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!