Million Acre Initiative
When the Million Acre Initiative began in January 1999, approximately 2.8 million acres — 9 percent of the state — was protected open space in North Carolina. In response to the legislatively established (G.S. 113A-240 and 241) goal of protecting an additional million acres, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, working in partnership with the broader land conservation community was able to secure protection of an additional 683,460 acres by the end of 2009. While North Carolina did not meet the Million Acre goal to protect an additional million acres by Dec. 31, 2009, tremendous progress was made, increasing the rate of land protection far beyond what it had been, during a period that included two economic recessions and limited federal support.
Each year through 2010, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources submitted a report to the Governor and the Environmental Review Commission. The document details the status of the Million Acre Initiative, reports on protected acres, and offers a strategy for the future. As the report’s detailed tables and summaries note, special recognition was given to non-profit partners and conservation trust funds. Over the course of the Million Acre Initiative, the average annual rate of land protection was 62,070 acres. This rate of land protection is less than the pace at which natural and agricultural lands are being converted to development in North Carolina, which currently amounts to about 100,000 acres per year.
The Million Acre reports note that there is sustained public interest in open space protection. Economic analyses indicate that land conservation makes economic sense. An economic study conducted by The Trust for Public Land (TPL) shows that investing in conservation lands through four state programs (Conservation Trust Funds) – the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Natural Heritage Trust Fund, and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund – more than pays for itself. Every $1 invested in land conservation returns $4 in economic value from natural resource goods and services alone. The state’s investments over the past 10 years will ultimately return more than $3.6 billion. "NC’s Return on Conservation Investment" report is available here.
Tracking Our Progress: Annual Reports on Million Acre Initiative