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Over 1,000 acres protected by our partners

Protecting North Carolina’s land is a partnership. It takes many organizations coming together to seize opportunities to preserve natural spaces for the health of our state.

One way CTNC facilitates permanent land protection in Western North Carolina is through our Mountain Revolving Loan Fund small grant program. This fund allows land trusts to secure funds for critical, transaction-related expenses that are not always covered by other sources.

This year, CTNC provided six grants to five land trusts totaling over $83,000:

  • Blue Ridge Conservancy
  • Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina
  • Highlands Conservancy
  • Mainspring Conservation Trust
  • Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

This investment will help protect and manage 1,013 acres of land in Western North Carolina.

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

  1. First, it provides 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.
  2. 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.

These grants are made possible by generous CTNC donors Fred and Alice Stanback. Your investments make a lasting impact on communities across our state. Together we are building a more resilient state.

If you are interested in supporting lasting conservation impacts, please contact a member of our team.

Public Lands Day 2022 Honors Efforts to Protect Waterrock Knob, Stewards and Partners

In late September, Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) joined National Park Service leaders along with representatives from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and numerous partners in land conservation to celebrate the work to protect the Blue Ridge Parkway and Waterrock Knob.

We joined our partners from The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Blue Ridge Conservancy, Conserving Carolina, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Piedmont Land Conservancy, Mainspring Conservation Trust, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and others to celebrate the historic and current stewardship of the important natural and cultural resources along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the generous donors who make it possible.

In 2016, land trust partners announced a large-scale protection effort that would ultimately expand Waterrock Knob conservation area by over 5,300 acres. To date, conservation partners acquired and donated nearly 3,400 acres to the National Park Service. More properties are slated for transfer to the park over the coming months.

The addition of all the new land now enables NPS to prepare a new strategic vision for the greatly expanded Waterrock Knob area. These lands are part of a larger set of 16 separate tracts being donated to NPS by the nonprofit groups thanks to long-term support from major private and public funding sources, including Fred and Alice Stanback and the North Carolina Land and Water Fund. Five of the 16 have already been donated by CTNC, bringing the total number of properties donated to the Blue Ridge Parkway by CTNC to 29, dating back to 1997!

Waterrock Knob is located at milepost 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and features views of a vast landscape of rare Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests visible from the visitor center and 6,273-foot summit. It is one of the highest visitor centers along the Blue Ridge Parkway and one of the most critically biodiverse landscapes in the Eastern United States. Elk, rare salamanders, flying squirrels, and high-elevation spruce-fir forests all inhabit the area, which is also home to rich Cherokee history.

“Approaching the protection of Waterrock Knob area from a large-scale conservation perspective requires partners and communities to share a recognition that healthy ecosystems, vibrant communities and economies, cultural heritage, and local sense of place are best protected at a landscape level,” said Tracy Swartout, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent. “The National Park Service is privileged to work alongside our partners in this work, and we look forward to how these lands will enhance and enrich the Blue Ridge Parkway experience for generations to come.”

National Public Lands Day, established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship, and encourages use of open space for education, recreation, and health benefits.

Learn more about this event.

Sharing NC Conservation Wins at Rally

Alongside our partners in Princeville, we’re carving a new future to meaningfully engage and empower people to respond to climate-related disasters by rebuilding or adapting in ways that make them stronger and prepared for future challenges.

Together, we were able to share the success of this partnership with national audiences at the national Land Trust Rally in New Orleans, LA. The Town of Princeville’s Dr. Glenda Knight, Commissioner Linda Joyner and Historical Outreach Coordinator Kelsi Dew presented alongside the Open Space Institute’s Hallie Schwab, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey’s Barbara Davis and CTNC’s Mary Alice Holley. Each speaker presented creative and varied approaches being implemented to deal with increased rainfall and flooding while developing place-based solutions for climate resilience.

Watch this video to see their work in action.

