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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Land and Water Stewardship - Benefits of Conservation

Land and Water Stewardship

Benefits of Conservation

Conserving land meets the needs of our growing population:

A healthy natural environment that includes forests, streams, farms and beaches is one of the reasons North Carolina’s population has grown so quickly. Our state’s beautiful landscape will continue to draw new businesses and new residents if we consciously balance growth with conservation of the natural environment through coordinated planning. No two acres are the exactly alike; some are more appropriate for development, while others are important for providing biodiversity and wildlife habitat, working farms and forests, water quality, or outdoor recreation opportunities.

Land conservation is a critical tool to enhance North Carolina’s economic prosperity, health and quality of life:

Land conservation sustains long-time industries such as forestry and agriculture while bringing new economic opportunity through tourism and outdoor recreation. Natural lands and working landscapes save millions of dollars in flood control and water purification; clean our air; provide fresh, healthy food; and help North Carolina attract and retain businesses and knowledge workers that form the core of the state’s emerging 21st century economy. Since its inception in 1983, the NC Conservation Tax Credit has been used to protect nearly 200,000 acres of valuable conservation land and leveraged nearly $1 billion in donated land and easement value.

The state’s investments in open space help maintain a high quality of life that attracts people to North Carolina:

More North Carolinians are enjoying outdoor recreation than ever before – 14.25 million people visited North Carolina state parks in 2012, tying an all-time record. A study by the Trust for Public Land estimated that land already protected through the state’s four conservation trust funds will deliver $3.67 billion in economic benefits through 2020 – a return of four dollars in benefits for every dollar invested.

Conservation provides clean water and air:

Clean, healthy waterways are an economic asset; clean water reduces the expense of water treatment and can even draw to the state industries that rely on clean water, such as Sierra Nevada and New Belgium Brewery that located in western North Carolina, in part because of the area’s high water quality. Increased urban tree cover improves air quality by removing pollution, producing oxygen, and reducing air temperatures.

North Carolina has made significant progress in identifying and prioritizing the most important natural landscapes and watersheds for protection:

The Conservation Planning Tool, managed by the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, is a valuable tool used to guide conservation efforts. NCNHP identified Significant Natural Heritage Areas, which are home to rare species or exceptional ecosystems throughout the state. This information can help communities identify key assets to protect and inform development decisions.

State government efforts, particularly the work of the state’s three 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, federal, non-profit or other sources. They also fund critical planning efforts to help North Carolina invest its conservation funds wisely and to help communities plan their own conservation actions. 

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