The Nature Conservancy today announced that it has protected more than 700,000 acres in North Carolina. That’s nearly 1,100 square miles, an area equivalent to two Mecklenburg counties. Much of that property – including iconic places such as Grandfather Mountain, Chimney Rock and Jockey’s Ridge – has been transferred into public ownership for everyone to enjoy.
“If you visit a state park, hunt on a state game land or enjoy a National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, chances are that The Nature Conservancy played a big role in making that happen,” explained Chapter Executive Director Katherine Skinner. “But, we’re not resting on our laurels. We will continue to protect important land across North Carolina. We also recognize that conservation in the 21st century isn’t limited to land acquisition. It involves restoring our forests and improving water flow in our rivers. It is reducing the rate of shoreline erosion and improving water quality by building oyster reefs, and reducing the risk of large damaging wildfires through the use of controlled burning.”
Although the Conservancy is celebrating its unprecedented land protection success, it has also worked in other areas of conservation. The Conservancy first stepped outside the land acquisition box in 2000 when it intervened in the dam licensing process on the Roanoke River. Since that time, it has worked to help restore more natural flows to the Roanoke.
In 2008, the Conservancy began work on a pilot project at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge to help the low-lying coastal area adapt to rising sea levels. The Conservancy has built oyster reefs to buffer the shoreline and is restoring vegetation that is more saltwater tolerant.
The Conservancy is also working to restore natural water patterns to the refuge’s peat-based soils. Rewetting the peat will help prevent large, damaging wildfires that have plagued the area – causing public health warnings as far away as Richmond, Virginia and Raleigh, North Carolina. The Conservancy is now expanding this work to Pocosin Lakes and Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuges.
The Conservancy has been a leader in bringing fire back to the land. Many parts of North Carolina’s wild areas are fire-dependent; the plants and animals living there need fire to survive. The Conservancy has spearheaded efforts to burn longleaf pine from the Sandhills to the coast. It recently expanded that work to parts of the mountains, which also need fire. In addition to restoring the land, controlled burning removes fuel that can feed large damaging wildfires that threaten people and their property.
The Conservancy has protected property in 68 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Although it transfers most property into public ownership, it does manage a number of its own preserves across the state. Three of those preserves – Nags Head Woods on the Outer Banks, the Green Swamp in Brunswick County, and Calloway Forest in the Sandhills – are open to the public year-round.
Article produced by The Nature Conservancy.