About the Partnership
The mission of the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP) is to identify, protect, and restore the significant resources of the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. APNEP pursues this mission with guidance and support from its overarching Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), advisory bodies and regional partners.
APNEP is a cooperative effort jointly sponsored by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with support from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The program area extends across most of the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed, including the Neuse, Tar-Pamlico, Pasquotank, Chowan, lower Roanoke, and parts of the White Oak River basins.
As sanctioned in N.C. Governor's Executive Order #133, APNEP staff is advised by a Policy Board, a Science and Technical Advisory Committee, and an Implementation Committee. For additional information, please visit the links below.
APNEP incorporates an ecosystem-based management approach to achieving its mission. More specifically, this approach includes consideration of both human and natural systems, an adaptive management framework, and meaningful engagement with the public to find environmental management and policy solutions. These themes are explored below.
A systems view
APNEP's systems approach considers the hundreds of human and natural elements in the Albemarle-Pamlico ecosystem as well the relationships between them. APNEP's management plan is based on a model of these relationships, ensuring that management actions directly target improvements in ecosystem services and are linked to explicit conservation goals.
Adaptive management requires setting environmental and management goals, then routinely evaluating progress toward achieving them. Adaptive management will ensure that management actions are routinely assessed, then continued, improved, or discontinued based on environmental evidence and community feedback. APNEP is committed to developing and applying information to support adaptive management practices, both internally and with its partners.
APNEP is active throughout the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed, with management efforts directed from river headwaters to the sea. For this reason, APNEP works in both North Carolina and Virginia, as water from both states ultimately drains into the sounds. By working within ecological rather than political boundaries, APNEP ensures that issues are addressed in an integrated and holistic way.
Engaging our partners
APNEP has taken a partnership approach to achieve its mission. Protection of the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system is an enormous undertaking, and the resources directly allocated to APNEP are limited. APNEP seeks to overcome this hurdle by leveraging partnerships among governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and the public to make significant improvements for the sounds. As a result of its broad reach, APNEP is well positioned to fill gaps and identify synergies among its partners.
In recognition of the numerous benefits provided by the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, the United States Congress designated the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system an “estuary of national significance” in 1987. That same year, the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine Study (APES) was among the first of 28 National Estuary Programs established by the EPA through amendments to the Clean Water Act.
From 1987 to 1994, APES sponsored nearly one hundred research initiatives in the Albemarle-Pamlico region, each designed to give scientists and managers a better understanding of the ecosystem's health and function. These research initiatives culminated in a series of research papers as well as the development of the Albemarle-Pamlico region’s first Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Upon adoption of its first CCMP in 1994, the program became known as the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program as it broadened its mission to include applied conservation, management, and engagement initiatives. In 2012, the program was formally renamed as a partnership, reflecting the importance of coordinated and integrated efforts for protecting and restoring the estuarine ecosystem.
Since its inception, APNEP has led or contributed to scores of conservation efforts in the region. APNEP's first CCMP called for the creation of several environmental initiatives that came to fruition in the form of the Partnership for the Sounds’ Estuarium, the Center for Geographic Analysis, and the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Annual restoration and demonstration projects have improved habitats and water quality throughout the estuarine system. APNEP continues its proud tradition of applied scientific research that began during the APES period, which recently led to the development of environmental indicators for the ecosystem as well as the completion of a coast-wide map of SAV for the estuary. APNEP has supported citizens’ monitoring for over two decades. Finally, outdoor classrooms funded by APNEP dot the region, improving water quality while giving students a place to learn about the natural world. These are just a few of the many ways APNEP continues to benefit the sounds and the ecosystems that support them. For more information visit the initiatives section of our webpage, which contains both past and current program efforts.