Cooper’s Budget Works to Protect Our State’s Land and Water

The Land for Tomorrow coalition praised Governor Cooper’s proposed budget, which increases appropriations to the state’s conservation trust funds and provides additional funding for building resilient communities.

“It’s clear that our citizens want to protect our land and water, from the coast to the mountains. We applaud Governor Cooper for responding to that desire with a sound budget proposal,” said Bill Holman, NC State Director for The Conservation Fund and chair of the Land for Tomorrow Executive Committee. “Land and water conservation are important to North Carolina’s economy. In the last budget, we saw support for conservation on both sides of the aisle. This is a good beginning for another budget that protects our state’s natural resources for our communities and allows tourism and agriculture to thrive. We look forward to working with the N.C. General Assembly on a final budget that supports protecting our land and water.”

The highlights of Governor Cooper’s budget for natural and working lands and building more climate resilience:

  • Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF): Provides an additional $3,757,116 recurring and $20 million nonrecurring to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) for projects in state parks, the development and renovation of local parks, and beach access. In FY 2022-23, the total funding is $40 million.
  • North Carolina Land and Water Fund (NCLWF): Provides $6,842,470 recurring and $20 million nonrecurring to DNCR to support NCLWF grants to protect and restore the state’s land and water resources, preserve military buffers, restore degraded streams, and develop and improve stormwater treatment. In FY 2022-23, the total funding is $40 million.
  • Peatland and Pocosins Conservation and Inventory: Provides $10 million nonrecurring to DNCR for peatlands and pocosins acquisition and restoration to reduce carbon emissions and wildfire risk, provide flood resilience, and improve water quality. DNCR’s Natural Heritage Program will inventory Coastal Plain wetlands not previously included in natural heritage inventories to inform acquisition and restoration efforts.
  • Resilient Communities Grant Program and Resiliency Staff: Provides $762,825 recurring and $10 million nonrecurring to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) within the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for core resiliency staff, to expand the program to additional communities, and to provide grants, enabling regions and local governments to reduce flood risk and promote long-term resilience.
  • Swine Floodplain Buyout Program: Provides $18 million nonrecurring funding to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to purchase permanent conservation easements on properties currently used for swine production that are within the 100-year floodplain.
  • Forest Development Program: Provides $2 million in one-time funding to DACS for cost-share assistance to NC landowners to improve forest management on private lands through landowner outreach, tree plants, and technical support to adopt and follow best practice management plans.
  • Coastal Habitat Assessment Program: Provides $720,526 recurring and $122,500 nonrecurring to DEQ to establish the Coastal Habitat Assessment Program. This program will assess coastal habitats through site mapping, vegetation assessments, and observation of wetland changes over time.


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.

Conservation Trust Funds Bring Success

Spring is a great time to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the North Carolina outdoors. Here are a few great places to visit thanks to grants North Carolina conservation trust funds.

Mainspring Conservation Trust
  • You can’t go wrong with a springtime hike in the mountains! Visitors can take advantage of the most extensive trail system found on any Mainspring property. The Tessentee Bottomland Preserve is a stop on the NC Birding Trail with the preserve’s bird list at 129 species and butterfly list at 56 species and counting.

    VISIT: 2249 Hickory Knoll Road, Franklin, NC 28734

    Learn more about this beautiful slice of North Carolina history.

  • Spring means getting ready to dip our paddles in North Carolina’s waterways! Have you checked out the Deep River Paddle Trail and the Haw River Natural Area? Both of these areas greatly benefitted from the conservation trust funds.

    Learn more about these two natural beauties:

  • Asutsi means “bridge” in the Cherokee language. This short, easy trail (0.4 miles) offers a good family hike with a stream to splash in and rocks to clamber.

    VISIT: The Asutsi trailhead is on U.S. 221, 0.6 miles south of the U.S. 221 intersection with Holloway Mountain Road.

    The Conservation Trust for North Carolina recently closed on the Florence Boyd Home/Asutsi Trailhead Property thanks to funding from the NC Land and Water Fund and support from Fred and Alice Stanback. This protection will help keep this trail accessible for generations to come. Read more about the area.

Success Thanks to ADFPTF

The Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) supports the farming, forestry and horticulture communities within the agriculture industry by supporting the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, funding conservation agreements and more.

Here are just some of the success stories thanks to ADFPTF grants over the years:

The 2021 NC Budget will Benefit People & Nature for Generations to Come

Thank you to North Carolina’s governor and legislators for passing a budget that prioritizes land and water conservation. This historic spending allocation for land and water conservation is the highest since the 2008 recession and will benefit people and nature for generations to come. When additional resilience money is factored in, it represents a benchmark for conservation funding.

