conservation matters north carolina rapid growth

Why Conservation Matters during North Carolina’s Rapid Growth Phase

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North Carolina has abundant natural resources that contribute significantly to the state's economy, environment, and overall quality of life. Our state's landscapes provide many opportunities for relaxation, outdoor leisure, farming, tourism, and forestry.

However, as the state experiences rapid growth and development, the need for conservation has become more urgent. This is because population growth and land development make it difficult to sustain our natural resources.

The Natural Resources of North Carolina: What’s At Stake?

North Carolina has magnificent natural land, water, and wildlife resources. The state has 31.5 million acres, 87 percent of which are natural and working lands. These measure about 20.5 million acres, including unmanaged and managed forests, wetlands, and grasslands.

It also boasts over 12,000 miles of estuary beaches, 35,000 rivers and streams, and almost 1,500 lakes. This also makes our state abundant in water resources, helping us in many ways, like providing drinking water and recreational activities.

North Carolina's natural landscapes help humans and wildlife beyond economic importance. For instance, wetlands are vital to water supply. They filter and purify water for state towns, ensuring clean and reliable water. These landscapes offer many fun outdoor activities, increasing outdoor leisure throughout the state.

It also houses a huge variety of environments and species, which makes it a biodiversity hotspot. North Carolina houses incredible wildlife resources as well. It is estimated that we have about 200 endemic species residing in our natural resources. This only implies that we have a couple of hundred species that can't be found anywhere else in the world. These unique species and habitats help the state's ecosystem stay healthy and offer many research, educational, and recreational possibilities.

North Carolina’s Natural Wealth and Its Threatened Status

As the eighth fastest-growing state, North Carolina’s beautiful resources are now at stake. The state’s natural resources are constantly facing threats thanks to land development, rapid population growth, and declining land acquisition for conservation.

In fact, the state recorded another 1 million residents in the past decade, and the pace is still growing. This also means an increase in infrastructure to accommodate the needs of the growing population. Hence, this puts many of North Carolina’s forests, farms, and natural lands at risk of permanent degradation or loss.

Recent projections say that more than 2 million acres will be developed in the next 30 years. This shows how quickly land is being developed in North Carolina. Yet our state agencies, like the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, also determined that over $310 million will be required to place 134,000 acres of new lands into conservation.

Despite the ongoing loss of our natural resources, many North Carolinians still love outdoor recreation. Amidst the challenges brought by the pandemic, state parks saw a record-breaking 19.7 million visitors in 2020. Furthermore, outdoor recreation generates a staggering amount of $28 billion in consumer spending and supports 260,000 jobs.

Our natural landscapes provide too many outdoor recreational activities. The mountains continuously attract visitors, thanks to their breathtaking views and ample hiking trails. Meanwhile, the state’s pristine beaches offer a haven for sun-seekers and water enthusiasts.

These natural wonders call for an investment in conservation more than ever. This is to ensure that these landscapes will last for future generations, making it possible to have access to the natural wealth of North Carolina continuously.

Why Conservation Matters Now: Investing in the Future

The future of North Carolina's natural and cultural resources depends on effective conservation. As the state develops, we must recognize the importance of investing in conservation. This provides long-term sustainability, encompassing economic, environmental, and societal dimensions.

The urgency of conservation action cannot be overstated. Rapid growth across the state threatens more natural lands, farms, and cultural sites each year. If developed, these lands will lose their invaluable benefits forever.

Furthermore, the impacts of climate change, such as increased flooding, rising temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns, can’t now be overlooked. By investing in conservation, North Carolina can take proactive measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, reducing the risk of disasters and protecting both people and nature.

Conservation is more than preserving the status quo; it builds future resilience. Protecting and restoring our rich resources can help North Carolina adapt to environmental changes and harsh disasters. Among other benefits, we can prevent flooding, improve water quality, and preserve our unique wildlife.

Moreover, conservation efforts contribute to the state's long-term economic prosperity. By preserving natural landscapes, North Carolina can continue to attract tourists, generate revenue from outdoor recreation, and support local businesses. It also provides an opportunity to strengthen national defense by conserving the land near military bases.

Building Together: Partnerships for Lasting Conservation

Addressing the conservation challenges faced by North Carolina requires a collective effort. Each stakeholder has a role in protecting and preserving the state's natural and cultural wealth.

As a private landowner or land developer, you have an opportunity to contribute to conservation efforts. Various programs and incentives are available to support conservation initiatives, such as conservation easements, sustainable farming practices, and participation in land trusts.

Furthermore, it’s possible to reduce the environmental impact and also improve sustainability by integrating conservation into development projects.

Collaboration is key to achieving lasting conservation outcomes. Partnerships between landowners, developers, and government agencies can use resources, experience, and local knowledge to achieve comprehensive conservation initiatives.

Conclusion

The time to invest in conservation is now. The rapid growth and development in North Carolina pose significant challenges to the state's natural and cultural resources. By taking action today, we can ensure that future generations will have access to local parks and preserves, public lands for hunting and fishing, reduced flood risks, enhanced military readiness, and a thriving outdoor economy.

Conservation is not merely a choice; it is a responsibility we all share to safeguard our natural heritage and secure a sustainable future for North Carolina!

We are a trusted partner for real estate developers to integrate conservation into their development strategy

 

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