Today NC Forever held its first briefing for members of the General Assembly Wednesday.
The group presented legislators with the results of its first project, a comprehensive survey of North Carolina’s conservation funding conducted by the Research Triangle Institute.
Jay Moreau, Vice President, Operations Services of Martin Marietta and Co-Chair of NC Forever, told legislators, guests and organization members at the luncheon briefing, “NC Forever is a unique partnership, formed last fall to bring together businesses and non-profits to advocate together for state land and water conservation funding. We’re an unlikely group; you may see some of us opposing each other on other issues, but when it comes to land and water funding for our state, we all work together.”
David Kelly of Environmental Defense Fund and Co-Chair of NC Forever said, “The innovative partnerships forged by NC Forever encourage collaboration and help us to achieve shared goals for land and water conservation in our state. Our organization is founded on the premise that by finding common ground and working together, we can address important needs in our state, and that’s exactly what resulted from this first project.”
Kyle Clark-Sutton, Research Economist, one of the authors of the RTI study, presented an overview of its scope and findings. “Land and water conservation play an important role in supporting a healthy environment, sustainable growth, and a vibrant North Carolina economy,” he said. The study examined the past, present, and future possibilities of land and water conservation funding in North Carolina.
Here are highlights of the RTI study:
- Land and water conservation funding has been rising gradually since 2014 after falling sharply for several years. However, funding is still insufficient given the land and water conservation needs of the state.
- North Carolina is rich in land and water resources that serve as natural infrastructure supporting the economy and population of our state. Working forests, farms, clean water, open space, and a varied landscape of coastal, piedmont and mountain lands and waters support thriving industries from wood products and sweet potatoes to beer, tourism, and shellfish. State and local parks and greenways, public gamelands, mountain vistas and miles of shoreline also make North Carolina an attractive destination for visitors and new residents.
- This natural infrastructure provides critical ecological services to the people of North Carolina by cleaning our water and air, mitigating damage from natural disasters, and supporting healthy soil and wildlife habitats.
- From 2007 to 2017, North Carolina added almost 1.2 million people to its population—the fourth largest increase in the country during this time period. As the population increases, the pressure placed on finite land and water resources will also increase.
- Funding for land and water conservation can help mitigate some of the effects of human activity and population growth on our natural infrastructure by reducing agricultural runoff into waterways, controlling urban pollution and reducing flooding through storm water infrastructure, and protecting wildlife habitat through strategic land acquisition and other measures.
The RTI study examined North Carolina’s historical approach to land and water conservation. It analyzes funding today in the context of the state’s rapid growth trajectory and changing climate. It includes research that shows how land and water conservation funding supports the North Carolina economy.
One section presents high-level data about North Carolina’s funding for land and water resources and parks and recreation in the context of the rest of the country. The report examines “key areas of opportunity for ensuring that land and water conservation funding is adequate to keep pace with growth and sustain North Carolina’s land and water resources for the long term.”