrive. Securing more funding and support for land protection will strengthen the health, heritage, and economic ecosystems for all our communities. 

We need you 

Our conservation work needs to be relevant to the times we live in, meaningful to the people we work with, and effective for the future. We’re building a conservation movement powered by the people of North Carolina.

This new journey begins with you.

Will you join us?

10 Conservation Heroes Honored for Their Work

North Carolina’s 23 local land trusts bestowed their annual awards on deserving winners during a dinner celebration at the 2017 Land Trust Assembly in Hendersonville on Wednesday, May 24. 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 that help provide safe drinking water, clean air, fresh local foods, and abundant recreational opportunities for all North Carolina families.

The award winners included:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Haywood Rankin
  • Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year, John McLendon
  • Rising Leader: Land Trust Staff, Peter Barr
  • Rising Leader: Volunteer/Intern/Supporter, Jonathan Hill
  • Special Recognition/Media Partner, Karen Chávez, Asheville Citizen-Times
  • Corporate Conservation Partner, Holt C-Store
  • Federal Government Conservation Partner, Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • State Government Conservation Partner, Tommy Hughes, David Allen, Gordon Warburton, NC Wildlife Resources Commission
  • Local Government Conservation Partner, Town of Cary
  • Community Conservation Partner, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Lifetime Achievement Award: Haywood Rankin

Nominated by Catawba Lands Conservancy.
For most, Redlair Preserve has become synonymous with Haywood Rankin. The Redlair Preserve connects more than 1,500 contiguous acres of protected property along the South Fork of the Catawba River, and has served as the touchstone for conservation in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region. A large tract of land near North Carolina’s largest metropolitan area, and the site of North Carolina’s largest population of bigleaf magnolia, Redlair is a symbol of Rankin’s passion for land stewardship, which has impacted the region in positive ways.

Today, Redlair Preserve is owned by the N.C. Plant Conservation Program, which is dedicated to conserving imperiled plant species and their natural habitats. More than a protected property, it is also a living classroom and source of inspiration connecting thousands of citizens to conservation through the outdoors, a mission advanced by Catawba Lands Conservancy.

“His leadership has had a profound impact on the history and success of our organization,” said Catawba Lands Conservancy Executive Director Tom Okel. “Haywood deserves all the recognition for his commitment to land and plant conservation in North Carolina.”

Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year: John McLendon

Nominated by Piedmont Land Conservancy and Blue Ridge Conservancy.

John McLendon has been a tireless champion in the work required to open Piedmont Land Conservancy’s (PLC) first nature preserve. His attention to detail enabled PLC to work through the steps necessary to obtain rezoning, garner neighborhood support, and create a management plan for the Preserve. Today, after eight years of persistence and five separate land transactions, PLC’s Knight Brown Nature Preserve’s beautiful trails attract visitors from all over the region.

With a lifelong commitment to conservation and as a tireless champion in the fight to permanently protect North Carolina’s farms, waterways and special natural areas, John embodies all the qualifications of a Stanback Volunteer Award winner. John McLendon has served as a member of the PLC Board of Directors since 2011, and he and his wife Connie are active members and supporters of Blue Ridge Conservancy who hope to protect their Avery County property with a conservation easement. He demonstrates his personal commitment to teaching the next generation to preserve and protect our natural resources through his involvement with and financial support for the North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps. He also continues to support the Vermont Land Trust in his native state.

“John is an extraordinarily talented visionary; he may be the most detail-oriented, big picture thinker I’ve ever met,” said Piedmont Land Conservancy Executive Director Kevin Redding. “He doesn’t just steer the policy in seemingly always the right direction, he’s the first one in line to roll his sleeves up and help us navigate the most complex of projects.”

Rising Conservation Leader of the Year (Land Trust Staff): Peter Barr, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy Communications and Marketing Coordinator

Nominated by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.

Peter Barr joined the staff of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy as an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member, and he has been a permanent Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy staff member for seven years. In his role as Marketing and Communications coordinator, Peter wrote and produced the regular Landscape Newsletter and authored more than 60 “Stories of the Land” narratives published in regional newspapers – broadly making land conservation more relatable and tangible to a wide audience throughout the community.

