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.