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Celebrating Earth Day Every Day: A Tribute to Conservation Efforts in North Carolina  

Recently, Conservation Trust for North Carolina gathered to celebrate Earth Day and our long-standing commitment to protecting the land, water, and communities that make North Carolina special. Through each project, whether it be building community resilience through our Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, protecting land along the Blue Ridge Parkway, or partnering with local governments and community stakeholders to build a more flood-resilient state, CTNC prioritizes the strength of resilience in our environment and communities.

Recognizing Collaboration in Conservation  

Earth Day Celebration – Raleigh, NC 

This Earth Day, CTNC accepted $50,000 to support our environmental justice and climate resiliency projects from the Duke Energy Foundation. CTNC staff and board members gathered in Raleigh to receive the award and celebrate Earth Day achievements alongside our incredible conservation partners from the Parkway to the Triangle.  

CTNC’s Board President, Bill Leslie, accepted the grant.  

“On behalf of Conservation Trust for North Carolina, our board and staff, and community partners throughout the state, I want to express heartfelt appreciation for the Duke Energy Foundation’s investment in our vision to inspire and enable North Carolina communities to build resilience to flooding and other climate change hazards.”  

He added, “Conserved land provides access to trails and green space, protects farms that generate our food, and can absorb stormwater during extreme flood events that are becoming more common every year. We look forward to making a deeper investment in communities, from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Princeville in Eastern N.C., and right here in Southeast Raleigh, all in collaboration with local leaders who value and understand how land conservation can help address our current climate crisis.” 

“Communities across North Carolina have seen firsthand the lasting impacts from storms and excessive rainfall,” said Cynthia Satterfield, executive director of Conservation Trust for North Carolina. “We are grateful that Duke Energy recognizes the importance of building resilient communities equipped to reduce and manage flood risk and that they are helping fund this critical mission.” 

Of the seventeen local nonprofits recognized by Duke Energy Foundation, CTNC is proud to operate in partnership with five conservation partners: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Partners for Environmental Justice, NC Wildlife Federation, and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Together, we’re dedicated to achieving community resilience through climate change solutions for all North Carolinians throughout the state.  

Blue Ridge Parkway Earth Day Dedication  

At Craggy Gardens, a popular stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway, CTNC’s Land Protection Director, Rusty Painter, and Western Conservation Manager, Aaron Flannery, attended an Earth Day event focused on conserving Western North Carolina public lands.

Present at the event were state conservation leaders, Governor Roy Cooper, Secretary North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Reid Wilson, Eastern Band of Cherokee Tribal Council Chairman Mike Parker, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout, and National Park Service Staff.

“We are grateful for our lasting partnership with the Blue Ridge Parkway, our fellow land trusts, the multitude of other partners, and landowners who enable us to continue protecting ‘America’s Favorite Drive'” states Rusty Painter. “As one of the most-visited units of America’s national park system, preserving the land along the Parkway is crucial for current and future generations to enjoy all that the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.” 

Rusty Painter and Tracy Swartout, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent

Making Investments in Long-Term Conservation  

Rounding out Earth Week, Governor Cooper released his final budget recommendations. The package reinforces his administration’s commitment to conservation and climate resilience initiatives. Learn more about the budget proposal and placements for increasing conservation funding here.  

As we celebrate and reflect on this year’s Earth Day, we are immensely grateful for the statewide network of partnerships we hold to amplify conservation efforts. By standing together and working collaboratively, we can face the challenges posed by climate change head-on and build a brighter future for North Carolina. 

Eastern North Carolina AmeriCorps Members Making Great Strides in Community Resilience

From Flood Resilience, Watershed Protection, Community Agriculture and More, ResilienceCorps NC Members are Contributing to the Resilience of Eastern NC 

In Eastern North Carolina, six AmeriCorps service members are serving local communities. Each member is focusing on building community resilience through flood mitigation, coastal land preservation, volunteer coordination, tree planting and watering, community garden construction and implementation, and many other priorities that directly give back to their respective communities.

Through the CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, building capacity is more attainable. The placement of members directly contributes to the current and future projects that nonprofits and local government/agency partners involved in the program hold to benefit North Carolina.  

