Land and Water Conservation in North Carolina

Protecting this State’s Most Important Economic Assets

Land and water are North Carolina’s most important economic assets. Four of the major engines of North Carolina’s economy – agriculture, tourism, forestry, and the military – all depend on natural and working lands and clean water.

Protecting these vital natural resources is essential to ensure these economic drivers, and others, will continue to flourish and provide jobs for North Carolinians, particularly in rural areas of the state.

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Investing in Green Infrastructure

In North Carolina, conservation organizations, the military, communities, private landowners, and federal, state, and local governments work together to build green infrastructure and to ensure our natural resources support a vibrant economy by conserving: 

  • Watersheds and stream buffers
    Conserving land around our state’s waterways prevents polluted runoff, which reduces the cost of water treatment for local governments and saves customers money. Clean water is also vital to the state’s overall health and wellbeing.
  • Military buffers
    Military buffers are conserved lands adjacent to bases that ensure our armed forces are able to successfully fulfill their missions. Protecting these lands supports the $66 billion economic impact the military has on North Carolina.
  • Scenic areas
    From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks, scenic areas draw folks from around the world to North Carolina, boosting the state’s tourism economy, which in 2018 generated record visitor spending of $25.3 billion.
  • Farmland and forests
    Protecting and sustaining working family farms and forestland under significant population pressures ensures a continued supply of fresh local foods and fiber. The state’s agricultural industry, which includes food, fiber, and forestry, contributes $91.8 billion to the state’s economy and employs 17% of the state’s workforce.
  • Game lands, trout streams, and estuaries
    Protecting these areas is critical to small businesses in the hunting, commercial and sport fishing, and outdoors industries, which often thrive in rural areas and support rural economies. The outdoor industry generates $28 billion in consumer spending each year.
  • Parks and trails
    Parks, greenways, and paddle trails enhance North Carolinians’ quality of life and ability to attract new families and businesses. These places protect water supplies while supporting local economies and improving public health. They help support the state’s more than $20 billion tourism economy. Approximately 50 million people visit North Carolina each year.

A major source of protection for these resources is made possible through North Carolina’s conservation trust funds. Partnerships between government agencies, conservation groups, and private landowners work to protect our natural resources, support major economic sectors, and strengthen our local communities. The value of these partnerships demonstrates the cooperative spirit of all North Carolinians working together to preserve the past while making our future brighter.

Demand for trust fund grants far exceeds available resources. More than 70 percent of registered voters support restoring state funding for the conservation trust funds to $100 million to protect water quality, conserve working farms, and preserve parkland and historic sites.