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Advocating for Smart Conservation Policies

CTNC’s 2022 Policy Agenda

Conservation can provide solutions to many challenges facing our communities. Through innovative conservation strategies, we can build places to hold excess water after storms, protect trees that absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and offer places for people to relax for their mental and physical health.

In 2021, North Carolina legislators voted to spend nearly $200 million to support efforts that will allow our state to become more resilient to climate change. We urge our state leaders to repeat this important investment in our state’s natural resources. Only with smart conservation policies will we successfully build resilient communities that are prepared to weather any storm.

CTNC’s Policy Goals include:

  • Increase public funding for land acquisition, park maintenance, trail construction, and recreation access
  • Empower communities to invest in flood-resilient strategies
  • Prevent involuntary land loss caused by forced partition sales of heirs property
  • Build capacity within communities through AmeriCorps and other service opportunities

These goals will guide our work with policymakers and legislators for the years to come and key outcomes will prepare our state for whatever comes next.

INCREASING FUNDING FOR CONSERVATION
CTNC supports the continued funding of the conservation trust funds as recommended by Land for Tomorrow. We hope to work with members of the General Assembly to increase recurring funding for the state’s conservation trust funds and state agencies. Read more about the legislative priorities set by members of Land for Tomorrow.

As a member of the Great Trails State Coalition, CTNC will continue to work with members of the General Assembly to bring the economic, health, and environmental benefits of trails to North Carolina communities.

Read more about the legislative priorities set by members of the Great Trails State Coalition.

EMPOWERING RESILIENT COMMUNITIES
North Carolina communities need greater investments, increased capacity, and a cadre of service-minded people to be successful in implementing the recommendations of Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80 and Climate Risk and Resilience Plan. CTNC will advocate for the funding and resources that provide every community with the opportunity to benefit from AmeriCorps service that builds capacity and finds innovative conservation solutions to address the issue of climate change. Learn more about Resilience Corps NC.

Land trusts can lead the way in addressing the impacts of climate change and flood risk. Alongside the Land Trust Alliance, CTNC will promote policies and funding that advance natural climate solutions while supporting the protection, restoration and stewardship of open and working lands that increase climate resilience. Read more about Land Trust Alliance’s policy priorities.

PREVENTING INVOLUNTARY LAND LOSS
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. The UPHPA will help families by giving them 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. Currently, the North Carolina General Assembly is considering adoption of the bill that would safeguard families from forced sales through partition action. Read more about the NC Heirs Property Coalition and our effort to adopt the Uniform Act for NC families and landowners.

It All Starts with Collaboration to Seed Better Outcomes
CTNC is committed to participating in coalitions to find a better future for our state. Our team is active members of Land for Tomorrow, the Great Trails State Coalition, and the NC Heirs Property Coalition, Conservation Trust for NC. These coalitions advocate for smart conservation policies and adequate funding on behalf of our members, community partners, and collaborative projects.

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

Seeds of Climate Resilience: Rain Gardens

“Seeds of Climate Resilience” is a blog series to inspire ideas to help our state weather our changing climate. We can protect our families, economies, and the environment. The seeds of change planted today will help communities thrive for generations to come.

Rain gardens offer an attractive and effective solution to address flooding and increased rainfall on a property.

According to the North Carolina State Climate Office,

Heavy rains from hurricanes and other weather systems will become more frequent and intense. Annual precipitation is also expected to increase. These changes are driven primarily by increases in atmospheric water vapor as the climate warms. Extreme rainfall in North Carolina can result from hurricanes, Nor’easters, or other weather systems like thunderstorms. Severe thunderstorms are also likely to increase in a warming climate and can cause flash flooding, especially in urban areas.

https://climate.ncsu.edu/learn/climate-change/

Water containment will be increasingly important as our communities in low-lying areas or near lakes, rivers, and streams see rising waters and flooding.

What is a rain garden?
A rain garden has grasses, flowers, and shrubs that can survive in water-soaked soil after a rainstorm. Rain gardens are located in the low points of yards so that the water that runs off of roofs or driveways can be directed towards the rain garden. After the storm, the soil and plants absorb the rain, and the area dries out quickly.

A rain garden is NOT a wetland, a place for mosquitos to thrive, or difficult to maintain long-term. This garden area is dry to lightly moist most of the time. And it is naturally beautiful!

How does it help mitigate climate change?
As our climate changes, communities are experiencing more frequent and severe rainfall and greater swings between rains and drought. Creating permeable spaces designed to capture water benefits plants, wildlife, people, and the built environment.

If rainwater has nowhere else to go, it will often result in flooding or standing water. However, if rainwater is captured where it lands, it can promote healthy plants and sustainable ecosystems that provide a conservation benefit to nearby residents.

Supporting habitat: Rain gardens capture and store water after heavy rainfall. The water is held in the garden area, absorbed by the water-loving plants, and naturally filtered back into the soil.

Managing stormwater: Any water that does not infiltrate the groundwater then moves through a canal, ditch, drain, or pipeline until it reaches a larger body of water such as a river, pond, or wetland area.

