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Helping Mother Nature: NC Land Management Shifts to New Approach

Banks on the stream in Stone Mountain State Park were excavated and cleared after a rock quarry damaged the health of the waterway. (Greg Jennings)
Banks on the stream in Stone Mountain State Park were excavated and cleared after a rock quarry damaged the health of the waterway. (Greg Jennings)
November 15, 2017

ROARING GAP, N.C. -- North Carolina is changing the way it manages its state lands and waterways. After decades of a hands-off approach, a new method is being used in hundreds of projects across the state.

Called active management, the practice describes a process where problems in stream health and restoration are evaluated, and man-made solutions are implemented to maintain water quality. Marshall Ellis, the mountain region biologist for North Carolina State Parks, explained the shift.

"Previously in state parks, we've never really done a very good job of actually managing our resources,” Ellis said. "We felt like, 'Oh, they're protected. We don't need to do anything.' And then began to realize Mother Nature occasionally needs a little help."

Ellis added that North Carolina is leading the way in this type of management. Recently more than 100 supervisors from other southeastern states visited Stone Mountain State Park, where the state worked with the nonprofit project management group Resource Institute. The project repaired damage to a park waterway caused by a rock quarry company.

Greg Jennings of Jennings Environmental helped with the Stone Mountain Project, and his firm is now in the process of planting native shrubbery to serve as a natural erosion barrier.

"We are returning the stream to its natural condition after it had been disturbed by a human land activity,” Jennings said.

Ellis said in addition to the new approach of active management, the state also is learning the benefits of public-private partnerships in working with the Resource Institute to manage projects and utilize federal dollars.

"One of the things we struggled with is how to manage these projects. What we needed was somebody who could fill that role,” Ellis said. "So we worked with the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and we've come up with the system that allows Resource Institute to take on the nuts and bolts of managing those projects."

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC