Unanimous Support for the NC Farm Act Benefits Working Farms, Forests, and Trails

Land for Tomorrow praises the North Carolina’s General Assembly and Governor for passing the NC Farm Act, SB 355, which includes the return of a pivotal tax credit for land conservation.

The Farm Act passed unanimously 104-0 in the House and 40-0 in the Senate. Senator Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) was a critical leader in the success of this bill. He issued the following statement:

“I am honored to work on this legislation on behalf of North Carolina farmers. Agriculture is North Carolina’s No.1 industry, and it is critical that we do all we can to support all the families who depend on agriculture to support their livelihood. We are all touched by agriculture daily, and this legislation shows the General Assembly’s commitment to protecting agriculture in North Carolina today and for generations to come.”

Governor Roy Cooper issued the following statement on signing the bill on July 3, 2024:

“The conservation tax credit I proposed in my budget and passed into law with this bill will help us reach the goal I set of permanently conserving one million new acres of natural lands by 2040. Protecting forests, wetlands, and farmlands makes us more resilient to climate hazards, reduces carbon in our atmosphere, promotes military readiness, and supports local economies.”

The conservation tax credit included in the Farm Act is a time-limited NC tax policy that allows for a state tax credit on the value of real estate donated to a qualified nonprofit or government entity for farmland preservation, public trails, fish and wildlife, and other conservation-related purposes. The property must be donated within two years, between January 1, 2025, and December 31, 2026. There are other limitations on the tax credit. Landowners should consult with tax professionals if they’re interested in taking advantage of the tax credit opportunity.

The conservation tax credits are a powerful incentive for private landowners to conserve more farm and forest land and expand our state’s parks, trails, and wildlife areas. Neighboring states, including Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, also provide this incentive to conserve land.

North Carolina previously had this incentive, and in the ten years of the program, it helped encourage landowners to conserve 238,000 acres across the state. When the program ended on December 31, 2013, our state saw a steep decline in the number of projects conserved and acres protected.

Providing incentives like the Conservation Income Tax Credit to private landowners will increase the number of conservation projects and reduce acquisition costs for state, local, and private agencies.

“Preserving North Carolina’s working farms, forests, and trails is more important than ever as our state continues to grow. Putting a conservation tax credit in place couldn’t come at a better time,” said Kevin Redding, director of Piedmont Land Conservancy and chair of the Coalition. “Thanks to Sen. Brent Jackson, Rep. Jimmy Dixon, Rep. Steve Ross, Rep. Michael Wray, and Agriculture Commissioner Troxler for their leadership on this effort.”

“Passing this bill puts us in line with South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia, which all have similar state tax credit policies,” said Tim Gestwicki, Chief Executive Officer of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “Hunting and fishing are a way of life in North Carolina. The conservation tax credit helps us in our work to secure our fish and wildlife for future generations by providing landowners with an incentive to protect their property permanently.”

Land for Tomorrow is a statewide coalition of community leaders, conservation and wildlife organizations, and parks and recreation advocates who share the goal of increasing land and water conservation in North Carolina.

Funding is Needed to Meet Public Demand

The public demand for outdoor recreation opportunities continues to grow in North Carolina.

Over 20,100,000 people visited NC State Parks in 2023 – a 4% increase over 2022. The statewide 2023 Year of the Trail successfully promoted our network of hiking, paddling, biking, and equestrian trails.

The Made X Mountains Partnership recently released the results of the Western North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Participation Survey, which found that outdoor recreation generated $4,900,000,000 in economic input, 48,000 full-time jobs, and $197,500,000 in local tax revenues just in 25 western North Carolina counties.

Conserving our land means success for our state.

Land for Tomorrow recommends the following and looks forward to working with the General Assembly to bolster the conservation of North Carolina’s natural places and working farms.

  • NC Land & Water Fund
    Increase funds to:

    • $30,000,000 recurring
    • $10,000,000 in non-recurring funds for FY 24-25
  • Parks & Recreation Trust Fund
    Increase funds to:

    • $30,000,000 recurring
    • $10,000,000 in non-recurring funds for FY 24-25
  • Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Fund
    We appreciate Commissioner Troxler’s strong support for farm and forestland conservation, and we support his requests.
    Increase funds to:

    • $10,000,000 recurring
  • Conservation Income Tax Credit
    Land for Tomorrow strongly supports H290, Protecting NC’s Military and Working Lands. H290 provides a powerful incentive for private landowners to conserve their land and to sell or donate land or easements at a discount.
  • Requests for Additional Staff
    Land for Tomorrow supports requests by the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, Wildlife Resources Commission, and Department of Agriculture for additional staff to manage new and expanded state parks, state trails, historic sites, wildlife management areas, and state forests.

Click here to download a PDF of our priorities for 2024.

To learn more about the impact of the conservation trust funds and see your tax dollars in action, follow Land for Tomorrow on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/L4TNC – and Twitter – https://twitter.com/land4tomorrow – as well as LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/land-for-tomorrow.

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 Wins Big in 2023 Budget

The North Carolina Land for Tomorrow Coalition is praising the 2023 state budget, which will pump more than $100 million per year into land and water conservation.