Highlighting AmeriCorps Member’s Service at a Community Level Throughout the Eastern Region of our Resilient State 


Tykia Lewis: The Town of Princeville

CTNC and the Town of Princeville have partnered to host an AmeriCorps member to focus on engaging residents on conservation and community agriculture. Over the past few months, Tykia Lewis has been dedicating most of her time to construction and cultivation of the new community garden in Princeville, NC. Her primary focus revolves around fostering community engagement and imparting knowledge about the significance of local agriculture and the medicinal properties of food.  

After conducting a thorough needs assessment, Tykia organized community meetings to introduce the benefits of community gardening and to distribute fresh produce. The community demonstrated keen interest in the garden and the healing potential of food, actively participating in choosing a name for the garden. Her involvement in the garden’s design and construction has been immensely gratifying, as she values hands-on experiences and the opportunity to contribute to a cause larger than herself.  

This community garden will impact the town and its residents for years to come, serving a key role in removing the barriers to food access that towns like Princeville experience.   


John Sugg: Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments

John Sugg is currently serving five counties served by the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Government (COG)—Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, and Wilson. Each of these counties faces various challenges from chronic flooding and stormwater issues. As part of John’s AmeriCorps service, he will assist the COG with completing flood solutions assessments of nine communities, so they’re better equipped to pursue mitigation and build resilience for possible future flooding events.  

The Golden Leaf Flood Mitigation Grant presents opportunities for communities to address flood-related issues. John has already assisted two communities pursuing a Golden Leaf Flood Mitigation Grant, acknowledging the cumbersome documentation process for rural towns with limited resources and staff capacity.  

Currently, John is working with the community of Gaston to collect photos and data illustrating the impact of rainfall events in the area. Despite receiving only 1-2″ of rain, the area experiences prolonged water accumulation, rendering yards unusable and hazardous areas for days after the rain subsides. This persistent issue, not attributable to hurricanes or other extraordinary events, displays the urgent need for creating interventions to mitigate flooding risks and prevent further damage to communities. 


Hannah Nystrom: Cape Fear River Watch

Hannah Nystrom, stationed at Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW), directs her efforts towards the Burnt Mill Creek watershed in Wilmington, a socially vulnerable and highly recreated area. Spanning approximately seven square miles in downtown Wilmington, the watershed deals with numerous water quality issues such as fecal bacteria contamination, invasive aquatic species, and low dissolved oxygen levels, leading to its inclusion in North Carolina’s 303(d) list for impaired waterbodies. With a population of vulnerable residents in this community, the protection of this watershed is crucial to their wellbeing and the resilience of Wilmington 

The state attorney general’s office awarded CFRW a three-year Environmental Enhancement Grant (EEG) to fund a restoration project aimed at addressing these challenges. Hannah actively engages in the project to ensure project deliverables are completed. She coordinates tree plantings, installs litter mitigation devices in stormwater drains and creeks, and organizes ecotours within the Burnt Mill Creek watershed. One of her most rewarding experiences involves watering native trees planted by over 75 volunteers, an activity she conducts weekly with fellow volunteers, fostering a deep connection with the area she serves. 

Protecting the Burnt Mill Creek Watershed and the surrounding areas allows for members of the community to have easily accessible and beautiful nature areas to fish, explore and recreate in. Preserving areas that foster wildlife and allow for the ecological factors of coastal NC to thrive allows for greater climate resilience.


Lauren Waibel: North Carolina Coastal Land Trust 

In her position at the Coastal Land Trust, Lauren Waibel assumes responsibility for general stewardship, community conservation projects, and overseeing the volunteer program. Recent months have been marked by intensive monitoring of preserves and properties, providing opportunities to observe diverse flora and fauna and leading trail maintenance activities across preserves.  

One particularly significant project involves the restoration of Reaves Chapel A.M.E. Church, a historic landmark with deep cultural and historical roots in southeastern North Carolina’s African American community. Engaging with various organizations and individuals connected to the chapel has been inspiring for Lauren. She recently led a highly successful volunteer day, which saw significant participation, aimed at cleaning up the Reaves Chapel cemetery.  

