Red wolves need a lot of room to roam...and as sea levels rise, they will also need room to migrate inland.
Fred Annand has worked on acquisitions at and around the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge for more than three decades. The latest comes this fall with the purchase of a conservation easement on 4,300 acres just south of the refuge.
Annand is breaking new ground with this work; it is the first time the United States Air Force has helped pay for conservation around one of its installations. “We pioneered Department of Defense habitat conservation with the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg, and then came the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy at Camp Lejeune and now the U.S. Air Force at the Dare County Bombing Range. Today there are cooperative conservation projects with the Department of Defense from North Carolina to Hawaii. All of these successful efforts originated right here with the North Carolina Chapter of the Nature Conservancy,” Annand explains.
The Air Force, via Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, used Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) funds to pay for half the cost of the easement. A grant from the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund covered the remainder. The project will help buffer the Air Force’s 46,000-acre Dare County Bombing Range, ensuring that development doesn’t encroach on its borders, harming the military’s ability to use to the facility for low altitude, air-to-ground target training.
The project also protects water quality in the Pamlico Sound, because the Long Shoal River – a tidal creek that flows into the sound – borders the property. It is important habitat for the federally endangered red wolf, which has been successfully reintroduced into the wild at the refuge.
“As sea level rise continues to inundate protected habitat for the red wolves, black bears and other species, there must be a way for those animals to move to the west to higher ground and away from rising seas,” Annand explains. “As animals move from east to west, they will most likely move through this and other properties rather than attempt to cross the Alligator River which is several miles wide in this area.”
Like many of the Chapter’s successful conservation projects, this one didn’t happen overnight. It was seven years in the making. Annand is moving on – with his eye on the next priority acquisition in partnership with the U.S. Air Force and others at the greater Alligator River project area. “Oh yeah, there is still a great deal of work to be done,” he says with a smile.
Debbie Crane handles marketing and communications for the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Laura Smith adapted the piece for the web.