The White Squirrel Hiking Challenge program Peter developed inspires more than 1,500 individuals to get out on the land and explore. Additionally, he has inspired 10,000 individual self-guided hikes, and through this program, raised tens of thousands of dollars for land conservation. He has led more than 75 group hikes and tours on conserved lands.

“It was my opinion on our first days of meeting that this young man was going places, but more particularly was going to “save the places we all love,” said Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy Development Director Lynn Killian. “With his impressive skill set, expansive knowledge of conservation, and willingness to work tirelessly to fulfill conservation successes, Peter is a true conservation leader.”

Rising Conservation Leader of the Year (Volunteer, Intern, and Supporter): Jonathan Hill

Nominated by Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

Jonathan Hill is a quintessential rising leader in the conservation community. He served as a North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps crew member for two summers, and participated in the Duke University Stanback Internship Program as CTNC’s Government Affairs Intern advocating for North Carolina’s land trusts in the General Assembly. Jonathan led research and service projects at Eno River State Park and planned fundraisers for Duke University’s Environmental Alliance Club, from which he recently graduated with dual degrees in History and Public Policy. In 2016 and 2017 Jonathan served as an assistant to the NCYCC project director and was a summer policy and lobbying intern for the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C. Furthermore, Jonathan is a founding member of CTNC’s Future Leaders of Conservation millennial advisory board where he currently serves as board member and secretary.

“Jonathan is an invaluable member of the CTNC family,” said NCYCC Program Director Jan Pender. “Jonathan’s commitment to conservation, service ethic, positive attitude, and can-do spirit makes him one of the state’s most outstanding young conservation leaders. Now that Jonathan has graduated from college, we can’t wait to see what he achieves for critical conservation issues and policies.”

Media Partner of the Year Award: Karen Chávez, Asheville Citizen-Times

Nominated by Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

Carolina Outdoors Reporter Karen Chávez of the Asheville Citizen-Times is celebrated for her exceptional, ongoing coverage of conservation-related news items across the region. In addition to promoting outdoor recreation opportunities, for several years Chávez has consistently reported on important topics pertaining to conservation and land protection from various Western North Carolina land trusts including Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Pacolet Area Conservancy, Mainspring, Blue Ridge Forever coalition, and Conservation Trust for North Carolina. In recent work, she has covered the protection of the 1,060-acre Little White Oak Mountain property, the addition of more than 300 acres to the Cold Mountain Game Lands, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site efforts to fight hemlock woolly adelgid infestations, and tips for enjoying protected lands in forests and along the Blue Ridge Parkway to bring incredible public awareness to land trusts’ work in Western NC. Karen has also done in-depth feature articles highlighting the importance of diversity in conservation and environmental leadership, such as her opinion piece, You can take the city child into the woods.

“Karen’s attention to detail, receptiveness to outreach from many land trusts, and in-depth reporting style bring important attention to conservation topics in our state, and we’re proud to honor her with this award,” said Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Communications Director Angela Shepherd.

Corporate Conservation Partner of the Year: Holt C-Store

Nominated by North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.

Holt C-Store has played a major role in the long-term success of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT). Holt C-Store is a third-generation, family business that today operates/leases 22 retail convenience stores in the southeastern and Sandhills regions of North Carolina. Holt C-Store has been a leading corporate supporter of the NCCLT for 15 years, encouraging its management and owners to volunteer with community nonprofits, from land trusts and conservation groups, to animal protection, schools, and women’s centers.

“At a time when nonprofits are urged to deliver results, Holt C-Store’s contributions of time, talent and treasure make it possible. When Holt C-Stores people roll up their sleeves, sparks fly,” said North Carolina Coastal Land Trust Executive Director Camilla Herlevich. “Our community is fortunate to have a philanthropic business like Holt C-Store, and we enthusiastically support them for this award.”