Lauren’s role has afforded her invaluable insights into the ecosystems, history, and community dynamics of Coastal North Carolina. 


Jordan Pilcher: North Carolina Coastal Land Trust 

In Jordan Pilcher’s role as the Environmental Education and Volunteer Coordinator at NC Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT), she has had the opportunity to lead and continue several projects, many of which were established and set into motion by the previous AmeriCorps member, and now full-time staff member, Bryce Tholen.  

The environmental education program at NCCLT has grown tremendously and Jordan dove into teaching environmental programs across coastal North Carolina. She has been teaching the elementary students along the coast of NC using the curriculum on pollination and pollinators for 3rd graders, carnivorous plants for 4th graders, and longleaf pine ecosystems for 5th graders.  

During the beginning of her term, she spent time editing and updating the curriculum and materials to ensure lessons are interesting and engaging. Jordan has also tabled at several environmental education and community outreach events, growing the Coastal Land Trust’s presence in the Wilmington community and connecting kids with the ecosystems surrounding them. Conducting outreach to the community and their youth is crucial to building long-term conservation stewards who will carry the responsibility of building Wilmington’s resilience for future generations.  


Charlie Robinette: Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments 

Charlie Robinette serves with the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments (KTCOG) where he is dedicated to building connections across the five counties served by the organization. Engaging with various stakeholders in the food sector, ranging from Cooperative Extension and Economic Development to local pantries and non-profits, Charlie aims to understand the region’s dynamics firsthand. He gradually became involved in ongoing projects, such as the Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute’s Advisory Board and Tri-COG FEEDS, a collaborative effort spanning multiple counties and councils. 

In 2020, KTCOG adopted a Regional Food Policy, laying the groundwork for establishing a Regional Food Council. With Charlie’s enhanced capacity, progress towards this goal has accelerated, with plans for the council’s inaugural meeting scheduled for May. Through “Framing Our Food System” conversations across the five counties, Charlie seeks to gather valuable perspectives informing the council’s work and future COG policies and programs. The enthusiasm expressed by community members for his initiatives pushes the potential for lasting impact beyond his tenure with AmeriCorps. 

Charlie finds great satisfaction in food systems work, particularly in the communal aspect where every gathering ensures participants are well-fed, symbolizing the importance of inclusivity and collaboration in building a sustainable future. 


The Future of Resilience in Eastern North Carolina  

Eastern North Carolina is an ecologically diverse region of the state that requires an investment in capacity to combat food insecurity, explore and implement flood mitigation strategies, and continue to preserve coastal land for future generations to enjoy. Between CTNC and our community partners, AmeriCorps members can achieve tangible progress toward achieving goals that build resilience for North Carolina.  

Checking in with Our Resilience Corps NC Partners

As AmeriCorps members are halfway through their service term, tangible evidence of community resilience emerge

CTNC is working alongside our partners to build a network of service throughout North Carolina. The Resilience Service Network brings together the expertise of CTNC, Conserving Carolina, and Conservation Corps NC to leverage the investments of AmeriCorps to build capacity of nonprofits, local governments, and agency partners to achieve resilience.

CTNC’s AmeriCorps program, Resilience Corps NC, has partnered with 20 host site partners to deploy 23 members in service to communities with climate risk and capacity needs. These members are now halfway through their service term, which began in September of last year. With members serving in over forty communities across the state, tangible evidence of community resilience is present.  

How do we select these community partners? CTNC seeks to prioritize community partnerships where a high climate-risk to flood, fire, food insecurity, or urban heat effects is affecting socially vulnerable communities and people throughout North Carolina. Using data assessments found in our Community Resilience Model, a GIS map that pinpoints the communities of NC that could benefit the most from climate change resilience work, we can ensure our AmeriCorps partnerships are delivering on CTNC’s goals to build resilience throughout the state.   

See where our partnerships are growing resilience: 

The Resilience Service Network Case for Support demonstrates the need for additional capacity in vulnerable communities across the state. By building capacity in partnership with local leaders, the work being accomplished by these members will successfully increase the capacity of what each organization can accomplish.  

Resilience Corps NC members have built capacity at each of their host sites, whether it be tree planting, organizing volunteer events, community outreach and engagement, land monitoring, environmental education, climate change education, and many other projects designed to seed future resilience.  