“Protecting land and water is vital to many of the state’s most important industries, including agriculture, tourism, forestry, and the military,” said Bill Holman, NC State Director for The Conservation Fund and chair of the Coalition. “Increasing access to parks, trails, and greenways will help keep North Carolina a great place to live, work, and play. We all owe the General Assembly, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, and Governor Cooper a big thank you.”

“North Carolina is growing fast, and this funding is absolutely essential to protect land and water for future generations,” said Tim Gestwicki, Chief Executive Officer of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “In particular, this budget will help keep many acres of working lands in production by offering additional funding for our state’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and others who are stewarding their lands for the good of us all.”

The state’s three conservation trust funds, the North Carolina Land and Water Trust Fund (NCLWF), the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) are essential tools that allow state agencies and nonprofit partners to protect North Carolina’s valuable natural resources.

Conservation funding in the budget includes:

  • Increases recurring funding for the NC Land and Water Fund by $3.8 million, and provides an additional $2 million in nonrecurring funds, bringing the total funding to $30 million.
  • Increases recurring funding for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund by $3.8 million, and provides an additional $2 million in nonrecurring funds, bringing the total funding to $30 million.
  • Increases funding for the Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund by $10 million, bringing the total funding to $20 million.
  • Provides $42 million over the biennium for trails, including $25 million for the Great Trails Program, $5 million for the Complete the Trails fund, and $12 million for the Saluda Grade Trail.
  • Provides $12.5 million for the development of local parks that provide access for people with disabilities.

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.

Haw River Trail Becomes a State Trail

The local favorite joins 12 other distinguished trails across the state.

The Haw River Trail is now an authorized state trail thanks to the perseverance of local advocates, nonprofit organizations, and North Carolina legislators Representative Stephen M. Ross, Senator Amy S. Galey, and Representative Dennis Riddell.

“The Haw River State Trail is a lasting tribute to the power of the community. Dozens of landowners in Alamance County have shared their private property so that everyone can enjoy the beauty and power of the Haw,” said Brian Baker, Assistant County Manager of Alamance County. “Thanks to that commitment, the Haw River has regained its place as the heart of Alamance County.”

The Haw River Trail provides public access to one of North Carolina’s most important natural features. The land and paddle trail allows the community to explore while helping to conserve and protect this vital resource. Local nonprofits Friends of Lower Haw River State Natural Area, Carolina Canoe Club, and The Conservation Fund were critical in orchestrating behind the scenes to make this authorization possible. Both the Alamance and Chatham counties’ board of commissioners adopted resolutions supporting state trail authorization.

“Adding this beloved trail to the state trails program is a special opportunity for Alamance County,” said Representative Ross. “It is a great place to hike and paddle and enjoy the outdoors. Conserving places like the Haw River Trail also gives us cleaner air and cleaner water which will benefit our state for decades to come.”

The Haw River Trail will join 12 other state trails and become part of the North Carolina State Parks system. While a state park is operated and managed by the Division of Parks and Recreation, a state trail comprises multiple connected sections that rely on local partnerships. Each section of the trail is sponsored by a federal, state or local government agency, nonprofit organization, or private landowner.

“State trail status gives the Haw River recognition across North Carolina as a trail of statewide significance,” said Senator Galey. “The state trail designation welcomes attention and economic benefit from tourism and recreation to Alamance County and beyond. The families of North Carolina have a beautiful place to splash and play for future generations.”

The Haw River Trail boasts:

  • 20 miles of completed land trail in Alamance County
  • 40 miles of completed paddle trail in Alamance County
  • 15 recreational parks and trailheads open along the trail in Alamance County
  • 6 public access sites in Chatham County

“It’s the commitment of our North Carolina’s General Assembly to the state’s conservation trust funds that make efforts like this one possible,” said NC State Director of The Conservation Fund Bill Holman, who chairs the Land for Tomorrow Coalition. “We’re also thankful to Representative Ross for being the primary sponsor of a conservation tax credit bill that will soon pass as part of the House budget. Investment in our natural spaces ensures that residents can enjoy and explore all that North Carolina has to offer.”

The planned Haw River Trail corridor extends approximately 80 miles along the Haw River, from Haw River State Park on the Rockingham-Guilford County line through Alamance County to Jordan Lake State Recreation Area in Chatham County. Public access to the Haw River Trail in Chatham County is provided at the Lower Haw River State Natural Area, owned by State Parks and by three public access sites managed by Chatham County Parks and Recreation. The trail in Alamance County is part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail, allowing hikers to travel across the state from Clingman’s Dome in the west to Jockey’s Ridge in the east.

Learn more about:

Prioritizing land and water conservation

Thank you to North Carolina’s governor and legislators for passing a budget that prioritizes land and water conservation. Funding of $48.4 million to the state’s conservation trust funds will benefit people and nature for generations.

Our state’s conservation needs are not one-and-done. The Land for Tomorrow coalition thanks our state leadership for building on the foundation of conservation funding established in 2021. By securing reoccurring funding, every generation now has a chance to have clean air and water as well as beautiful places to play.

