North Carolina’s forests, farms, wetlands and other natural lands contribute to our health, economic prosperity and quality of life. Rapid residential and commercial development over the last several decades has resulted in the loss of millions of acres of these important lands. Recognizing the challenge, individual citizens, organizations and public officials across North Carolina have sprung into action – investing money, time and effort to protect places that matter across the state. State government efforts, particularly the work of the state’s four conservation trust funds, serve as the foundation for North Carolina’s land conservation strategy. The trust funds provide an important source of funding for land acquisition and conservation projects, often leveraging one to two times as much funding from private, non-profit or other sources. They also fund critical planning efforts to help North Carolina invest its conservation funds wisely and to help communities determine how to meet their own conservation needs. This report tracks the state’s progress toward the conservation goals set in 2005 by Land for Tomorrow and proposes a new set of goals for the years to come. It tells three stories about the state’s conservation efforts:
• The story of the tremendous progress North Carolina has made toward preserving places that matter across the state;
• The story of the recent decline in funding for land conservation – a decline that puts the state’s future economic vitality and quality of life at risk; and
• The story of what could be – a vision of a healthy, prosperous and vibrant North Carolina that protects what’s best about our natural lands and working landscapes – a vision that can become a reality if we commit the necessary resources. Today, North Carolina is at an important crossroads. To secure North Carolina’s economy, quality of life and treasured environment, the state must reinvigorate its commitment to land conservation.