CTNC is proud to champion the movements completed by the Resilience Service Network. Advancing community resilience through building relationships and partnerships is a critical component of all conservation efforts. Having members placed in all regions of the state, Western, Piedmont, Central, Eastern and the Coast, ensures that vulnerable communities are both represented and included in statewide conservation initiatives.  

A Path Towards Regional Flood Resilience Strategies

Rivers have molded the landscape of the entire state, with each river basin different from the other.

As an ecologically diverse state, with landscapes varying from the higher elevation of the western Blue Ridge mountains to the low-lying coastline in the east, within each region, one will experience differing average temperatures, manage different growing seasons for plants and agriculture, and enjoy a wide range of water bodies from lakes to streams, and small to large river networks.

North Carolina is home to roughly 37,853 miles of rivers, plus thousands of tributaries or streams that flow into and feed one of its larger river systems. In total, there are 17 river basins in North Carolina. Because every community falls within one of these basins, every community in North Carolina is impacted by the vast destruction to livelihoods caused by flooding.

We must address flood resiliency from the perspective of a basin-wide approach when recommending conservation solutions to mitigate its effects. 

Since each river basin is contrastingly unique, a one-size-fits-all approach is not applicable when designing strategies to mitigate flooding. The impacts look different by region, demonstrating why a basin-wide level approach is necessary to create manageable, coordinated intervention strategies to improve the flood risk for all communities in North Carolina.  

Understanding River Basins 

A river basin encompasses the area of land drained by a river and its tributaries. Each basin serves as a natural watershed, starting with the rainwater and flow of a central river system that shapes the landscape and ecosystems as the water moves through. River basins influence many concepts of the surrounding area, including local agriculture, urban planning and infrastructure, drinking water, wildlife habitat and diversity and the local economy. Each river basin in North Carolina has its own movement of water from the headwaters to an outfall into the ocean, an estuary, or another river.  

With the 17 river basins in North Carolina, each holds a unique ecological and topographical footprint in response to rainfall events that occurred upstream. Starting with rainfall, water accumulates into a basin that flows into subsequent bodies of water through a stream, river, tributary, groundwater, etc. As water accumulates and moves downstream, the river basin acts as a bathtub, collecting all contents and diverting where necessary.

With more severe climate-change caused weather events, an influx of water to a river basin will cascade into surrounding areas, causing floods.   

The North Carolina Flood Resiliency Blueprint will serve as an online decision-support tool for policymakers, stakeholders and all North Carolinians with the knowledge required to make flood management decisions. The initiative was launched by the NC General Assembly and NC Department of Environmental Quality in collaboration with local and state agencies from across the state. In this process, having stakeholders present from various river basins is crucial to creating a tool that serves all communities and residents of the state.  

As a starting point for proposed flood mitigation action, the Blueprint process will develop basin-wide action strategies for six target river basins: French Broad, Tar-Pamlico, Cape Fear, Neuse, Lumber and White Oak River Basins.

Get to know these focus regions:

French-Broad  

  • Total miles of streams: 3,985 
  • Counties within basin: 8  
  • Size: 2,829 square miles 

CTNC has a deep history of conserving land in Western NC including throughout the French Broad River Basin. CTNC’s Land Protection Director, Rusty Painter, has culminated relationships in communities across this basin through the years to ensure that protected land offers solutions to climate change impacts including flood-related challenges. The Asheville Watershed conservation easement was originally designed to provide a sustainable, clean drinking water source for the City of Asheville, but it also serves as a collection vessel for water flow, helping slow water before it reaches the French Broad river.

CTNC’s Western Conservation Manager, Aaron Flannery, highlights the importance of preserving land to enhance community resilience. “Protecting land in western North Carolina is crucial to the health of NC’s river basins that are fed from waters along the Parkway. Ensuring that the land along the Blue Ridge Parkway is preserved impacts everything that occurs downstream, including water quality, economic development, local and state parks, community resilience and the wildlife that calls the ecosystems of NC home.” 