Land and water are North Carolina’s most important economic assets. The four engines of North Carolina’s economy – agriculture, tourism, forestry and the military – depend on land and water conservation. Therefore, protecting these vital natural resources is essential to North Carolina’s bottom line – boosting spending and providing jobs.

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 the safeguards for our state. In addition, these funds enable conservation groups to continue working with state agencies to protect North Carolina’s valuable natural resources, ensuring that both current and future generations will continue to benefit from all our state has to offer.

Thank you to the governor and our legislators for conservation funding of the following:

  • Increases recurring funding for the North Carolina Land and Water Fund by $11 million, taking the total recurring funding from $13.2 million to $24.2 million.
  • Increases recurring funding for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund by $8 million, taking the total recurring funding from $16.2 million to $24.2 million.

To learn more about the impact of the conservation trust funds and see your tax dollars in action, follow Land for Tomorrow on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/L4TNC – and Twitter – https://twitter.com/land4tomorrow.

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.

READ THE FULL BUDGET HERE: https://www.osbm.nc.gov/media/2575/open

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.

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.

Land for Tomorrow Coalition Gathers Local Legislators for Legislative Forum

Conservation Organizations Highlighted the Economic Benefits of State Funding

RALEIGH –Land for Tomorrow recently gathered members of the NC General Assembly for a legislative forum to highlight the economic benefits of state conservation funding for the mid-coastal region. The region’s major economic assets – agriculture, the military, tourism, hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation – all depend on land and water conservation.

North Carolina’s conservation trust funds – the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF)Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), and Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund – have invested $184 million in Jones, Carteret, Craven, Pender, and Onslow County projects that support economic development and preserve the region’s unique natural features.

Senator Harry Brown, Representative Phil Shepard, and Representative Bob Muller attended the event to hear from local conservation organizations, park and recreation supporters, and landowners who partner with the trust funds to do projects that benefit the region. NC Coastal Land Trust Point showcased purchasing farmland easements to conserve the family-owned Guthrie Farm and provide a buffer for the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point. The Nature Conservancy shared how its partnership with the Marine Corps conserved more than 44,000 acres around Camp Lejeune. State Park officials talked about the state’s investment of nearly $6.3 million at Hammocks Beach State Park.

Former State Representative Carolyn Justice moderated the forum – noting that land and water conservation is good for all North Carolinians. “What is more important to our quality of life than clean drinking water, clean air, thriving farms and forests, places to hunt, fish, and view wildlife, while still being conspicuous of jobs and a sustainable economy,” she asked.

“Land for Tomorrow appreciates the support these legislators have shown for conservation projects, but the demand for great projects exceeds available resources,” said Edgar Miller, Conservation Trust for North Carolina Government Relations Director. “The goal of these round tables is to educate legislators on the importance of these funds of and how conservation projects benefit coastal communities, the local economy and their citizens.”

Some of the issues highlighted at the round table included:

  • More than 70 percent of North Carolinians broadly support restoring state funding for the conservation trust funds to $100 million to protect water quality, conserve working farms, and acquire parkland and preserve historic sites.
  • Military buffers support North Carolina’s $66 billion economic impact of the military by preventing incompatible development.
  • 135 local governments, conservation organizations, and state agencies requested nearly $68 million from CWMTF in 2017, with only about $20 million available.
  • Sixty-four local governments requested $19 million from PARTF in 2017, with only $6.3 available.

Land for Tomorrow will continue to work with legislative and community leaders across the state to protect and restore water quality, to maintain the training mission of our military bases, to preserve family farms that produce local and fresh food, and to support the $28 billion outdoor recreation industry in NC.

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Land for Tomorrow is a coalition of land and water conservation organizations, including American Rivers, Audubon NC, Catawba Lands Conservancy, Conservation Trust for NC, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, NC Recreation & Park Association, Triangle Land Conservancy, and NC Wildlife Federation. The coalition’s goal is to boost public support for land and water conservation across North Carolina. The North Carolina General Assembly sets funding levels for the trust funds.

Post date: November 6, 2017

General Assembly Budget Support for Land and Water Conservation Praised

The Land for Tomorrow coalition commends the Legislature for providing more than $22 million in additional funding for the state’s three conservation trust funds. These additional funds help keep the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund at level funding from recent years, which will enable conservation groups to continue to work with our state partners to protect the state’s valuable natural resources.

In addition, the significant increase to the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund will provide matching funds for two recent federal grants, including one that will help protect land around military bases from incompatible development, and another one that will help protect family farms in the North Carolina mountains.

“We appreciate the legislature’s support of these critical conservation trust funds,” said Bill Holman, Chairman of the Land for Tomorrow Legislative Committee. “We look forward to working with the legislature in future years to continue to increase funding for these trust funds.”

Land for Tomorrow is a coalition of conservation groups and parks and recreation advocates, who partner with the state and local governments and private landowners to conserve North Carolina’s land and water resources, preserve farmland, protect military bases, expand hunting and recreation opportunities, and sustain North Carolina’s economy.

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Post date: June 6, 2018