These partnerships demonstrate the power of land conservation to mitigate flooding and equip communities with the tools to harness nature for community benefit when rebuilding and protecting against climate-related disasters. Sharing our experiences with land trusts from across the nation inspires more organizations to implement similar conservation strategies to address climate impacts.

Together, we’re building a national model for how conservation organizations, municipalities, and community partners can work collaboratively to build more resilient communities.

“Later this year, the Land Trust Alliance is launching a series of trainings on how land trusts can improve climate resilience in their communities. It will focus on exploring and expanding their water-focused work through a process outlined in our recently released water quality guide, “Taking the Plunge”. The collaboration between these land trusts and community partners undoubtedly encouraged more organizations to participate in this programming. More importantly, their examples are already serving as aspirational “North stars” for many as they start to navigate this intricate and difficult area of work.” Andrew B. Szwak, AICP (he|him|his), Land Trust Alliance, Mid-Atlantic Program Manager

It’s your support that made these impacts possible. Only with staunch support can our organization find new ways to carve a path to an equitable and secure future for climate-vulnerable communities.

Resilience Corps NC celebrates new partnerships

The Resilience Corps NC program recently launched its latest cohort of service members who will work in communities to deliver climate change, community resilience, capacity building, and environmental education services to host sites across the state. In order to make this the most successful year yet, CTNC has added and promoted staff, and welcomed 17 service members including four who have returned for their second year of service.

Here’s where our 2022-23 Corps members are serving:

Balsam Mountain Trust
Emily Taylor
Cape Fear River Watch
Kristen Rhodes
El Futuro
Maiya Garrett-Peters

Eno River Association
Audrey Vaughn

Grandfather Mountain
Stewardship Foundation
Elizabeth Warfield

Highlands-Cashiers
Land Trust
Hope Corbin

Keeping Charlotte Beautiful
Lance Nathaniel

Keeping Durham Beautiful
Eleanor Dilworth

Meals on Wheels Durham
Lula Zeray

North Carolina Coastal
Land Trust
Madison Woodard
Bryce Tholen

North Carolina Zoo
Grace Sigmon
Mawadda Al-Masri
Sabrinah Hartsell

Piedmont Triad
Regional Council
Haley Bock

The Regional Stormwater
Partnership of the Carolinas
Kelly Hendrix (Norris)

Triangle J Council of Governments
Taylor Weddington

Read about more of our staffing and member updates below!

This year, Nick DiColandrea returns to CTNC in a new role – Climate Strategies Officer. In this new position, Nick will work with the leadership team to ensure Resilience Corps NC members are addressing community capacity and climate change challenges in all communities we serve. Learn more about Nick and why he’s committed to addressing climate change through CTNC’s mission and partnerships.

Please join us in extending congratulations to Michaella Kosia, who was recently promoted to AmeriCorps Program Director. Michaella will lead the Resilience Corps NC program by supporting host site supervisors and their members coordinating trainings, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability. Michaella brings to this role a unique public health background where she worked to address health disparities amongst marginalized communities. Our partners and members are excited to work with Michaella in this new leadership role. Get to know Michaella and her passion for community-focused service work.

Credit: Bisi Cameron Yee

As part of our commitment to working alongside community partners to achieve resilience, CTNC and the Environmental Defense Fund will sponsor three additional members to work with community leaders with the Town of Princeville, the Lumbee Indian Tribal Council in Lumberton, and The Orchard at Altapass in Little Switzerland. These members will be focused on increasing community capacity, supporting local food systems through community gardening, and engaging in community outreach through a lens of climate change and land stewardship. Learn more about our Resilience Corps NC program.

Resilience Corps NC is still recruiting for the 2022-23 cohort!

Click here to explore opportunities and learn how to apply.

A Conservation Celebration

We had a great time at this year’s Conservation Celebration at Gideon Ridge Inn, raising more than $22,000 dollars in support of CTNC’s work. That’s more than double what was raised in 2021! This year, we also had more than 29 total event sponsors, the largest number of event sponsors we’ve had!

