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Weekend Getaway? Visit NC Public Lands

Saturday is National Public Lands Day, and entrance to federally owned public lands is free. (RogerMcCoy/morguefile.com)
Saturday is National Public Lands Day, and entrance to federally owned public lands is free. (RogerMcCoy/morguefile.com)
September 22, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. — Saturday, September 24 is National Public Lands Day and entrance to all federally owned public lands is free on Saturday in celebration.

Conservationists and outdoor sportsmen are encouraging people across North Carolina to use this opportunity to venture into some of the state's thousands of acres of public lands. Liz Rutledge, wildlife specialist with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation explained what this resource can offer families.

"They definitely have a lot of accessibility that they wouldn't normally have to these large areas of land, and a lot of them are typically pristine areas and areas that are maintained for conservation,” Rutledge said. “So it's a real great asset for people to get outdoors, take their families and go and actually visit these lands."

As the November election approaches, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation has joined 41 other organizations to ask candidates to pledge their support of public lands. Specifically, they've given the pledge to candidates in the hotly contested North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Republican Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Deborah Ross urging the candidates to keep public lands public.

Richard Mode, affiliate representative for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation said that voters should understand where candidates stand, from local elections to the presidential race.

"Our federal legislators are encapsulated in the balloon of air in D.C., and they need to hear from their constituents,” Mode said. "They need to know that eastern sportsmen, hikers, campers, outdoor enthusiasts have a dog in this fight."

There are efforts - particularly in the Western United States - to privatize public lands. But conservationists have pointed out the potential impact of private interest when it comes to development, as well as the need to protect lands from fire and extreme weather risks.

Rutledge said it's important for people to stay connected.

"There's a growing disconnect between people and the natural world,” she said. “This is an opportunity for everyone to be able to enjoy these lands and to continue to educate and conserve these resources for generations to come."

More than 30 percent of land in the United States is publicly owned. In addition to maintaining access for all citizens, the land designation helps maintain wildlife and monitor changes to the environment as a result of development.

Events are planned Saturday at the W. Kerr Scott Dam in Wilkesboro, Max Patch in Hot Springs, and other locations around the state.

Stephanie Carson/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - NC