Tar-Pamlico  

  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 2,521 
  • Counties within basin: 18  
  • Size: 6,148 square miles 

Princeville, NC is no stranger to the impacts of floods from the Tar River, a part of the Tar-Pamlico River Basin. CTNC’s partnership with the Town of Princeville and NC State’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab inspired the development of CTNC’s Community Resilience Model. This map uses GIS technology to help identify communities at greatest risk to flooding where conservation solutions can provide a community benefit. The NC Flood Resiliency Blueprint will allow the integral flood mitigation work that occurred in Princeville to be utilized at a greater level – within entire river basins. 

Neuse 

  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 3,409 
  • Counties within basin: 18  
  • Size: 6,062 square miles 

Serving as the third largest river basin in North Carolina, protecting the land along the Neuse River Basin is critically important to the cities within the basin by providing drinking water in nine dedicated reservoirs – Falls Lake, Lake Michie, Little River Reservoir, Lake Holt, Lake Orange, New Hillsborough Lake, Corporation Lake, Lake Ben Johnson and Lake Rogers. The basin also holds wetland forests that divert water from flooding nearby communities and captures runoff and rainfall to prevent impacts to downstream communities. For 12 years, CTNC partnered with the City of Raleigh to administer a watershed protection program, The Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative, designed to raise funds to help land trusts protect land upstream of a rapidly growing region and critically important source of drinking water for the Triangle region.  

Cape Fear 

  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 6,584  
  • Counties within basin: 26  
  • Size: 9,164 square miles 

Lumber 

  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 2,247  
  • Counties within basin: 9  
  • Size: 3,329 square miles 

White Oak  

  • Total miles of streams and rivers: 320  
  • Counties within basin: 6  
  • Size: 1,382 square miles 

Community Expectations 

Protecting these bodies of water is crucial to the flow of water from the mountains to the sea. With the tool created in the Flood Resiliency Blueprint, members of each river basin’s communities can expect to gain a deeper understanding of their floodplain, the history of flooding in that region and the best strategies to combat the impacts of flooding specific to that area. 

Collaboration from all regions of the state is important to ensure that all communities are represented and heard when creating tools like the Flood Resiliency Blueprint. The decisions made upstream in the Western part of the state will impact communities downstream throughout NC. To address the increasing threat of climate-change caused events, like flooding, community and county boundaries will be crossed to foster collaboration in creating effective solutions. CTNC’s relationships with local government organizations, statewide conservation partners and landowners will be prioritized to ensure a holistic approach to flood mitigation strategies occurs in communities across every river basin in North Carolina.  

Navigating Extreme Weather Events: North Carolina’s Flood Resiliency Blueprint 

In response to increasing climate risks, state leaders will deploy tools to help communities impacted by flooding across the state 

In a state that often experiences the unpredictable forces of nature, North Carolina stands at the forefront of climate resilience with the Flood Resiliency Blueprint – an effort launched by the NC General Assembly and the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Representing the largest statewide flood mitigation investment in its history, this initiative is designed with the goal to revolutionize how communities are resourced to respond and recover to climate change-caused disasters. 

Historic flooding events over the years have left many communities across North Carolina in a state of long-term recovery. Day to day, nuisance flooding challenges towns from the mountains to the coast, disrupts the livelihood of North Carolinians. With the increased severity of rainstorms, flash flooding, hurricanes and extreme weather events, action must be taken to ensure that communities can become more resilient to current and future events.  

Serving as an online decision-support tool, the comprehensive statewide flood resilience blueprint will provide policymakers and stakeholders with the knowledge required when making decisions related to flood management. The tool will allow communities to use this resource to understand adaptation and preparedness for extreme weather events.  

The blueprint aims to reduce North Carolina’s annual losses to lives, property and livelihood because of extreme storms and flooding events, and their overall vulnerability. Another goal of this initiative is to decrease the weight of taxpayer dollars used to rebuild infrastructure damaged in said events. The strategic investments to flood resilience planning in specific areas of the state will benefit multiple departments, including water quality, the local economy, the public health system and outdoor recreation.  

