Albemarle Pamlico
Thousands of people visit the Conservancy's Nags Head Woods Preserve in North Carolina's Outer Banks each year. © Andrew Kornylak

Stories in North Carolina



Establishing Corridors and Increasing Resiliency

The Conservancy has deep roots in northeastern North Carolina, having protected hundreds of thousands of acres along the coast and inland near the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers. Program Director Brian Boutin says the Our World Campaign will help his team increase their land protection efforts and connect critical lands between the coast and the Roanoke. The campaign will also support our resiliency work, improve stewardship, and provide seed money for a marine program.

"We've put a great deal of state, federal and private dollars into protecting critically important lands such as the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, now we need to protect corridors that allow for adaptation to a changing climate and inland migration," Boutin explains.

Much of the region is blanketed with peat soil. This soil is carbon rich, containing decomposing vegetation and woody debris. If you grab a handful, half of what you are holding is carbon. The Conservancy is working on federally owned land at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to restore peat soils through returning natural water patterns to land that has been ditched and drained since Colonial times. This rewetted peat will be less vulnerable to large wildfires that can burn for months and release large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. Even without fire, the dry peat breaks down and carbon is lost to the atmosphere. "We are looking to grow that restoration beyond federal lands to areas adjacent to those places. This will allow landowners to continue traditional uses of their restored land and maybe make additional money as well," says Boutin. The added money comes in the form of carbon credits. The Conservancy's method for restoring peat soils was recently approved by the American Carbon Registry. Private landowners using the method can sell carbon credits as a way for industry to offset carbon emissions.

A cluster of oysters
Oysters Oysters grow in clusters to form great reefs, protecting themselves from predators and providing habitat for other species. © Erika Nortemann / TNC

"We are also going to continue to have a big focus on oyster restoration," Boutin says. Oyster reefs help to buffer shoreline against rising sea level and more intense storms resulting from climate change. But one of the Conservancy's newest reefs is doing more than preventing erosion. "We've been approached to expand our reef at Swan Quarter because the marsh is expanding behind the reef," explains Boutin.

Much of the oyster work is done by Conservancy Steward Aaron McCall. McCall is a busy man. Since he was hired 16 years ago, we've more than doubled Conservancy-owned lands and embarked on several new projects. Boutin hopes the campaign will endow an additional position for the region. "We're thinking big - buying more land, expanding wetlands restoration, and building more oyster reefs. We need additional staff to make that happen."

Finally, Boutin hopes the campaign will provide seed money for a marine program. "We need to focus on coastal marine issues and lend our science-based approach to areas that don't have a lot of conservation voices. We have been working in this area a bit. We recently provided comments to the government on how wind energy development should occur off Kitty Hawk to limit conflict," Boutin says. "We have a great foundation working in places that have direct connection to the water. Now it is time to look at the water itself and expand our work into the marine environment."

 "We're thinking big—buying more land, expanding wetlands restoration, and building more oyster reefs. We need additional staff to make that happen," says Boutin.  The campaign will endow an additional position for the region as well.