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The Daily Tar Heel

N.C. Land and Water Fund awards $45 million for natural spaces

Last month, the N.C. Land and Water Fund Board of Trustees met to award $45 million of grants — out of $98 million in requests — for projects that work to protect North Carolina’s land and water. 

Will Summer, the executive director of the NCLWF, works as the administrator for the grant program. The board is appointed to make decisions about which projects are funded.

Summer said this grant cycle will protect nearly 17,000 acres of land in North Carolina. Over 14,000 of these acres will eventually be open to the public for hiking, boating, birding and other recreational uses, he said.

The NCLWF grants come primarily from appropriations from the state's general fund, and the board of trustees use a scoring system to review the grant applications. The NCLWF grants money to four different types of projects, including land acquisition, protection of land, restoration, and planning.

“As more people move to the state it just gets more and more important that we have protected our forests and streams that provide our drinking water as well as our natural communities and our historic and cultural resources as well,” Summer said. 

Summer said one funded project in Orange County is 33 acres of land along a tributary of Morgan Creek to protect the Morgan Creek bluff and Laurel Hills natural area.

Jason Walser, the vice chair of the board, said another funded project adds land to Mount Mitchell State Park, which is more than a century old.

“We have beautiful mountains and a beautiful coast," he said. "Obviously, as we continue to grow at a fast pace, the pressure put on these natural areas becomes greater and greater."

Walser also said the board considers many criteria when awarding funds, like proximity to other conserved land and whether it is managed by a public agency.

Bill Holman, a senior advisor for the Conservation Fund, said the Conservation Fund brought their best projects forward to compete for funding from the NCLWF. The NCLWF funded several Conservation Fund projects.

“Almost all the projects have multiple benefits, but some are focused on water quality protection, some are focused on wildlife protection, some are carcass bone, greenways and trails, some are focused on protecting historic sites,” Holman said.

The Conservation Fund is a national organization that works to protect America’s critical land and waters. Holman said, in North Carolina, the Conservation Fund works on behalf of agency partners like state parks, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission or local governments to protect properties across the state.

Holman also said he is excited about an opportunity the NCLWF funded to create a new park near Downtown Wilmington.

Board chairperson John Wilson said in an email that the board had to make tough choices because demand outpaced funds available. He also said on average, each state dollar granted by the NCLWF is matched by almost two additional dollars, mostly from private or federal government sources.

“I’m confident that our staff’s work with applicants, and our board’s process and deliberations, resulted in grants that will pay dividends for the people of North Carolina for generations,” Wilson said. 

@DTHCityState |

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