Federal Government Conservation Partner of the Year: Natural Resources Conservation Service Nominated by Blue Ridge Forever.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has an established history of working with land trusts to provide farmers and ranchers with financial and technical assistance through Agricultural Conservation Easements. Now, Western North Carolina has been awarded more than $8 million through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) program for agricultural easements, through partnership with the Blue Ridge Forever coalition’s 10 western land trusts and NRCS. It is expected that more than 2,000 acres of mountain farms will be protected through voluntary easements in WNC because of NRCS contributions.

“NRCS’ dedication to, and support of innovative partnerships has assisted Blue Ridge Forever partners to access federal funding for farmland preservation at a scale never before seen in WNC. It’s also brought a greater diversity of community partners together, and helped land trusts deepen relationships with their local Soil and Water Conservation Districts,” said Blue Ridge Forever Coalition Director Jess Laggis. “As a result, we achieve better conservation outcomes, and conserve more land to protect the quality of the mountain headwaters flowing through our farms.”

State Government Conservation Partner of the Year: NC Wildlife Resources Commission Tommy Hughes, David Allen, and Gordon Warburton

Nominated by North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.

NCWRC biologists, Tommy Hughes and David Allen, significantly helped the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust advance the work of conserving coastal lands. With almost 60 years of wildlife management expertise between them, they have been around the forest and have used their knowledge to protect, enhance, and manage some very special places. They are well-respected in the conservation community with passion and commitment toward conservation of North Carolina’s biological diversity.

Tommy Hughes, Coastal Plain Ecoregion Supervisor, is responsible for overseeing the management of over 500,000 acres of coastal game lands which include habitat restoration, infrastructure improvements, and staff supervision. David Allen, Coastal Faunal Diversity Coordinator, works to survey, conduct research, and conserve habitat for our coastal nori-game species. And he supervises a team of biologists that focus on sea turtles, colonial waterbirds, herps, and landbirds. Gordon Warburton served as Ecoregion Supervisor at N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for Western North Carolina. Formerly the Commission’s Black Bear Project Leader, he led the statewide black bear conservation efforts and research program.

“Tommy and Dave have been instrumental in helping NCCLT identify collaborative land conservation projects, prepare the necessary grants, promote projects through NCWRC Headquarters for approvals, and coordinate with State Property Office on closings,” said North Carolina Coastal Land Trust Executive Director Camilla Herlevich. “Gordon’s work has been similarly impactful on conservation in the western part of the state. They are all exceptional land trust partners most deserving of recognition.”

Local Government Conservation Partner of the Year: Town of Cary

Nominated by Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

The Town of Cary was recognized as Local Government Partner of the Year for their work with The Conservation Fund (TCF), the North Carolina Community Development Initiative (NCCDI), the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), and the Piedmont Conservation Council (PCC) on the Good Hope Farm project in western Cary. Good Hope Farm is a 30-acre property owned by the Town of Cary and operated by PCC as an accelerator farm for beginning farmers.

In the past 60 years, Wake County has lost more than 5,000 farms, and the Town of Cary recognizes the role it can play in protecting the farmland that remains. The Town sees its support of Good Hope Farm as fulfilling its mission to be good stewards of our natural resources, to value growth that balances community health and stability, and to be creative and innovative. They fully understand and communicate the farm’s goals and benefits including creating a financially sustainable model of leasing farmland to new farmers, connecting farmers with local markets, serving as a demonstration site for environmentally-responsible farming practices, and providing educational opportunities for the community regarding agriculture and nutrition.

“The Town of Cary’s partnership with conservation and community economic development organizations on Good Hope Farm serves as a national model of a public/nonprofit partnership,” said CTNC Associate Director Caitlin Burke. “The Town’s support has been essential to ensuring Good Hope Farm achieves the goals of sustainable farming, open space preservation, community education, and historical preservation.”

Community Conservation Partner of the Year: Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Nominated by Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

Based on a proactive approach to partnerships and multi-faceted strategies to promote sustainable agriculture, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) has helped land trusts effectively facilitate farmland preservation across the state. CFSA has engaged the land trust community in its efforts to promote sustainable agriculture and local food production through expanded outreach opportunities, policy research and advocacy, and farmland preservation and land access initiatives.