“I’ve been at this a long time and this budget is one for the ages,” says Bill Holman, NC State Director of the Conservation Fund. “This is great news for nature and for people. Game lands, parks, trails, and communities that are threatened by flooding will all benefit.”

In a year with surplus funding, our state leaders put our state’s parks, game lands, trails, and farms at the top of the priority list and we are thankful for that. This is a strong boost for conservation funding that we can build on in future years.

Our state’s conservation needs are not one-and-done. Land for Tomorrow coalition members will work with our leaders to build on this foundation. Every generation deserves to have a beautiful North Carolina.

Thank you to the governor and our legislators for funding:

Land and Water Fund

  • $62.7 million for FY21-22 and $64.7 million for FY22-23
  • $15 million in nonrecurring funds in FY21-22 for floodplain projects, bringing the total for all NCLWF projects in FY21-22 to $77.7 million.

Parks and Recreation Trust Fund

  • $61.7 million in FY21-22 and $61.7 million in FY22-23
  • $10 million in FY21-22 specifically for local parks projects for persons with disabilities

Trails Funding

  • Creation and funding of the new Complete the Trails fund at $29,250,000, as well as the new Trails Coordinator position

Farmland Preservation

  • $12,970,000 in FY21-22 and $12,970,000 in FY22-23.

State Parks & Sewer Projects

  • $40 million for water and sewer projects in State Parks
  • Fully funds the operating requirements for State Parks that have been recently expanded or improved: $2.1 million recurring and $877,000 nonrecurring in FY21-22, and increased to $3.5 million recurring in FY22-23.
  • The authorization of two new State Park units: the Roanoke River Paddle Trail and Bakers Lake State Natural Area.

Some Highlighted Projects

  • $12.2 million for Pisgah View State Park ($9 million in FY21-22 and $3.2 million in FY22-23)
  • $150,000 to Blue Ridge Conservancy for the Watauga Paddle Trail
  • $200,000 to the Foothills Conservancy for Oak Hill Community Park
  • $4 million for Vade Mecum at Hanging Rock State Park
  • $550,000 for Mayo River State Park land purchase
  • $500,000 to BRC for Middle Fork Greenway
  • $50,000 for Northern Peaks Trail
  • $4 million for Pilot Mountain Bean Shoals Trail
  • $3.1 million for Rendezvous Mountain Park, which will be a satellite annex of Stone Mountain SP
  • $3 million for the Wilderness Gateway State Trail

Resilience Priorities
As noted above the resilience package contains $15 million for the Land and Water Fund. In addition, it includes:

  • $20 million to the Division of Mitigation Services within DEQ for the creation of a “statewide Flood Resiliency Blueprint”
  • $15 million for a Disaster Relief and Mitigation Fund at DPS
  • $15 million for a Transportation Infrastructure Resilience Fund at DPS
  • $25 million to Golden Leaf for a Small Project Mitigation and Recovery Program
  • $40 million for a Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund at DEQ
  • $4 million for a Dam Safety Emergency Fund at DEQ
  • $3.5 million to DEQ for specific DMS pilot projects
  • $1.15 million to DEQ’s Division of Coastal Management for the Resilient Coastal Communities Program
  • $300,000 to DEQ’s Division of Coastal Management for 2 time-limited, full-time positions to staff the Resilient Coastal Communities Program

Giving thanks for land conservation trusts in this season of gratitude

Fall is in full swing in North Carolina! During this season of gratitude, we celebrate the cooler weather that allows us to enjoy the natural beauty of our state, from mountains to the sea. Whether it’s seeing the leaves change in the Blue Ridge Mountains, walking along the coast at sunset (we have over 300 miles of ocean shoreline!), or enjoying deer hunting season, our state offers endless opportunities to relax, recharge, and reflect.

We are grateful for the dedicated work of North Carolina’s conservation organizations that make it possible to conserve the land and preserve our state. The conservation trust funds benefit us all and play an important role in supporting a healthy environment, clean water, and a vibrant economy.

North Carolina’s conservation trust funds have worked in concert to fund the projects that keep our state beautiful and help it thrive. Thanks to North Carolina’s conservation organizations, we can enjoy:

  • Jobs and a strong local economy in both urban and rural areas
  • Preservation of historically and ecologically significant places
  • Thriving family farms and forests
  • Places to exercise, hunt, fish, and watch wildlife

The conservation trust funds have been the backbone of our state’s big conservation wins throughout the decades. Land for Tomorrow applauds our legislators for prioritizing funding for the conservation projects that will protect our state for generations to come.

