Needs & Successes of the Conservation Trust Funds

Across North Carolina, conservation trust funds and Land for Tomorrow coalition members are working to protect our state’s lands.

  • The Nature Conservancy and the Army have worked together over the past two decades to protect more than 23,000 acres near Fort Bragg. Learn how this work is preserving one of the world’s most significant habitats: the longleaf pine forest. Find out more about how this effort is providing public lands for all to enjoy.
  • Outstanding scenery and outdoor recreation are key to Western North Carolina’s economy. That’s why the North Carolina General Assembly created Pisgah View Ranch State Park in Buncombe County. Learn how this work preserves an iconic view while driving the economy.
  • Providing game lands that are accessible to all parts of North Carolina are important. Learn why the permanent protection of the Tuckertown Game Lands in Davidson and Montgomery counties is vital to our state.

Click on the images below to download the full stories.





Join Us for Lobby Day 2021

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.

The week of March 22, we’re recognizing the role that land plays in every aspect of our lives, from recreation to economic development. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating and protecting this land now and for the future.

A new study by RTI International shows that the time is now for increasing public land and water conservation funding. North Carolina is the eighth fastest-growing state in the nation and that projected growth will lead to the loss of 2 million acres of undeveloped land in the next 30 years. This loss affects not only our options for outdoor recreation but flood protection, buffering of mission-critical military bases and more.

Our state’s conservation trust funds ensure that the North Carolina Land and Water Trust Fund (NCLWF), Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) are fully funded to be safeguards for our beloved natural spaces. These funds enable conservation groups to continue working with our state partners to protect North Carolina’s valuable natural resources, ensuring that both current and future generations will continue to enjoy and benefit from all our land has to offer.

Our state legislators alone determine the conservation trust funds. Every year, they decide how much is allocated to protect our state’s clean water, parks and recreation land and farmland preservation. That work is more important than ever as more and more people enjoy our state’s lands. An increase in usage means an increase in our need to ensure the resilience and protection of our lands. At its peak in 2008, the trust funds awarded more than $155 million. Last year, only $29.9 million was awarded.

Now is the perfect time to invest in our state. North Carolina is ready to welcome people back to our parks as a safe way to engage with the world around us, bringing tourism back and boosting our economy. Help us make sure that this land is protected for everyone.

Ways you can get involved:

  • Email your legislator – Share your reasons for wanting to protect the conservation trust funds.
  • Share on social media – Share a photo or video about the land you’ve enjoyed and want to protect using #land4tomorrow.
  • Ask your friends to join – Encourage your friends to make a video.
  • Thank your legislators – Let them know we appreciate their support of NC land. Find your legislator here:

Study Points to Urgency for Land and Water Conservation Funding

A new study by RTI International (RTI), a nonprofit research institute, makes the case for increasing public land and water conservation funding in North Carolina. “The Time is Now: An Assessment of Conservation Funding Needs in North Carolina,” says that projected growth will lead to the loss of 2 million acres of undeveloped land in the next three decades. It also points to the role that undeveloped lands play in flood protection, buffering of mission-critical military bases, and providing places for people to recreate. That recreation need was particularly apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic when state parks experienced record attendance and the issuance of hunting and fishing licenses dramatically increased.

“Our research highlights the urgency of investing in conservation efforts in the state of North Carolina,” said George Van Houtven, Director of Ecosystem Services Research at RTI and lead author on the study. “Preserving our forests, wetlands, and farmland is not only vital for our state’s economy, but a chance to bolster outdoor opportunities for North Carolinians while simultaneously decreasing flood risks.”

Most public land and water conservation funding comes from three trust funds—NC Land and Water, Parks and Recreation, and Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation, which are largely funded through state appropriations. At its peak in 2008, the trust funds awarded more than $155 million. Last year, only $29.9 million was awarded.

State agencies have identified millions of dollars in unmet needs. The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation would like to add 134,000 acres to its holdings at a projected cost of $310 million. Most of the parks were closed for six weeks last spring due to the pandemic, but still experienced a record year with more than 19.7 million visitors. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reported a 95% increase in its Inland Fish/Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses between May and December 2020. Hunting licenses increased by nearly 20% during the same period.

“COVID-19 emphasized just how much North Carolinians appreciate places for outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing,” says Tim Gestwicki, Chief Executive Officer of the NC Wildlife Federation. “In some places, particularly the Piedmont, state game lands are limited. We need to protect these properties before they are lost to development.”

Last summer’s Congressional passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which guarantees full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) also presents new opportunities. LWCF funds are awarded to the state but require matching state funds. The state also pulls down significant dollars from the Department of Defense (DOD) to protect land around military bases. DOD also requires state matching dollars. “We’ve got so much opportunity with federal funding and the need for additional public lands is obvious in light of the use the current lands are getting,” says Bill Holman, NC State Director of The Conservation Fund.

“At the current funding rate, we just make a dent in the needs,” says Katherine Skinner, Executive Director of the NC Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “Meanwhile, North Carolina is the eighth fastest-growing state in the nation. We need to act now before lands are developed. Undeveloped lands and wetlands are crucial for the multitude of benefits they provide people, from flood control to clean air and clean water.”

The RTI study was commissioned by The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, and The Trust for Public Land. Click the image below to read the full report.

Cane Creek Mountain Natural Area in N.C. Nearly Doubles in Size

ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. — Today, Alamance County Recreation & Parks, The Conservation Fund and Piedmont Land Conservancy announced the addition of 432 acres to the Cane Creek Mountain Natural Area in Snow Camp, North Carolina. The property, known as the Sizemore addition, will nearly double the size of the Natural Area, bringing it to roughly 1,000 acres of County-owned, protected, publicly accessible park land.

