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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.  

CTNC Grants Fund Eight Conservation Projects in Western NC

Through the Mountain Revolving Loan Fund, CTNC allocates small grants to preserve critical areas of land protected and stewarded by our land trust partners.

Through the Mountain Revolving Loan Fund (MRLF), CTNC works with land trusts to conserve land in Western North Carolina. In addition to providing critical bridge loans to eligible land trusts, CTNC’s MRLF provides small grants to fill funding gaps that enable completion of projects that preserve the ecosystems and cultural sites along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The CTNC Mountain Revolving Loan Fund has two significant benefits for our partners

  • It provides crucial bridge financing with minimal interest to land trusts in Western North Carolina to purchase conservation land and easements. As loans are repaid, the money becomes available to re-lend. 
  • A percentage of the balance of the loan fund is given out each year in grant awards. Grants of up to $25,000 are not required to be paid back. CTNC’s grants help cover transaction-related costs, land management, project administration, and long-term stewardship; often the most difficult project funding to raise.

This year, CTNC awarded grants to four land trusts totaling over $90,500. We’re proud to support the costs associated with ensuring that 516 acres of land will be protected in perpetuity. We look forward to more opportunities to work in partnership with key stakeholders to protect and steward this living legacy.

The land trusts that were awarded grant funds by CTNC during the current cycle include: 

  • Blue Ridge Land Conservancy  
  • Conserving Carolina 
  • Highlands-Cashier Land Trust 
  • Mainspring Conservation Trust 

The eight properties that will be protected by our partner land trusts offer ecological, agricultural, recreational, and cultural-historic benefits to communities of Western NC.

“The projects and properties supported by this year’s grant awards will enhance collaborative partnerships with local land trusts working toward the common goal of conserving land and ensuring that the future of Western NC landscapes are protected,” CTNC’s Land Protection Director Rusty Painter said. “The land conservation work done by CTNC and our partners is critical to serving community needs and combatting the impacts of the climate crisis.

CTNC is proud to partner with organizations across the state to accelerate our collective efforts to build a more resilient state.

Along with the conservation values of these properties, each contains crucial ecological and agriculture benefits to the local landscape and communities of Western NC.


CTNC’s support of statewide conservation initiatives is made possible through generous donations from CTNC supporters. Your generous support enables us to carry out our mission to foster community resilience in Western NC and throughout our amazing state.

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.

30 Acres Conveyed to the Park Service Along Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) recently transferred a 30-acre property to the National Park Service (NPS) to expand the boundaries of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Watauga County. The Elk Mountain Meadow tract shares a quarter-mile boundary with the Blue Ridge Parkway and lies just a few dozen feet from the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Elk Mountain Overlook.

Portions of the property are visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway and MST near milepost 274, just off Highway 421 near Deep Gap. Conservation of this tract complements CTNC’s protection of an 86-acre property, just across the Parkway below Elk Mountain Overlook and our recent 408-acre acquisition adjacent to that one.

The Elk Mountain Meadow property protects water quality in a tributary of Gap Creek, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail passes within feet of this property, ensuring a more desirable experience for hikers.

The addition of the Elk Mountain Meadow property to the Parkway will help increase the connectivity of protected lands in the area to preserve the natural corridor while ensuring a forested buffer along this section of the MST. Conserving land along the Blue Ridge Parkway also enhances the landscape’s resilience to our changing climate by providing protected places where ecological diversity can resist damage and migrate safely to more hospitable areas.

“Protection of properties like this contributes to the integrity of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which attracts millions of visitors to the High Country each year. The addition of the Elk Mountain Meadow property also enhances the experience of hikers along this section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail on the outskirts of Boone.

“Conserving more land is so important to the future of our country” said the previous owner who sold the property to CTNC in 2017.

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has now conserved 76 properties on the Blue Ridge Parkway, totaling 34,779 acres.

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Stella’s Acres Joins Another CTNC-Protected Parkway Property

A Full Circle Moment for Blue Ridge Parkway Land Protection

In June, CTNC secured another 36 acres of pristine protected views along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The property known as Stella’s Acres abuts the very first property CTNC ever conveyed to the Blue Ridge Parkway – our 22-acre Redbank Cove property, donated to the National Park Service in 1997.

This new plot lies along Timberlane Road, just northeast of Balsam in Haywood County. The tract adjoins the Parkway at milepost 442. Protection of the land will enlarge the protected habitat connection between the Parkway and the 328-acre Haywood County Community College conservation easement property.

“We are thrilled to announce this success and look forward to celebrating the transfer of the property to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the very near future. We are especially grateful for the generosity of the land donors and the support of National Park Service staff, without whom we could not carry out this important work,” said Rusty Painter, CTNC Land Protection Director.

This land holds ecological value, protects clean water, and augments climate solutions to Western North Carolina communities.

A stream originating on the property flows into Richland Creek, which continues into the Town of Waynesville through a municipal park and Richland Creek Greenway. Protection of this headwater stream further ensures clean water from the source to communities downstream. Furthermore, protecting headwater streams helps mitigate the impacts of downstream flooding during heavy rain events.

This is a value add for climate mitigation as the property’s mature hardwood forest allows for carbon sequestration from the atmosphere and protection of carbon stored in the soil. Additionally, CTNC’s protection of the property expands protected acreage along the Parkway’s south-to-north habitat migration corridor, enabling plants and animals to escape to northern latitudes with cooler climates.

CTNC’s partnership with the National Park Service ensures long-lasting preservation of an iconic area of our state.

Millions of visitors to the Parkway (locals and tourists) will benefit from protection of scenic properties like Stella’s Acres and others like it. The property is visible from the Parkway, especially while driving north from Balsam Gap Overlook, as most of the tract rises upslope from the Parkway toward the ridge of Wesner Bald. At its closest point, the property is as little as 320 feet from the Parkway motor road. The property is also highly visible from a nearby section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. While not accessible by public transportation, the Blue Ridge Parkway is free to all visitors, unlike many national parks that charge user fees. Public access to nature is always a value add.

Thank you to the National Park Service, previous landowners Charles & Donna Bryan, and our corporate donor for making this project possible. The property will be donated to the National Park Service in the next few years.

This is the 76th property CTNC has protected along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Still, more is needed, as most land visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway is privately owned with no land use restrictions, leaving it vulnerable to destructive land uses that can compromise the scenic views that attract millions of visitors each year.

Join us in this effort to conserve vital land in an effort to build resilience for communities in Western North Carolina.

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.

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