Rainwater is not treated at a facility to remove pollutants before entering larger waterways. This means that rain gardens are essential to help naturally filter the water that passes through them.

This process allows communities to better manage heavy amounts of rainfall and stormwater by slowing it down and using natural spaces to provide an added layer of filtration before the water reaches your home.

North Carolina Success Story: Princeville Elementary School
After Hurricane Matthew devastated Princeville Elementary School in 2016, students had to go to schools in surrounding communities for three years until their school could be renovated and flood-proofed. Finally, in 2020, the Princeville Elementary School welcomed back its almost 200 students.

As part of a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo Resilient Communities Program, CTNC worked with local organizations to install rain gardens at the school to capture and redirect water. Today, the gardens work to protect the school from excess water. The gardens were designed by the NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab and installed by volunteers from Conservation Corps NC, CTNC, NC State, M&M Landscaping Co. and residents of Princeville.

Learn more about our work in Princeville.

How can citizens help build a rain garden in your community?
This article from NC State has great tips to bring this climate adaptation strategy to your community:
“Why Your Yard Might Need a Rain Garden”

SOURCE: Rain Water Guide developed by NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab

Are You Ready to Go Upstream?

Learn all about a new initiative to keep water sources around the Triangle safe and useable!

It’s because of clean water that small businesses can thrive, local farms are nourished and, above all, we all have clean water to use, drink and play in. So, how can we ensure it remains clean? To answer that, we have to look upstream.

Whether you need water to wash your dog or to have a nice refreshing drink, the one thing we all know is that our water needs to be clean. Clean water is a vital part of our everyday lives and through Upstream Matters, we can bring greater awareness to Raleigh’s water sources so we can keep it safe and clean for our communities. One of these water sources comes from the Upper Neuse River Basin, and making sure it’s well protected keeps our water clean for eating, drinking and playing.

Thankfully, there are programs and partnerships like the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative that work with local and state governmental agencies and landowners to keep our water clean and healthy.

Thanks to City of Raleigh water ratepayers, an average of about 57 cents of their water utility bill goes toward funding those programs that ensure our water remains clean.

Regardless of what your use for water is, you can be assured there are organizations actively working together to keep the upstream clean – and together we can continue to make it possible for them.

To learn more about why Upstream Matters, visit upstreammatters.org.

Upstream Matters is a collaborative campaign made possible by the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative partners including Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Eno River Association, The Conservation Fund, and Triangle Land Conservancy. 

Thunder Hill Overlook, Watauga County

CTNC Acquires 229-acre Thunder Hill Overlook Property

Conserved land will impact clean drinking water for nearly 1 million North Carolinians downstream of the Yadkin River headwaters

Thunder Hill Overlook, a 229-acre tract of land on the outskirts of Blowing Rock, N.C., will be permanently free from subdivision, development and logging after being acquired by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC). CTNC plans to donate the Watauga County property to the National Park Service (NPS) for incorporation in the Blue Ridge Parkway park boundary.

The Thunder Hill Overlook property is highly visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway between mileposts 290 and 291, and can be viewed from both the Thunder Hill and Yadkin Valley overlooks. This is a significant acquisition for the region with numerous unnamed streams and Martin Branch, one of the primary streams forming the headwaters of the Yadkin River.

“As the surrounding towns of Boone and Blowing Rock continue to grow, conserving parcels of this significance is increasingly important. The land not only supports significant wildlife habitat, but also holds the headwaters of the Yadkin River, a water system that supplies provides drinking water to almost one million North Carolinans across 21 counties and 93 municipalities,” said CTNC Executive Director Chris Canfield.

CTNC’s purchase of the property was made possible by a generous price reduction offered by the sellers, Howard B. Arbuckle lll, Corinne Harper Arbuckle Allen, Anne McPherson Harper Bernhardt, Lee Corinne Harper Vason, Mary Gwyn Harper Addison, and Albert F. Shelander, Jr., heir of Betty Banks Harper Shelander, and significant contributions from a number of private donors including Fred & Alice Stanback and other local conservation enthusiasts.

Finley Gwyn Harper, Sr., was born in 1880 near Patterson, Caldwell County, in the scenic Happy Valley area of North Carolina. He grew up in his birthplace with his 5 siblings, and, except for time spent earning his college degree in Raleigh (now N.C. State University), he lived his entire life within 25 miles of Patterson. His grandfather had given land for the founding of Lenoir and many descendants were active in the business, civic, and social activities of northwestern North Carolina. In 1905 when he was 25 years old, Gwyn Harper, Sr., acquired the first of several tracts which form the Harper lands in Blackberry Valley. Two years later, he married Corinne Henkel who also grew up in Happy Valley and Lenoir. Through the years he continued to purchase additional adjoining parcels, some of which were original land grants from the state. The last deeds for his assemblage are dated in the late 1940’s shortly before his death in 1951. Gwyn Harper, Sr., and his wife, Corinne, loved the rolling hills, rivers, ridges, valleys and views of the Blowing Rock area. Their story reflects the sentiments of the extended family who also have treasured these pristine mountain lands and waters. The direct descendants of F. Gwyn Harper, Sr., have continued to hold his acreage for 68 years since his death.