The owners of the beautiful Gideon Ridge Inn, Cobb and Cindy Milner, generously donated the food and beverage, staff time, and the use of their inn for this year’s fundraiser. As always, they were amazing hosts and we appreciate their time and effort to make this event memorable.

We were so very fortunate to have CTNC President, Brandon Robinson, and CTNC Executive Director, Chris Canfield, share with us an update on CTNC’s work and how the money raised during the event supports it. Proceeds from the celebration will help us continue our work to build resilient communities here in North Carolina.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for your support and we hope to see you all next year!

A special note of appreciation to this year’s sponsors – we couldn’t do this work without your support.

2022 Conservation Celebration Sponsors!

Patron Sponsors
Jo Scott Dorsett
Cobb & Cindy Milner
Tom & Susan Ross
Julia Truelove
Joe & Tina Vrabel
John & Ashley Wilson

Host Sponsors
Chip Anderson
Anna Neal Blanchard
Philip & Langley Borneman
Dodd Haynes & Clara Martinez Haynes
Ray Owens & Sally Higgins
Megg & Robert Rader
Kelley Russell
John & Marguerite Stanback
Walter & Jean Wilkinson

Supporter Sponsors
Kathy Hamilton Gore & Lucian Stamper
Juliana Henderson
Mark Kirkpatrick & Debbie Arnold
Hamp & Katty Lefler
Bill & Cindy Leslie
Mozine Lowe
Pat Mauldin
Margaret J. Newbold and Liz Watson
Alton Perry
Marc Rudow & Deborah Miles
Lisa & Aidan Waite
William & Judy Watson

Climate Resilience Leaders – Nick DiColandrea

Nick DiColandrea isn’t new to CTNC. For six years, he served as the Resilience Corps NC Program Director. In 2022, he returned to a new role – Climate Strategies Officer, a position that still involves him with AmeriCorps. He works to connect AmeriCorps service opportunities to communities in need of expanded climate mitigation and recovery capacities.

This work builds on his extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, holding positions across multiple organizations dedicated to community capacity building, youth leadership, mentoring, and community service. His free time activities focused on service also follow this theme: Board Treasurer of the Museum of Life in Science in Durham, the school PTA as VP of Fundraising & Volunteer Chair, and as Board Treasurer of his neighborhood’s HOA.

When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change?
I probably realized we were living in a climate-change-affected world a few years ago when we stopped getting annual snow storms of any significance in North Carolina. Having grown up here since the late 1990s, I distinctly remember colder and wetter winters, and even during my time in college. However, over the last 10 years, I can trace the lack of an actual winter now, and how it has happened more times in the lives of my children than my entire life in the state.

How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina?
When the state was hit by multiple hurricanes over 2016 and 2017, I got to see firsthand, and still do to this day, the impacts these more frequent hurricanes are causing people down east. Working with other disaster relief partners, I have heard stories about how even years later people are living in homes not yet fully restored and families permanently displaced outside of our state. These devastating disasters will occur more frequently and are going to result in a state we may seldom recognize in the decades to come.

What does climate resilience mean to you?
Climate resilience is helping communities be able to bounce back stronger after the climate crisis hits their homes. It means assisting standing communities’ economies back up, working with families suffering from the loss of their community, or developing plans or actions that will lead to quicker recovery through mitigation. It essentially means being there for people in their communities who will suffer from climate change.

What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action?
That no matter how small your action is, it will make a difference. We do not affect meaningful changes with just big ticket items on climate action, but that light you turn off, that conversation with your best friend or that walk to take to the store instead of the drive, all add up in profound ways to address climate change.

What are actions that organizations in NC can do right now to make our state more resilient?
Be a part of the conversations around resilience in your community. Find where your mission niche is and see how it connects to environmental and community resilience, and then dig in and get to work. Mitigating and surviving the climate crisis is not going to be solved alone by environmental organizations, and it is going to take everyone in the community being a part of this work in the years ahead.

Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going?
Lots of coffee and lots of positive thinking. I take more mental health breaks now, sitting for quick meditation moments, and stopping more to unplug from the work and just enjoy being.

Big Budget Win for Conservation

Gov. Cooper and Legislators Invest in NC Public Lands

Our state legislators kept their promise of a short legislative session this year. There were wins and losses that stand to impact our work to protect North Carolina communities and build their resilience in the face of climate change.

WIN:
The legislature passed a budget with the Governor’s signature that made significant increases to our state’s conservation trust funds. As a result, annual recurring funding of $48.4 million to the state’s conservation trust funds will increase resources for CTNC and other organizations to continue their work.

Specifically, the budget increases recurring funding for the North Carolina Land and Water Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to $24.2 million each. A major win for protecting our parks, air and water.

The budget also continues to invest in climate resilience for communities across the state by maintaining hundreds of millions of dollars in funding previously allocated to build out a statewide flood resilience plan and begin community-driven natural infrastructure projects.

WORK TO BE DONE:
Despite last-minute heroics by our legislative champions and you, our conservation advocates, House Bill 367 – Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act did not advance this session. While extremely disappointing, it is important to remember that bills as complex as the heirs’ property bill are rarely passed in a single legislative session. We will continue to work with other members of the NC Heirs Property Coalition to educate lawmakers of the importance of passing reforms that protect family-owned land throughout North Carolina. Thanks to everyone who helped in ways big and small. It was truly a team effort.

Our state leaders heard your voice and support. Thank you for moving our state forward to enable people to build resilient communities. We look forward to continuing to advocate for strong conservation policies on behalf of our community partners and advocates like you.

Climate Resilience Leaders – Michaella Kosia

Michaella Kosia, AmeriCorps Program Director, comes to CTNC from an unexpected field: public health. She graduated from East Carolina University with a B.S. in Public Health and her background comes from other areas of public health, such as addressing health disparities amongst marginalized communities in community health.

She’s bringing her unique perspective to CTNC by supporting our Resilience Corps NC host sites and members during their service term by coordinating training, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability.

When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change?
I probably first realized the real and present impacts of climate change back in the early 2000s. I remember Al Gore bringing attention to global warming. As a child, I didn’t realize the severity of it until years later, into adulthood. Because I’m a naturally curious person, I decided to begin educating myself on environmental issues such as global warming and the effects of climate change. Once I stepped into this area of awareness, I started to notice the changes in weather patterns. Now, it has been over 20 years since I was exposed to the topic and it has unfortunately worsened over time. I wish our country would have taken it more seriously earlier by being more proactive.

How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina?
With North Carolina being a coastal state, hurricane season in NC has become more active and it’s occurring earlier. Water levels are rising with more flooding on the coast, summers are extremely hot, and I even read that sharks are migrating closer to our shores due to the waters getting warmer.

What does climate resilience mean to you?
To me, resilience can be seeded through education on climate change, spreading awareness through that knowledge, supporting organizations who are focused on making a change and voting for elected officials who explicitly support addressing the climate crisis.

What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action?
It takes all of us! Although our individual efforts are necessary, we can truly move mountains as a collective.

What are actions that organizations in NC can do right now to make our state more resilient?

  • Make sure to include marginalized communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. I’ve observed that marginalized populations such as Black, Indigenous People of Color, immigrants, and those with special needs/disabilities tend to be left out of the conversation when they are experiencing higher/damaging levels of climate change. This can be done by having educational material in other languages, partnering with other organizations within said communities, making the educational material accessible (braille for those visually impaired, audible for those hard of hearing) etc.
  • Implement more options for staff in these organizations to work from home. Working from home would save on gasoline and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Implement more educational programs about climate change in our schools. Like Whitney Houston said, “..the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”. We always want to leave the world better than we found it and this can be done through the next generations.

Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going?

I do my best to prioritize my mental health whenever I feel overwhelmed. Walking our local trails, practicing mindfulness, eating well, and being intentional about spending time with friends and family.