Cane Creek Mountain Natural Area opened to the public in May of 2020, providing access to Alamance County’s largest state-significant natural heritage area. The new Sizemore addition will expand hiking trails and opportunities for nature exploration.

“This acquisition protects one of the most unique and beautiful places in the Piedmont,” said Brian Baker, director of Alamance Parks. “Cane Creek Mountain Natural Area will be a tremendous boost to the health and happiness of Alamance County citizens as well as our local economy. We cannot wait to share this unspoiled land with the people of North Carolina.”

The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit, purchased the Sizemore addition in 2018 and held it until Alamance County could secure funding from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund to add it to their park system. The Conservation Fund also played an important role in the creation of Cane Creek Mountain Natural Area, securing land and raising private funding.

“Thousand-acre parks in the Piedmont are rare,” said Bill Holman, The Conservation Fund’s North Carolina state director. “This conservation effort at the Cane Creek Mountains not only provides new recreational opportunities, but it also protects habitat for wildlife and water quality for the community.”

Partners, including Alamance County Recreation & Parks, The Conservation Fund, and Piedmont Land Conservancy, helped establish the Natural Area and continue working to conserve the core of the Cane Creek Mountains. About halfway between the growing Piedmont Triad and Research Triangle regions, conserved open space like the Cane Creek Mountains is critical for wildlife habitat, ecological value, and water quality for local communities. The forested Sizemore addition is rich with carbon-capturing trees like Piedmont monadnock, dry oak-hickory, and longleaf pine—which was replanted on a portion of the property that had historically been longleaf pine habitat.

“Piedmont Land Conservancy’s stewardship director, Dr. Ken Bridle, was the first to recognize that the site may have once been home to longleaf pine,” said Kevin Redding, the Conservancy’s executive director. “We are thrilled to see the park created and the longleaf pine restoration as a major component.”

This project was funded by the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, formerly known as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which helps improve water quality, sustain ecological diversity, and protect historic sites in the state. Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, North Carolina, and Brad and Shelli Stanback of Canton, North Carolina also made generous donations to make this project possible. Support from North Carolina Senator Amy Scott Galey and State Representative Dennis Riddell also help ensure park conservation projects like this one can succeed.

“This beautiful and ecologically significant park will not only provide habitat and recreational opportunities, but it will also help protect the water quality of the Haw River and Jordan Lake,” said state Sen. Amy Galey. “I am proud that the park was created without county tax dollars, instead leveraging other resources. This is an outstanding investment for our children and all future generations.”

“North Carolina’s parks are among the most popular in the United States and are growing through the legislature’s financial commitments to land, water and recreation trust funds,” said state Rep. Dennis Riddell. “It is exciting to see this funding benefit Alamance County with a new acquisition for the Cane Creek Mountain Natural Area. I look forward to sharing our new outdoor recreation resources with others here in Alamance County as well as citizens from across our state.”

The North Carolina Park & Recreation Trust Fund provided matching funds to Alamance Parks to construct trails and open the park to the public. The North Carolina General Assembly appropriates funds to both the state’s Land and Water Fund and Parks & Recreation Trust Fund.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than eight million acres of land, including nearly 235,000 acres of beloved natural lands across North Carolina.

About Alamance Parks
Alamance Parks works to improve the quality of life of each of the 500,000 visitors we host at our 20 parks each year. Through our parks and programs, we encourage healthy lifestyles for children and adults, offer inclusive activities for all of our citizens, and provide access to the natural world.

About Piedmont Land Conservancy
Piedmont Land Conservancy protects our region’s natural lands, farms, and waters for present and future generations. PLC connects people with nature. PLC has protected over 29,000 acres in 250 projects across its nine-county region of Alamance, Caswell, Forsyth, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin counties. To learn more about the Conservancy, and how you can support its efforts to protect farms, rivers, forests, wildlife habitat, and urban greenways and parks, visit or call (336) 691-0088.

Media Contacts
Val Keefer | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5802 |
Brian Baker | Alamance Parks | (336) 229-2229 |
Kevin Redding | Piedmont Land Conservancy | (336) 337-1831 |

Conservation is Crucial to Attracting the Best and the Brightest

Red Hat is an international leader when it comes to enterprise open source software. That means the company must attract highly educated, young professionals who are in big demand. To stay on top, Red Hat must appeal to those men and women. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says the quality of life found in the community is an important part of that appeal.

“Our biggest competition isn’t for our customers, it’s for the best talent,” he explains. “The best and brightest have their choice of where to work – both companies and locations. More and more, we are finding that quality of life is a major determinant of where top talent chooses to live and work. I am constantly asked by people we are recruiting about the recreational opportunities in North Carolina.”

That’s why Whitehurst, who sits on the Board of Directors for The Conservation Fund, supports public funding for land and water conservation. “NC is situated in a great area that spans mountains to beaches, but we need to ensure that some of those areas are preserved and accessible for recreational use,” he says.

Even though he works in a high-tech business, Whitehurst says getting out in nature is important for everyone’s wellbeing. “I live and work in the hectic high tech world. It is exciting and fast-paced, but also exhausting. My kids live a similar world – with iPads at school and video games at home,” he explains.  “Some of our best quality family time is when we are able to get away from it all. Being in nature allows our family to build deeper bonds. It gives us time to reflect, but also be together without the myriad distractions of our normal everyday lives.”

His love of nature began with his grandfathers and parents fishing and hiking as a family.  “I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do this with my kids. Going forward, I want to make sure that I can do the same with my grandchildren,” he concludes. “And I want to make sure that others who may not have the same capacity to ’hop on a plane’ also have those opportunities nearby where they live.”

Read more stories from the 2017 Conservation Yearbook here.

Post date: April 1, 2017