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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.

Gardens Spring Up Across Princeville

Stormwater interventions offer climate solutions

As communities experience increasingly heavy rainfall, communities across North Carolina are experiencing nuisance flooding. Instances of standing water can disrupt routine day-to-day activities, put added strain on infrastructure systems such as roadways and sewers, and cause minor property damage. 

The town of Princeville knows that well, as do many climate-impacted towns in North Carolina. A spot of historic and devastating flooding as well as every-day challenges resulting from nuisance flooding, this town invested in building natural stormwater capture devices while enhancing once-vacant land throughout the community.

In the summer of 2023, CTNC spearheaded a project to install green infrastructure with wetland enhancement projects on vacant, town-owned parcels along the Tar River. These are now sites where stormwater can naturally flow and reduce nuisance flooding that causes inconveniences to residents, roads, and neighborhoods in populated areas. The project created 6,000 square feet of stormwater retention strategies, including bioretention cells and rain gardens designed to hold 27,740 gallons of water per rain event.

Princeville elected leaders worked with residents and partners to identify three locations throughout town where standing water was already creating safety hazards following large rain events. By turning these sites into managed wetland areas with trees, shrubs, and pollinator plants, each site can now absorb stormwater and address standing water issues. This is all while beautifying each plot with seasonal colorful blooms and leaves, supporting native wildlife, including birds and other pollinators.

GARDENS ARE READY TO BLOOM

Site 1 is located at Town Hall and Freedom Hill to help add stormwater runoff at a high-traffic intersection of Princeville. The site includes NC native pollinator plants including Soft Rush, Walker’s Low Catmint, and Black-eyed Susan.

Site 2 is located at the corner of Church and Walston Streets, and Site 3 is located at the corner of Beasley and Walston Streets. These locations were selected due to their proximity to the elementary school rain garden installations completed in 2020.

The project is continuing with an important science component. The Town of Princeville seeks to incorporate community education into every conservation project that takes place. In the case of the stormwater infrastructure improvements, CTNC received funding from TELUS to purchase sensors that track the water absorption rate of the wetland areas. These sensors are offered by Temboo, a technology company that utilizes data to engage communities in understanding their environmental impact locally. The sensors will be installed this summer and will collect data that will be shared with town leaders, educators, students and families to showcase the importance of conservation as a natural solution to flooding and other climate-related issues being experienced by Princeville and surrounding communities.

RAIN GARDENS & WETLAND ENHANCEMENTS OFFER A CLIMATE SOLUTION

Communities across North Carolina are experiencing greater occurrences of precipitation and rain events that cause minor and major flooding. Conservation solutions, like installing rain gardens and other stormwater management techniques, are a great way to manage flood water while benefiting communities and residents. These types of installations are beautiful, offer a benefit to wildlife like birds and pollinators, effectively manage stormwater, naturally filter contaminants from water flow before it reaches a river or stream, and are low maintenance options for long-term care. CTNC supports natural solutions like stormwater infrastructure to benefit communities seeking to build resilience to flood challenges exacerbated by our changing climate.

The stormwater designs and plant selections were created by NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab based on recommendations from the Princeville Community Floodprint. It was informed by input from Princeville residents and approved by the Town of Princeville Board of Commissioners. The project will be installed by M&M Landscaping – a local contracting partner participating in the conservation projects being funded through CTNC.

Funding for this project was generously provided by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation EJ4Climate grant.

Why We Need the Resilience Service Network

North Carolina has seen an unprecedented investment in building resilience against the effects of our changing climate. Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to statewide flood resiliency modeling efforts, coastal community planning, and more. Billions of additional dollars from federal sources have also been earmarked for climate resilience.

Yet, there is a crucial next step to ensure these projects come to life: activating local community capacity. Communities across North Carolina must be able to take advantage of the information, support, and financial resources made available. CTNC has heard from nonprofit organizations and local leaders that too many communities seem to lack that needed capacity.

STUDY

To begin to address this vulnerability, CTNC commissioned a study in fall 2022 to gather information and input on what role service programs might play in building community capacity around climate resilience. The resulting Resilience Service Network: Case for Support affirms that existing and new service programs are well-positioned to play a vital role in assisting communities seeking to leverage the climate resilience investments being made. Though, as the study also shows, service in North Carolina must be greatly expanded and substantively changed to realize this potential.