Want to connect with Michaella? Email her.

Preventing Involuntary Land Loss: Uniform Act Helps NC Families

In North Carolina, an estimated $1.86 billion of land privately owned in North Carolina is held as heirs’ property. Heirs’ property occurs when land is passed down through generations and owned by many descendants with an undivided interest in the land.

Currently, in our state, anyone who inherits or purchases even a small interest of heirs’ property can potentially force other owners to sell against their will, often for well below fair market value. Owners of family-owned properties are vulnerable to involuntary land loss resulting from forced partition action proceedings.

Right now, a uniform bill is being adopted by state legislators across the Eastern United States. Enacting the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) in North Carolina will address how current state laws leave landowners of heirs’ property vulnerable to involuntary land loss and provide a path to prevent future loss.

The North Carolina General Assembly is considering adoption of the bill in an effort to safeguard families from forced sales and provide them with greater access to building generational wealth through land equity.

The UPHPA will:

  • give families a solid chance at keeping the land in the family when one or more owners wants to divide or sell the land through a partition action.
  • allow more time for families to make thoughtful decisions about how to sell their land. All members would get the first right of refusal – the contractual right to enter into a business transaction with a person or company before anyone else can.
  • create protections for the family to gain fair market value for their land.
  • reduce the burden of county clerks by providing a standardized procedure to follow when a heirs’ property is up for sale.

Brandon A. Robinson, CTNC Board President, is an estate planning and corporate law attorney practicing in North Carolina. Below, he shares how the Uniform Act and other resources will provide support to families seeking to stop forced sales that result in land loss.

Heirs’ property is a problem that derives largely from either inadequate or nonexistent legally binding documents that clearly state ownership and heirs’ rights. Heirs’ property is created when land is inherited without a clear title or documented legal ownership. While heirs’ property can impact any family when a landowner dies without a will or trust, this problem disproportionately impacts Black and rural families who have historically lacked either the access to high-quality legal services, or a willingness to avail themselves of such services.

Under North Carolina law, just one concurrent owner can initiate a partition proceeding, which usually results in either the physical partition, or the forced sale, of the land, depending on what the Clerk of Superior Court finds to be the most equitable solution. For example, if you are a developer, you can entice just one family heir to sell his/her stake to you and force a sale of the entire property. This happened to a family of color in Raleigh. The family had ownership of a plot of land that was rural Wake County when purchased in the 1940s. Over the years, the property had been rezoned and became more valuable as the capital city sprawled. Unfortunately, the family fell prey to a land developer who bought one heir’s interest for nominal consideration and forced a sale through a partition proceeding. The developer gained title to its initial fractional share for well below fair market value, yet reaped a windfall when the other heirs could not buy out the developer in order to keep their family land; the result was that the developer gained full control of family legacy property that could then be sold or developed for value many times greater than what the developer paid.

If the Uniform Act were to be adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly, the developer would have been preempted in favor of providing family heirs a first right of refusal, and even if a sale did eventually occur through the partition process the family would have a better chance to realize fair market value for the property, based on enforcement tools at the Clerk of Superior Court’s discretion. This would allow all families to have access to clear rules and protections of their land. This offers a way to empower marginalized people who do not have the same access to power and resources to stop a forced sale.

Adopting a Uniform Act Will Give NC Families the Best Path Toward Resolution

Alton Perry, CTNC Board Member, is a Forest Management-Land Retention Consultant with the Roanoke Electric Cooperative. He works with landowners to sustainably manage their property through agriculture, forestry, and revenue generation. Below, he shares how the Uniform Act can be a tool to protect families from forced sales that result in land loss.

The UPHPA intent is to ensure due and equitable process of heirs’ property disputes. Many organizations, attorneys, and community-based organizations offer legal assistance to heirs’ property owners. North Carolina legislators and clerks of court, aided by the process created by the Uniform Act, could offer solutions to families and reduce land lost to forced sales, by referring heirs’ property owners to these resources, therefore reducing the number of cases that would result in a forced partition action.