While the past year brought us untold challenges, it’s also brought an opportunity to step back and be grateful for our blessings. The outdoors offers us all the chance to gather with friends, connect with family, and be one with the beauty of the land.

Now we want to hear from you. What outdoor place are you thankful for in our beautiful state? Snap a photo and send it to us, along with a brief explanation of why you’re grateful for it. We may even feature it on our social media channels through Thanksgiving! Follow the hashtag #SeasonOfGratitudeNC to see other photos of favorite spots around the state.

Email photos and descriptions to

Land for Tomorrow Coalition Praises Senate Budget

Land for Tomorrow, a statewide coalition of community leaders, conservation and wildlife organizations, and parks and recreational advocates that works to increase land and water conservation in North Carolina, is praising the Senate’s budget, which was released last night.

“Investment at this level would be a major step forward for land and water conservation in North Carolina,” said Bill Holman, NC State Director of The Conservation Fund and chair of the Coalition. “The Senate has recognized the important role that land and water conservation play in our economic and public health. The pandemic showed that people really wanted to get outside; they need more public spaces. And, we also know that spending on public lands boosts the state and local economy.”

Tim Gestwicki, Chief Executive Officer of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and Land for Tomorrow Board Member says that the need was made clear during the last 15 months. “Fishing licenses increased 94 percent from May 2020 to December 2020,” he says. “Hunting licenses increased by 20 percent. These additional funds can help grow state game lands, particularly in the Piedmont where there is a serious need.”

Funding for State Conservation Funds:

  • Land and Water Fund
    • Additional $60 million NR in FY21-22. Brings total to $73.2 million for the year.
    • Additional $40 million NR in FY22-23. Brings total to $53.2 million for the year.
  • Parks and Recreation Trust Fund
    • Additional $60 million NR in FY21-22. Brings total to $76.2 million for the year.
    • Additional $40 million NR in FY22-23. Brings total to $56.2 million for the year.
  • Farmland Preservation Trust Fund
    • Additional $35 million NR in FY21-22. Brings total to $39.3 million for the year.
    • Additional $20 million NR in FY21-22. Brings total to $24.3 million for the year.

In addition to significant funding for the State’s Conservation Trust Funds, the budget also includes:

  • $40 million NR for State Parks Water and Sewer Projects in FY21-22
  • $9 million NR in FY21-22 and $3.2 million NR in FY22-23 for Pisgah View State Park
  • $15 million NR in FY21-22 for State Historic Sites

Thank You Park and Trail Staff!!

Thank you to all the park and trail staff and volunteers that have helped keep our parks, trails, preserves and publicly protected lands safe, clean and open for people to enjoy this year. With the outdoors offering a safe way to connect with our family and friends, it’s no wonder that a record 19.8 million visitors visited our parks and trails.

Through it all, staff and volunteers have worked diligently to ensure that trails are safe and clean for everyone to use. Visitors did their part, but the park staff were the true heroes in showing up to work, day in and day out to keep our trails open and protected.

All summer long, the often-invisible heroes of trail and park staff and volunteers have been maintaining trails, emptying trash bins, cleaning restrooms and patrolling our parks. These behind-the-scenes heroes often go unrecognized for the work they do in the heat, rain and humidity. They are founts of knowledge about the land they care for and take deep pride in keeping it safe for you to enjoy.

Just saying a simple “thank you” the next time you see a park or trail staff member can go a long way. They’re the ones ensuring that you can enjoy some of the most beautiful places in North Carolina.

Here are a few simple ways you can thank your park and trail staff and volunteers:

  • Just say “Thanks” when you see them emptying trash bins or cleaning bathrooms
  • Send a thank-you note to the park or land conservancy home office
  • Send a tweet or post on Instagram thanking the staff and volunteers and tag your favorite park or land
  • conservation organization

Many of these lands have been improved thanks to funding from North Carolina’s conservation trust funds. Our state’s conservation trust funds ensure that the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) are fully funded to safeguard our beloved natural spaces. These funds enable conservation groups to continue working with our state partners to protect North Carolina’s valuable natural resources.

Enjoy Our Trails

With more than 19.8 million visitors to state parks and recreation areas in 2020, including on North Carolina trails across our state, it’s more important than ever to support our outdoor spaces this National Trails Day! There are thousands of miles of trails in North Carolina covering every portion of the state, from urban greenways to rural pathways and everything in between, and every mile needs our protection. Whether you’re a hiker or a biker, there’s something for everyone to enjoy safely outside.