CONCLUSIONS

Communities across North Carolina are ready to address the threat of climate change, but they’re hindered by a lack of capacity to mobilize an effective response. The existing service capacity needs to grow, and the activities involved will require greater diversity to respond effectively to community needs. Stakeholders and programs recognized host costs, administrative burdens, member benefits, and high match and project costs as major barriers to implementing a comprehensive service network in the state. The team also found that the state currently offers a patchwork of relevant support that is not commensurate with the scale of the needs of North Carolina’s communities.

Fortunately, North Carolina is slated to receive significant investment in flood prevention, critical infrastructure and transportation, and other projects designed to increase resilience. These investments will provide opportunities to meet the funding levels required to realize this effort at scale. Building on existing planning efforts and financial support, the team identified flood response as an established mechanism to direct service to communities in need.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on the findings, this report identifies a set of summary recommendations that reflect the most common themes and opportunities for a statewide resilience service initiative.

Implementation

What framing or program design steps should be taken to build a stronger service effort in North Carolina.

  • Start With Flood Response
  • Focus on Resilience
  • Localize to Galvanize
  • Reinforce What’s Working
  • Strategically Fill Gaps

Coordination

What steps might be taken to ensure the effort is well coordinated so it can deliver the greatest impact for the state.

  • Adapt to Thrive
  • Build a Network, not a Program.
  • Emphasize Catalytic Over Functional Outcomes
  • Follow the Money / Unlock the Potential

Resilience Service Network Concept

What operational and funding design will be required to achieve success at a statewide scale.

  • Operational Design
  • Funding

While this study is a seed of an idea, we see great potential in service programs to help alleviate community capacity concerns, build a resilience-oriented workforce, and maximize additional investments in the state’s resilience. North Carolina is primed to lead the nation on creative and innovative solutions for climate action.

Alongside CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC, we’re excited to welcome Conserving Carolina’s AmeriCorps Project Conserve and Conservation Corps North Carolina as founding partners in building this statewide network. 

To connect with us on the Resilience Service Network, inquire about joining as a partner organization or host site, or learn more about how service programs can work in your community, email americorps@ctnc.org.

Landowners participating in the Sustainable Forestry and Land Retention Project.

Training Future Practitioners to Protect Heirs Property Landowners

As much as 4% of all property in North Carolina is held as heirs’ property, yet only a handful of organizations in North Carolina provide legal services to protect landowners. This land, valued at approximately $2 billion, should be retained by families instead of being lost through forced partition sales.

Thanks to the support of an anonymous donor and the NC Heirs’ Property Coalition, CTNC has pledged $50,000 to fund the new Heirs’ Property Project of the Wake Forest Law Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. Now, families facing heirs’ property difficulties can receive direct legal services from skilled attorneys and law students. Beyond legal help, this project strives to support, train, and provide a framework for other legal practitioners, to help stem the rate of land loss in North Carolina due to forced partition sales.

Through this project, 24 Wake Forest Law students will be trained each year in practical approaches to resolving heirs’ property issues, and to develop two CLEs per year to train practicing attorneys in helping families navigate the realities of communal land ownership and heirs’ ownership.

This project will help folks keep property in their families, resist unwanted development, enhance their farming or forestry practices, and build wealth to weather natural disasters and economic downturn. By addressing heirs’ property, families can create a legal structure for managing their land as a performing asset over the long term.

CTNC has a long history of funding innovative ideas that amplify the impact of conservation in ways that benefit communities across North Carolina. The North Carolina State Legislature has not yet adopted the Uniform Act to provide the necessary due process to protect families from forced partition of land. By designating funding to make this clinic possible, we are able to provide support to families in need so they are able to retain ownership of their land and continue to access the benefits that conservation can provide.

New Frontier For Protecting Heirs’ Property
The project also builds a new node in the network of organizations tackling heirs’ property issues and addressing land loss among African-Americans, Native Americans, and other disadvantaged communities in North Carolina. The Clinic will build capacity for future efforts to resolve heirs’ property in North Carolina, and potentially serve as a model for other law school clinical projects in the Southeast. Organizations working on heirs’ property issues, including the Land Loss Prevention Project, Legal Aid of North Carolina, and Black Family Land Trust, have supported launching a law school clinical project to reinforce their own efforts.

Working with partner organizations, the Heirs’ Property Project will provide direct legal representation alongside conflict resolution and land management support. The Heirs’ Property Project will assist in three ways:

  • By providing direct representation to heirs’ property owners,
  • By building a pipeline of lawyers trained to handle heirs’ property cases, and
  • By serving as a hub for research and interdisciplinary training on land rights issues in North Carolina.