As part of its Sustainable Food NC (SFNC) project, CFSA has brought together land trusts and sustainable farming organizations to support funding for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, both of which fund farmland preservation and agricultural development projects. In addition to outreach support and project coordination, CFSA has partnered with CTNC and other land trusts on a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Grant Program proposal to train the next generation of sustainable farmers and provide new farmers with access to affordable conserved farmland. CFSA’s staff expertise and willingness to incorporate a land trust land access component in an existing proposal, reflect a genuine desire to partner and share limited resources to meet the needs of new farmers.

“CFSA and SFNC provided a forum for promoting innovative farmland preservation regional planning and community economic development through local food production, and offered partnership opportunities to land trusts across the state,” said CTNC Government Relations Director Edgar Miller “They’re an exceptional community partner to land trusts working to keep conserved farmland in agricultural production and assist new farmers in obtaining affordable farmland that meets their needs.”


The Conservation Trust for North Carolina protects the Blue Ridge Parkway’s natural and scenic corridor, assists 23 local land trusts so that they can protect more land in the communities they serve, and connects North Carolina families with the outdoors. Land trusts preserve land and waterways to safeguard your way of life. They work with landowners to ensure natural lands are protected for safe drinking water and clean air, fresh local foods, recreation, tourism, and healthy wildlife habitat. More information about CTNC is available at www.ctnc.org or @ct4nc.

North Carolina land trusts have protected 428,936 acres in 2,751 places across the state. The land trusts preserve land and water resources to safeguard your way of life. We work in local communities to ensure critical lands are protected for clean air, safe drinking water, healthy local foods, and recreational opportunities for all North Carolina families.

CTNC Board of Directors Extends Heartfelt Thanks to Departing Executive Director Reid Wilson

On January 19 North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced his appointment of CTNC’s executive director, Reid Wilson, to be Chief Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Board thanks Reid for 14 years of leadership and service to CTNC and the NC land trust community.

“On behalf of the Board, we are proud that Reid was recognized by the Governor for such a position of honor at a critical time for our state,” said CTNC Board President Ray Owens. “Reid’s distinguished career in conservation, his strategic mind, his ability to listen, and his passion for conservation issues is exactly what our state needs. He has the qualities and skills necessary to help lead the department and protect North Carolina’s natural resources for the health of all citizens.”

During Reid’s tenure, CTNC conserved thousands of acres along the Blue Ridge Parkway, dramatically boosted financial support and assistance to 24 local land trusts, built diversity and inclusion into its work, and created an Emerging Leaders program (including Diversity in Conservation internships, NC Youth Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps) to cultivate the next generation of conservation leaders and supporters.

Reid’s achievements will have a lasting impact on the conservation community. CTNC has built a strong foundation to continue working to ensure Blue Ridge Parkway vistas are protected, more families have access to parks and natural areas, and natural lands are protected for open space, fresh local foods,  and clean drinking water for generations.

“It’s an exciting time to join the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to protect, enhance and promote the state’s diverse natural and cultural resources for the benefit of public health, quality of life, and economic development,” Reid said. “Having said that, I have mixed emotions because I will miss my CTNC family – tremendous board, talented staff, and committed supporters.  Fortunately, our paths will continue to cross.  So much important and urgent work lies ahead for CTNC, and I am confident that the organization will continue to grow, innovate, thrive, and lead.”

We extend our deepest gratitude for Reid’s commitment to land conservation and all he accomplished for CTNC, and we wish him well as he transitions to this new role within the Cooper administration.

Associate Director Margaret Newbold will serve as CTNC’s interim executive director. Margaret’s experience and love for the organization make her an invaluable asset during this transition. With Margaret’s leadership, our talented staff, and dedicated supporters like you, CTNC will continue to serve as a national leader in land protection, providing assistance to land trusts, connecting young people to nature, and championing equity and diversity in conservation.

The CTNC Board has launched a job search for a permanent executive director. We are confident we will find someone well-equipped to lead CTNC and help achieve our vision for growth. For questions, contact Communications and Marketing Director Mary Alice Holley at 919-864-0428.