Funds allocated to the NC Department of Environmental Quality by the North Carolina General Assembly allowed this initiative to advance, evolving the project to the next step of involving stakeholders in developing the tool. The blueprint is a culmination of collaboration from local and state agencies, along with CTNC, combining shared resources and knowledge to be utilized on one shared platform for all. The primary objective is to empower decision-makers at each level with the tools and strategies required to mitigate flood risks effectively.  

CTNC is proud to be a part of the planning and implementation of this project with the collaboration of other resiliency-driven organizations.

Nuisance flooding is a direct result of a changing climate, where change is needed now more than ever. Combatting the impacts of flooding is an issue CTNC is not new to. In Eastern NC, Princeville, located alongside the Tar River, was hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, leaving the town in disarray from flooding. The collaborative partnerships with Princeville after Hurricane Matthew showed that flood resiliency is attainable. The initiative of a statewide action to combat flooding drives CTNC’s goal of fostering community resilience through climate action.  

In response to the flooding events in Edgecomb County, CTNC, in collaboration with NC State’s Coastal Dynamic Design Lab, created the Princeville Floodprint. The goal of this project was to mitigate the impacts of flooding and involve the local community in efforts to strategize and prepare for future flooding events. This project supported state agencies and local leaders to effectively engage in a community resilience framework.  

With the North Carolina Flood Resiliency Blueprint, multiple communities will be offered support like the model created by the Princeville Community Floodprint. Replicating this process on a broader level will allow the project to evolve into a larger, statewide movement with similar seeds of success seen in Princeville.  

As the next steps of the blueprint unfold, the State has identified six river basins to engage more deeply with community and elected leaders to better understand the scope and scale of flood resiliency planning and investments.  

With a clear, unified framework in place, lives and communities will be better prepared and protected from nuisance flooding. North Carolina will serve as the groundwork for the first-of-its-kind flood resiliency program, that could aid other states across the country in preparing for the future of their respective communities.  

AmeriCorps Members Honor MLK Jr. Through Service 

Members completed service-based volunteer events to benefit communities across NC  

As we reflect on this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we would love to share some of the enriching experiences that our Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps members enjoyed. Each member dedicated the day to volunteering in honor of Dr. King. The active participation of members was present in service projects aligning with the principles championed by Dr. King, with the common goal of enhancing community resilience. The MLK Day of Service contributes to our local communities across the state and provides an opportunity for our members to learn and reflect on the enduring impact of Dr. King’s teachings.  

CTNC’s AmeriCorps service members Austin Duncan (Central Pines Regional Council), Rae Cohn (The Hub Farm),Hannah Rhodes (American Rivers), Anna Behnke (CTNC), Lauren Howard (Green River Preserve) and Eli Haines-Eitzen(Eno River Association) spent the day in Durham assisting Urban Community Agronomics. UCAN strives to connect the community with sustainable agriculture to combat food insecurity and provide environmental-based education to visitors. During this day of service, volunteers spread mulch, helped build beds for the greenhouse, reclaimed wood among the property along with many other tasks.  

Another member in the Triangle, Ellen Davis (Central Pines Regional Council), spent the day with the repairs program of Habitat for Humanity of Durham. Their group focused on assisting a home impacted by flooding through replacing a waterline. Within their day of service, immense progress was made on an 18” deep trench that will be used with the new waterline.  

In the Piedmont, Tanya Balaji (Keep Charlotte Beautiful), in partnership with her host site, held four litter cleanup events around the city to commemorate Dr. King. With the help of 82 total volunteers, 97 bags of litter were collected, removing roughly 1940 lbs. of litter from impacting the environmental well-being of the streets of Charlotte.   

Cindy Rassi (El Futuro) participated in a day of service held by her host site in partnership with Keep Durham Beautiful. They had 29 adults, and 4 children participate in the MLK Clean-up of the Lakewood Plaza and a Storytime Reading of “Todo el Mundo Cabe Aqui” (“All Are Welcome” in English) for the children. During this day of service, 43 bags of waste, 27bags of recycling items, 1 mattress, 4 tires, and metal scrap were collected by the volunteers.  

In Henderson, member Charlie Robinette (Kerr Tar Regional Council of Governments) joined ACTS of Henderson (Area Christians Together in Service) in a food distribution event. Charlie helped prepare and hand out the warm lunches to members of the community.