Heirs’ Property Rights is a problem that cuts across rural and urban divides. All families with multigenerational roots could wrestle with these problems. This legislation brings basic fairness, protection of ownership, and a clear and streamlined process for land ownership and land transfers to our state. This helps all people – white owners, marginalized urban populations, and descendants of enslaved people in the South. This will benefit all of North Carolina.

Ways to get involved.

CTNC views the adoption of the Uniform Act as an integral part of our mission to build resilient and just communities through conservation solutions. Without a clear path to prove or resolve ownership of land, NC families lose the ability to leverage their land for conservation and economic value or to access federal relief funds after disasters.

As a member of the CTNC community, we hope you will stand with us to advocate for smart conservation policies that allow every North Carolinian to benefit from conservation and have the tools to build communities that are resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Read more:

Climate Resilience Leaders – Rusty Painter

Photo of Staff Member Rusty Painter

Rusty Painter’s Master of Environmental Management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University wasn’t the end of his connection to the school and the future of climate protection. He returns each year to present to classes on a variety of topics, from CTNC’s strategic approach to address climate change and more. “I’m motivated by my son and future generations, from whom we are all ‘borrowing’ this planet.”

His background and his master’s degree in forestry are invaluable as Land Protection Director for CTNC. Rusty joined the CTNC family in 2001. He oversees CTNC’s land protection efforts along the Blue Ridge Parkway and our collaborative partnerships with local land trusts. Recent successes include the preservation of the Florence Boyd Home / Asutsi Trailhead Property, and the Cranberry Creek Expansion project, both of which will be transferred to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Rusty Painter tours the Florence Boyd/Asutsi Trailhead property with Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Swartout, Chloe Ochocki, & Caitlin Markus (L to R).

When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change?
The concept of global warming due to the greenhouse effect made sense to me the first time I heard about it, but I guess I really grasped the severity of the problem when Al Gore’s book An Inconvenient Truth came out. What a shame that our political, social and economic systems continued to drive us down this path. Think how much progress could have been made over the last 30 years had we committed to solving the problem back then.

What does climate resilience mean to you?
Adaptation using a combination of evolution and technology – applying our experience, and projections based on sound science to adapt to our changing climate. We must realize that adaptation isn’t the only path forward. Humans must commit themselves to actions that will minimize the need to adapt, or the extent to which we must adapt.

How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina?
One example that I struggle with in my work at CTNC is the expansion of tick habitat. I never used to get ticks while visiting our conservation properties along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but climatic shifts have enabled ticks to colonize areas that were previously too cold, so I’m now getting ticks while out on properties in the mountains. Yuck!

What are actions that organizations in NC can take right now to make our state more resilient?
Conserve energy. Simply using less results in immediate reductions of carbon emissions and has the potential to save far more resources (of all kinds) than our slow, incremental conversion to renewable energy sources. I challenge everyone to consider every action they take throughout the day and do it with half of what they currently use. You’ll find it’s not as difficult as you think. That approach can be applied to most organizations, corporations and government agencies as well. Once ingrained in our psyche, daily routines, organizational procedures, and subsequently, our infrastructure, carbon neutrality on a timeline that will make a difference becomes legitimately achievable.

What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action?
It’s up to all of us to change our mindset and daily routines, but also to support groups doing good work, and electing leaders committed to making the difficult decisions & changes we must make.

Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going?
I remain optimistic because of the resilience of the human spirit and advancements in technology. Organisms change and adapt…daily, yearly, and over generations. Humans have evolved to the point where we can adapt naturally, like other species, but also use technology to ‘artificially’ adapt. I just hope society is willing to change sooner rather than later, so future generations don’t have to rely on artificial adaptations that will diminish our connection to the natural world.

If you have questions about how CTNC’s land protection enhances climate resilience, contact Rusty to start a conversation.

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