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Take a Hike: 23 North Carolina Conservation Projects Funded in 2014

Photo: With help from the state's Clean Water Management Trust Fund, land trustees will be able to purchase additional acreage on 5,564 ft. Snake Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, thereby expanding Elk Knob State Park. Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Conservancy.
Photo: With help from the state's Clean Water Management Trust Fund, land trustees will be able to purchase additional acreage on 5,564 ft. Snake Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, thereby expanding Elk Knob State Park. Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Conservancy.
September 29, 2014

ZIONVILLE, N.C. - If you don't own a piece of beautiful real estate in North Carolina, sometimes the only way to enjoy the state's natural beauty is by hiking in a state park or on conservation lands.

This year, with help from the the state's Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), 23 land conservation projects across North Carolina will be funded, including land on Snake Mountain in Watauga County. Eric Heigl, director of land protection for the Blue Ridge Conservancy, says his organization counts on the state funding.

"The Clean Water Management Act Trust Fund grants are one of the bigger grant opportunities to acquire lands that we have here in North Carolina," he says. "They can make or break certain projects."

Conservation projects receiving funding this year include the French Broad River, Chimney Rock State Park, Bentonville Battlefield Historic Site and others. The grants are funded by the state, and the fund's budget is set annually by the General Assembly. In its most recent budget, lawmakers increased funding to $14.1 million, but during this last grant cycle, the state's Clean Water Management Trust Fund received requests totaling $56 million.

Bryan Gossage, director of the Clean Water Management Act Trust Fund, says his job is about making the most of the resources allocated, and recognizing the hard work of state's 24 land conservation groups.

"There are always limited resources, so there are always tough decisions to make," he says. "I just appreciate the hard work the trustees do, they're volunteers."

Among those who applied for funding was Will Morgan, dIrector of government relations for the North Carolina chapter of The Nature Conservancy. He was not successful this year.

"There were a lot of really great projects that didn't receive funding because there just wasn't enough money to go around," he says.

Grant money from the CWMTF also funds projects that improve water quality, including more than $3 million for stream restoration and stormwater projects this year.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC