N.C. Land and Water Fund Distributed Over $20 Million in Grants in 2020

RALEIGH

The North Carolina Land and Water Fund (NCLWF), formerly known as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, will help conserve lands and protect waterways serving millions of North Carolinians through over $20 million in grants awarded in 2020 to help fund 65 projects throughout the state.

“Every year, millions of residents and visitors enjoy North Carolina’s abundance of natural resources,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “This funding from the Land and Water Fund will help us protect these resources and provide clean drinking water to communities across the state.”

The funds will be used to preserve more than 8,000 acres, including trout waters, coastal habitats, greenways and trails, and buffers around military bases, protecting hundreds of species of rare plants and animals. Grants for restoration projects will enhance or restore over eight miles of the state’s waterways and protect even more aquatic habitat.

“For 25 years, the Land and Water Fund has played a vital role in protecting North Carolina’s water quality, open spaces, and treasured cultural resources,” said Reid Wilson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “These grants have been used in all 100 N.C. counties to help ensure clean drinking water, protect natural habitat and preserve our unique natural and cultural resources for future generations.”

The total for the 2020 grant year includes $5.3 million in additional funds raised through license plate sales since initial grants were awarded at the NCLWF board meeting in September 2020.

While more than $14 million in grants were awarded in September 2020, many notable projects across the state were left unfunded because grant requests exceeded the amount of available funds. In response, the board compiled a list of projects to be provisionally funded with any additional revenue received from annual license plate sales and returned grants.

Land protection projects receiving funding include Belews Lake Park in Forsyth County, a 216-acre passive park that will be the first public access point for the nearly 4,000-acre lake. Further west, a project submitted by Conserving Carolina will secure additional trout angling access in Jackson County. These two projects, along with many others funded this cycle, will result in over 6,800 acres of additional lands across the state that will be open to the public for hiking, birding and other recreational uses.

“Access to trails, greenways and open space is so important to our health and well-being,” said John Wilson, chair of the NCLWF board. “This critical need has been especially apparent during the past 16 months when we so desperately needed fresh air, exercise and recreation. Public access will continue to be a priority for the Fund.”

Other 2020 grant cycle projects will help make coastal communities more resilient. Partnering with the N.C. Coastal Federation and the Marine Air Corps Station at Cherry Point, NCLWF funded a 2,100-foot living shoreline that will protect military base housing that is currently experiencing severe erosion. NCLWF is also partnering with the Division of Soil and Water Conservation, housed within the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to fund the fifth round of the voluntary Swine

Floodplain Buyout Program, which removes active animal operations from floodplains, reducing the potential for pollutants to spill into rivers during extreme weather events.

“In order to be truly resilient, we need multiple strategies at our disposal,” said Will Summer, interim executive director of the NCLWF. “Sometimes that means using natural systems to help us hold our ground and other times it means getting out of the way. These projects together exemplify that philosophy.”