In addition to producing a pipeline of students with training in heirs’ property issues, the project will engage students and scholars in research on land rights’ issues, contributing to practical knowledge about the prevalence, consequences, and social context of heirs’ property—as well as to broader conversations about the economic, social, and political trajectory of rural spaces.

Conversations are underway as to how heirs’ property issues can be included in Wake Forest Law’s curriculum more generally as well. Most importantly, the project will convene expert practitioners to provide training in heirs’ property and related issues to practicing North Carolina attorneys, and to foster an interdisciplinary approach to supporting rural communities as they protect and steward their land. The project will partner with other North Carolina law schools and organizations to help address heirs’ property issues in the state at scale.

The Heirs’ Property Project at Wake Forest will convene a Board of Advisors to provide collaboration and support to students and families. Director of Community Innovation Mary Alice Holley will represent CTNC as a member of the board.

Other coalition members have also pledged to find funding to support this effort over the next two years in addition to our ongoing effort to encourage the NC Legislature to adopt the Uniform Act for NC.

What is Heirs’ Property?
When landowners die without a will, their surviving family members are each left with a fractional interest that lacks many legal protections and privileges. Such land, called “heirs’ property,” is concentrated in communities of color and low-income communities. Owners of heirs’ property face unique difficulty improving their land, stewarding its environmental condition, and securing it against predatory development.

Landowners participating in the Sustainable Forestry and Land Retention Project.

Holding land as tenants in common and heirs’ property can make the property vulnerable to forced sale. When family members decide they want to sell their share, or a non-family member or developer acquires a share of the property, they may be able to force the partition of the property into smaller pieces, thus fragmenting the land. They may also be able to force the sale of the property without a right of first refusal for other family members or a guarantee of fair market value.

Holding land as heirs’ property can make it difficult or impossible to access credit markets, as clear title cannot be demonstrated. It can also slow or frustrate access to government support for agriculture and/or disaster aid.

Led by a supervising attorney, this project will enroll ten or more students each semester to provide legal services to clients referred from partner organizations. The project will represent heirs’ property owners as they clear title to their land, resolve adjacent legal issues like boundary disputes, and navigate state and federal land management programs—partnering with the Wake Forest Divinity School to provide clients with skilled support for family decision-making processes, as well as with environmental experts to support heirs’ property owners in stewarding their land. Embracing the model of community lawyering, we also expect the project to serve as a legal advisor and first point of contact for local community organizations confronting threats to rural land and community autonomy.

Thank You to Generous Funders
Thanks to donors and supporters, the project launched in January 2023 and is funded through December 2024. Additional thanks to the Skadden Foundation, Wake Forest University’s Provost Office, American Farmland Trust, and Black Family Land Trust for helping make this project a reality.

Contact for Heirs’ Property Legal Assistance
Contact the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic via Jesse Williams for information about the Heirs’ Property Project of the Wake Forest Law Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

Special thanks to Jesse Williams for contributing to this article.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor teaches future generations about Western NC species and how to protect them.

A graduate of Iowa State University, Emily applies her studies in Biology and Environmental Science to teach students about nature conservation. She serves as Education Outreach Coordinator for Balsam Mountain Trust in Sylva with Resilience Corps NC. Her main focus: collaborating with different local communities and nature-based organizations to provide accessible, quality conservation education.

Emily creates, improves, and teaches environmental science programs to Title I schools, public libraries and other community groups with help from live animal ambassadors. She showcases incredible species of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains like hawks, snakes, turtles and more! Her favorite part about the job is working with the animals and showing them to elementary school students.

Thanks to her time at the Trust, she’s learning to have patience in others and believe in her decision-making skills. From Executive Director to Laundry Volunteer, Emily gained an appreciation for the way everyone pitches in to work toward Balsam Mountain Trust’s mission. “You wear many hats,” says Emily.

Expanding conservation in communities isn’t one-size fits all. By paying attention to how people communicate, she customizes how she shares lessons for all students. “You meet a lot of different kinds of folks, and we have to come up with several ways to disperse the same information. It requires a lot of thought and body language reading,” says Emily.

Beyond AmeriCorps, Emily hopes to continue work in Haywood County at zoo facilities like the Western North Carolina Nature Center. We’re looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for her!

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