“We, the current owners, are pleased and humbly grateful to convey the Harper lands to the Conservation Trust for North Carolina for protection by the National Park Service as a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway while also providing permanent protection to wildlife and water quality in this beautiful region of western North Carolina,” the sellers shared in a joint statement. “We express our sincere, heartfelt thanks to the Piedmont Land Conservancy, Foothills Conservancy, and, in particular, Conservation Trust for North Carolina for working cooperatively, collaboratively, and professionally to make preserving this unique property a reality.”

For more information on Blue Ridge Parkway land protection efforts visit protecttheblueridgeparkway.org.

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Conservation Trust for North Carolina works to inspire and enable people to build resilient, just communities throughout our state. We work to conserve land that enhances climate resilience, provides a community benefit, and seeds equity and inclusion in conservation. More information about CTNC is available at www.ctnc.org or @ct4nc on Facebook and Twitter.

For media inquiries related to this project please contact Communications Director Mary Alice Holley.

1,000-Acre Conservation Project Promises Clean Water and Pristine Parkway Views

Wildacres Retreat, a 1,076-acre property adjacent to Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway, is now permanently protected thanks to a collaborative partnership among Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), and Wildacres Retreat.

Wildacres Retreat, located in northern McDowell County near Little Switzerland, is a nonprofit conference center governed by a board of directors. The center offers its facilities and surrounding woodlands to nonprofit groups for educational and cultural programming, and for board and staff retreats.

The property is protected under two conservation easements. A state-held Clean Water Management Trust Fund easement will protect stream buffers and critical natural heritage areas, while a second easement held by Conservation Trust for North Carolina will preserve a key portion of forested lands connected to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. Together, the easements will safeguard wildlife habitat and protect water quality in five miles of streams of the Armstrong Creek watershed in the headwaters of the Catawba River.  Foothills Conservancy will monitor and steward these conservation easements on a contractual basis.

“Protection of these lands fills in a very important piece of the puzzle to permanently conserve extensive forests and habitats in the very high-quality Armstrong Creek watershed of the Catawba,” said Tom Kenney, Land Protection Director for Foothills Conservancy. “Wildacres adjoins a Wildlife Resources Commission fish hatchery and more than 10,000 acres of federal Pisgah National Forest Service lands. All this conservation helps ensure Lake James has a very clean water supply protection source.”

There are nearly six miles of hiking trails on the property for public use, including one trail into the property from Deer Lick Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The project was primarily funded by a $1 million grant from North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded to Foothills Conservancy and a $26,000 donation from Philip Blumenthal, director of Wildacres Retreat. In addition, CTNC secured a Duke Water Resources grant, $50,000 grant from the Cannon Foundation, a $100,000 grant from the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, and $177,240 from the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which is made possible with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Resilient Landscapes Initiative seeks to build the capacity of land trusts working to respond to climate change. A grant of $34,779 from the Duke Energy Water Resources Fund, administered by the NC Community Foundation enabled CTNC to pay off a loan secured to purchase the easements.

Clean Water Management Trust Fund Executive Director Walter Clark described the organization’s reasons for contributing to the project to conserve what he calls an “incredible piece of property.”

“The Clean Water Management Trust Fund supported the Wildacres project for multiple reasons, including its protection of five miles of high-quality trout waters, which contain headwater streams in the Catawba River Basin,” said Clark. “The project also protects multiple forest communities important to North Carolina’s natural heritage.” Since its establishment in 1996, Clean Water Management Trust Fund has protected over 500,000 acres, including 2,500 miles of streams.

“The Wildacres Retreat property has been among CTNC and Foothills Conservancy’s highest priority projects for years,” said Rusty Painter, CTNC Land Protection Director. “Conserving its ecologically diverse habitat between the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest achieves the type of landscape-scale conservation that’s one goal of our Blue Ridge Parkway conservation plan. Successes like this would not be possible without the commitment of champions like Philip Blumenthal and the Wildacres Retreat Board of Directors.”

Blumenthal added, “It’s been a long-term goal of the Blumenthal family to ensure the ecological integrity of this unique property for the benefit of Wildacres Retreat visitors and all who enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’re fortunate to have land trusts like CTNC and Foothills Conservancy who work tirelessly to save places we all love in North Carolina. They ensure our state’s most valuable assets will be protected forever.”

“Permanent conservation of the Wildacres property marks a major milestone for the protection of habitat in North Carolina,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President of Conservation Capital & Research Programs. “As the climate changes, this highly resilient property will provide a long-term haven for sensitive plants and animals. The Open Space Institute is proud to have supported this project and we applaud Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina for their collaboration and tireless work to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Federally-protected land in this region is fragmented and thousands of acres are still vulnerable to development. Western North Carolina land trusts frequently partner to preserve National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway lands for the benefit of all North Carolinians.

For more information, contact:

Tom Kenney, Land Protection Director, Ph: 828-437-9930, tkenney@foothillsconservancy.org

Mary Alice Holley, CTNC Communications Director, Ph: 919-864-0428, mholley@ctnc.org

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