In Western NC, member Jessica Blackburn (Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust) joined HCLT staff and volunteers on a litter clean-up at Sunset Rock, one of HCLT’s most populous hiking spots. The event showed how simple it can be to gather and provide service to your community while being a steward for the environment.  

Along the coast of North Carolina, Lauren Waibel and Jordan Pilcher (North Carolina Coastal Land Trust) spent their day cleaning up and removing litter from a local park in Wilmington. They collected trash from Maides Park and Maides Cemetery, a historic African-American Cemetery with graves dating back to the 19th century

As we remember Martin Luther King, it is also essential that we remember the dedication he had to his mission of liberating and uniting all people. To accomplish our mission, we too must dedicate our services to changes we wish to have in the world. 

Learn more about the impact of community partnerships delivered through service.

CTNC Names New Executive Director

CTNC is proud to welcome Cynthia Satterfield as the new Executive Director of our organization. 

Cynthia joins us with a strong background in community-driven conservation. Her dozen years at the Tar River Land Conservancy as the Director of Development and at the Eno River Association as Director of Development and Outreach ground her in the land conservation work central to CTNC. Her most recent role as State Director of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club expands her strategic leadership skills. Cynthia holds an English and Anthropology Bachelor’s Degree, Master of Business Administration, Certificate in Non-Profit Management and Equity Training. 

Cynthia’s personal commitment to CTNC’s values of collaboration, boldness, inclusiveness, compassion, authenticity, openness, and curiosity inspired confidence in the CTNC Board.

“Cynthia’s personal commitment to CTNC’s values of collaboration, boldness, inclusiveness, compassion, authenticity, openness, and curiosity inspired confidence in the CTNC Board”, said CTNC Board President Brandon A. Robinson. “We are fully confident that the wealth of experience Cynthia brings will lead CTNC to new growth and new opportunity, making it possible to fulfill our mission of building resilient, just communities by delivering conservation solutions across the state.”

Cynthia will join CTNC officially on December 11th as Chris embarks on his retirement journey. We are excited to begin this new chapter as an organization and enter the new year as a strong-knit group of staff, board members, donors and supporters.

You can help ensure that CTNC enters this new season poised to grow. Your support before the end of the year will seed the next season of growth in conservation for a more resilient North Carolina.

CTNC and Bald Head Island Conservation Partners Collaborate to Build New Prioritization Tool

Climate and Conservation Resilience Data to Drive Future Land Protection on Bald Head Island

The beauty and unique ecology of Bald Head Island needs to be protected. The abundant nesting sea turtle population, vital maritime evergreen forest, and coastal ecosystems need specialized care to ensure they survive for generations. This summer, CTNC and partners on the island teamed up to develop a conservation prioritization tool that will inform how to deploy future work. 

Since 2001, CTNC has collaborated with the Bald Head Island Conservancy and Smith Island Land Trust (SILT) to conserve habitat on Bald Head Island in Brunswick County. CTNC holds 28 conservation easements on Bald Head Island, the southernmost barrier island in the state and a true ecological gem.

The Bald Head Island Conservation Prioritization Tool, developed by Hanna Bliska, a CTNC 2023 Stanback Summer Fellow, is a model that identifies individual properties on the island with the highest conservation value. This will enable Smith Island Land Trust and its partners to focus efforts and limited resources on properties with the most significant conservation impact.

CTNC Summer Fellows Hanna Bliska (left) and Emma Childs (right) visited Bald Head Island in June to ground-truth the results of the prioritization model. 

To make the tool come to life, Hannah collaborated with CTNC Bald Head Island conservation partners and CTNC staff to build the prioritization tool in ArcGIS. This tool is inspired by CTNC’s Blue Ridge Parkway prioritization model that we use to streamline efforts and strategic goals. The plan focuses on protecting undeveloped land on Bald Head Island. The model has incorporated a variety of ecological data, including data on coastal and terrestrial resilience to climate change developed by The Nature Conservancy. 

Undeveloped acreage is critical to both natural and human success on the island. Beyond protecting vital forested and coastal areas, these conserved acres become buffers to soften the impacts of climate change on Bald Head Island. The maps inform SILT’s communications with landowners and educate islanders about conservation opportunities. This will, in turn, ensure a resilient future for the communities that call Bald Head Island home.