CTNC Awards $90,000 to Land Trusts to Identify & Protect Lands Resilient to Climate Change

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), in partnership with the Open Space Institute and with generous support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, awarded $90,000 to six local land trusts and one partnership of land trusts to identify for protection the areas within the state that will be most resilient to climate change. The grants will enable the land trusts to apply climate resilience science to prioritize conservation efforts and ultimately help humans and wildlife stand up to the impacts of climate change.

Climate-resilient lands provide “natural strongholds” that bounce back from natural disturbances such as drought or wildfire, maintaining their ability to function and support human and wildlife communities. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has developed data identifying these strongholds based on the complexity of landscape features – such as valleys, peaks, caves and wetlands – and the barriers to movement between them. Using TNC’s data, and aided by technical support from the Open Space Institute, some of North Carolina’s leading land trusts now will be able to integrate resilience data into their planning efforts and accelerate conservation of these critical areas.

CTNC’s partnership with the Open Space Institute and the investment from Z. Smith Reynolds and Doris Duke Charitable Foundations are key to North Carolina’s local land trusts’ efforts to identify places to protect that will be valuable conservation areas long into the future, even as natural areas, wildlife habitat, and species change in response to the climate.

The seven funded proposals are:

  • Integrating Resiliency and Connectivity Models for Conservation Planning in Western North Carolina – $30,000 to Blue Ridge Forever and Wildlands Network to create an interactive online conservation planning and storytelling tool for western North Carolina that reflects the current state of conservation and combines climate resilience science with other data to identify key properties with the greatest conservation impact. Blue Ridge Forever is a partnership of land conservation organizations operating in the North Carolina mountains, and is based in Asheville. Wildlands Network provides science and strategic support to conservation organizations and government agencies with the goal of connecting protected areas on a continental scale to sustain wildlife and nature over the long-term.
  • Connecting Conservation and Climate Resiliency Data in the Cape Fear Arch Region – $22,000 to North Carolina Coastal Land Trust to reevaluate land conservation priorities in light of climate change in an area with unique geology and high diversity of plants and wildlife, and to examine and test the components of The Nature Conservancy’s climate resiliency data using two specific high priority sites as case studies.
  • Climate Resiliency and Working Lands in North Carolina’s Triangle Region – $14,000 to Triangle Land Conservancy to develop a conservation plan that accounts for the potential of agricultural lands to contribute to climate resilience and identify restoration activities that could augment working farms and forests as climate resilient corridors and refuges.
  • Conservation Planning for Priority Resilient Land in SAHC Focus Areas – $9,000 to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to update their land protection strategic plan and their farmland protection strategic plan with climate resilience data to identify the highest resilience lands for future land protection efforts.
  • Three grants for Conservation Planning for Priority Resilient Land in the Southern Blue Ridge – $5,000 each to Carolina Mountains Land Conservancy, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, and Mainspring Conservation Trust to update their land protection strategic plans, integrating resiliency data and identifying priority criteria and parcels.

“The impacts of climate change threaten our air, water, and food sources, and the integrity of the places that people treasure for recreation, scenic beauty, and nature,” said Reid Wilson, Executive Director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. “These grants will help ensure that human and natural communities endure as climate changes by identifying and protecting highly resilient lands.”

In March 2016, trustees of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation awarded a $95,000 grant to CTNC to support land trusts’ efforts to preserve natural areas that will be the most resilient to climate change. The grants to local land trusts flow from the Foundation’s grant, as well as from the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscape Initiative, funded generously by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation believes in protecting North Carolina’s varied species and unique natural landscapes for current and future generations,” said Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, assistant director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. “The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has a strong record of promoting this value through innovative work with land trusts across the state. We are proud to be a partner with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina as it works to promote resiliency in light of impending climate change.”

The Open Space Institute has provided input and technical expertise to CTNC based on its experience working with land trusts to protect resilient sites and to promote the use of resilience science through its Catalyst Grants program.

“Preserving climate-resilient lands today will help protect tomorrow’s wildlife, drinking water and other critical resources that go hand-in-hand with conserved land,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President. “We applaud these local land trusts and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, which are on the forefront of protecting some of the world’s most celebrated and biodiverse lands.”

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.