How can you support our trails this June 5?

With your support, we can celebrate and protect our state’s trail system and public lands.

A Great Outdoor Thank You

Land for Tomorrow would like to thank our leaders at the national level for their support of America’s best outdoor places.

North Carolina played a central role in securing the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act. This was the biggest bipartisan bill funding our natural resources in decades. This landmark conservation legislation will spend $1.9 billion a year for five years to maintain our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas. It uses royalties from offshore oil and natural gas to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund to invest in conservation, sportsmen’s access, and recreation opportunities in every county in every state in the country. This means more land to hunt, fish, hike and camp.  Plus, more access points to launch a boat or take a swim in our lakes and rivers.

The North Carolina Congressional delegation was critical in getting the bill to the desk of President Donald Trump for enactment. Senators Richard Burr and Tom Tillis and Representatives Patrick McHenry and G.K. Butterfield provided crucial leadership in supporting this landmark bill, and Representatives Budd, Foxx, Murphy,  Price, and Adams all supported final passage.

Now, our leaders in the North Carolina legislature have a chance to bring this spirit of protection for the great outdoors to our state. With robust funding of the NC Land and Water Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund in the 2021 budget, legislators get a chance to continue protecting our state’s natural resources and our strong outdoor recreation economy.

While 2020 saw many closures and restrictions due to the pandemic, one thing wasn’t restricted by COVID-19: the North Carolina outdoors. We saw a record number of visitors – 19.9 million in 2020 – to North Carolina State Parks as we rediscovered our state’s bounty, from mountains to coast. That was 400,000 more visitors than any other year on record.  North Carolinians want these resources protected. We NEED them protected.

It’s our turn to continue this legacy of protection. Land for Tomorrow hopes to gain the support of our legislators to ensure we always have these resources to share.

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Announces Roan Highlands Protection

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) announced today that they have signed a letter of intent to accept the donation of approximately 7,500 acres of land in the Roan Highlands landscape from a conservation philanthropist. The tract lies within the southern end of the planning boundary of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area, a special conservation area designated by the NC General Assembly in 2008 to protect the exceptional nat­ural features found there.

The donation consists of dozens of separate-but-contiguous land holdings rising to 5,300′ in elevation straddling the border of Avery and Mitchell counties in Western North Carolina. It supports numerous threatened and endangered plant and animal species and features some of the most extraordinary scenery in the eastern U.S. The property includes the largest American Chestnut restoration project in the country, extensive boulder fields, rich coves, old growth forests, six waterfalls, and a system of rare heath-balds.

Transfer of the gift is expected to be completed in the next year. SAHC will own the land and manage it as a nature preserve. SAHC staff will continue ongoing use of the land for scientific study in collaboration with the donor. SAHC intends to host guided hikes on the property after the transfer is completed and a man­agement plan has been finalized.

“This is the largest single gift in SAHC’s history, and the largest gift of land to a land trust that I’m aware of” said Carl Silverstein, executive director of the land trust. “As we watch so much of our region get carved into sub-divisions, strategic acquisition of large parcels of land is increasingly important — and increasingly hard to accomplish. In twenty years this gift might be one of the few sites in Western North Carolina that still looks like it looked one hundred years ago, or one thousand years ago.”

“These parcels include some of the most sought-after conservation acres in the eastern United States, including over 100 miles of pristine creeks and streams. We really are honored to be entrusted with the responsibility to steward this vast mountain complex,” Silverstein added.

Even before his first acquisition here in 2012, longtime SAHC member Tim Sweeney envisioned assembling these parcels into a unified block of land with the intention of conserving the entire mountain ecosystem. With this gift the philanthropist’s dream has become a reality for the benefit of future generations.

“This project is a conservationist’s dream come true,” said SAHC Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “Pristine roadless land that has not been tim­bered over is almost impossible to find in the Southern Appalachians in 2021, but this assemblage contains so much that we value, from old growth forests to high-elevation open areas in an undisturbed condition. My phone will ring off the hook from biologists who want to visit and study this unparalleled preserve. We look forward to welcoming them to the mountain.”

SAHC Senior Advisor Jay Leutze is excited about the benefits the donated land will provide for surrounding communities. “I can’t wait to take local scout troops and church groups on hikes here and to invite school kids out to learn about how healthy forests clean our drinking water for free and how migratory songbirds fly between the Roan Highlands and Central America each year,” Leutze said. “This property is the back yard for a lot of people who treasure it for the clear air and scenic views it provides. In a world that is constantly changing our commitment is to keep this place functioning as a healthy ecosystem forever.”

Read more on the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy site.