While 2020 saw many closures and restrictions due to the pandemic, one thing wasn’t restricted by COVID-19: the North Carolina outdoors. We saw a record-number of visitors – 19.9 million in 2020 – to North Carolina State Parks as we rediscovered our state’s bounty, from mountains to coast. That was 400,000 more visitors than any other year on record.
A new study by RTI International shows that the time is now for increasing public land and water conservation funding. North Carolina is the eighth fastest growing state in the nation and that projected growth will lead to the loss of 2 million acres of undeveloped land in the next 30 years. This loss affects not only our options for outdoor recreation, but flood protection, buffering of mission-critical military bases and more.
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 safeguards for our beloved natural spaces. These funds enable conservation groups to continue working with our state partners to protect North Carolina’s valuable natural resources, ensuring that both current and future generations will continue to enjoy and benefit from all our land has to offer.
Our state legislators alone determine the conservation trust funds. Every year, they decide how much is allocated to protect our state’s clean water, parks and recreation land and farmland preservation. That work is more important than ever as more and more people enjoy our state’s lands. An increase in usage means an increase in our need to ensure the resilience and protection of our lands. At its peak in 2008, the trust funds awarded more than $155 million. Last year, only $29.9 million was awarded.
Now is the perfect time to invest in our state. North Carolina is ready to welcome people back to our parks as a safe way to engage with the world around us, bringing tourism back and boosting our economy. Help us make sure that this land is protected for everyone.