The Bald Head Island Conservation Prioritization Tool further demonstrates CTNC’s commitment to creating sustainable programs in collaboration with partners to utilize data-driven approaches to conservation. SILT will maintain the tool to update it as more conservation progress is made on the island. Through partnerships like this, CTNC is helping North Carolina build resilience in the face of climate change.

Thank you to the development team – Hanna Bliska, Rusty Painter, Mary Alice Holley, and Emma Childs. Funding for the project was provided by SILT and Hannah’s time with CTNC was made possible by the Stanback Fellowship Program at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.

State Legislators come through with a conservation win

Help us send a big thank you to North Carolina’s legislators and governor for allocating over $100 million to the conservation trust funds and other conservation projects in the 2023 State Budget. This funding will benefit people and our land for generations to come.

Land and water are economic drivers for our state. Protecting these vital natural resources is essential to North Carolina’s bottom line – boosting spending and providing jobs. Read the press release from the Land for Tomorrow Coalition for a full rundown of the funding allocated to the conservation trust funds.

Land for Tomorrow is a statewide coalition of community leaders, conservation, and wildlife organizations, and parks and recreation advocates with a common goal: increasing land and water conservation in North Carolina. The state’s three conservation trust funds, the North Carolina Land and Water Trust Fund (NCLWF), the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) are essential tools that allow state agencies and nonprofit partners to protect North Carolina’s valuable natural resources. 

The Coalition recognizes these conservation heroes who went the extra mile to protect our state’s most loved places. The Land for Tomorrow Coalition applauds the following legislators:

  • Speaker of the House – Representative Tim Moore
  • President Pro Tem – Senator Phil Berger
  • Majority Leader – Representative John Bell
  • Majority Leader – Senator Paul Newton 
  • Appropriation Chairs
    • House: Lambeth, Saine, Arp, Kyle Hall, Strickland, Brisson, Elmore, Faircloth, Jones, Sasser
    • Senate: Jackson, Hise, Lee
  • Subcommittee Chairs
    • House: Dixon, Gillespie, Goodwin
    • Senate: Sanderson, Johnson, Craven

If you have time, please send a thank you note to your local legislators for protecting our state’s natural resources through the budget this year. Their perseverance in protecting this funding should be commended.

CTNC is dedicated to stewarding smart conservation policies for the benefit of North Carolina’s resilient communities. Join us in supporting this important mission.

Introducing the 2023-24 Resilience NC Corps Cohort

We’re delighted to welcome the latest cohort of service members with the Resilience Corps NC program. These members, working at placements across North Carolina, are able to fill in areas of need through their host sites that are connected to various diverse communities, building a resilient North Carolina. Their work includes community outreach, environmental education, and environmental stewardship.

Building a resilient community begins with education and the power of knowledge. Having AmeriCorps members within the communities build capacity within and outside their host sites creates a positive impactful domino effect that will be long lasting after their service terms are over.

Here’s where our 2023-24 AmeriCorps members are serving:

Anna Behnke
Conservation Trust for North Carolina
Austin Duncan
Central Pines Regional Council
Christopher Perdomo
Piedmont Environmental Alliance
Cindy Rassi
El Futuro
Eli Haines Eitzen
Eno River Association
Ellen Davis
Central Pines Regional Council
Regina Patton
Balsam Mountain Trust
Grace Sigmon
North Carolina Zoo
Haley Bock
Piedmont Triad Regional Council
Hannah Rhodes
Keep Durham Beautiful
Jessica Blackburn
Highland Cashiers Land Trust
Jordan Pilcher
North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
Lauren Howard
Green River Preserve
Lauren Waibel
North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
Lula Zeray
Meals on Wheels of Durham
Rachel Cohn
Durham Public Schools Hub Farm
Sabrinah Hartsell
North Carolina Zoo
Stephanie Pipas
North Carolina Zoo
Tanya Balaji
Keep Charlotte Beautiful
Tykia Lewis
Town of Princeville

Learn more about Resilience Corps NC and the work being accomplished for communities through service.

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