Stories in North Carolina

Some of Our Top Year End Conservation Successes

This year we have expanded our projects and pioneered new ideas—always working toward a future where people and nature thrive.

Sunrise over the Cape Fear River. Bridges carry cars across the river as white mist rises from the trees.
Cape Fear River North Carolina Sunrise at the Cape Fear River © FAUNA CREATIVE

Get a glimpse of some of our top 3 year-end conservation successes! From revitalizing water flows across North Carolina to championing peatland restoration, land protection, and innovative land management, selecting our top three was challenging! 

A woman stands at the edge of the forest next to a river.
Cape Fear River North Carolina Julie DeMeester looking over Cape Fear River © Fauna Creative


Comprehensive Water Program

This year we went all in on water! The Chapter took steps to build a comprehensive “Source to Sea” Water Program led by Julie DeMeester, Freshwater and Coastal Systems Director.
She has focused a lot of her attention on healthy environmental flows—working with dam operators to restore more natural flows or manage dam releases to help fish swim upstream and mitigate downstream algal blooms. Today, that strategy is expanding elsewhere. TNC is studying Drowning Creek in Moore County, which is the drinking water source for Southern Pines, to determine why flows have been reduced there and what can be done to restore them. 

TNC led the push to enroll the Roanoke and Cape Fear rivers in the Sustainable River Program, a joint TNC / Army Corps of Engineers project that works to make dams operate in a way that is better for people and nature. That program will soon be expanded to the Neuse River at the Corps’s request.

Keep reading about our water program.

A man walks next to a flat bed truck carrying large metal water control structures.
Water Control Structures Eric Soderholm with water control structures at Angola Bay. © SYDNEY BEZANSON


Peat Restoration

Until 2023, TNC’s peat restoration had been confined to the northeastern corner of the state. That area is blanketed with peatlands, whose restoration removes carbon from the atmosphere. But peatlands aren’t confined to that region; they can be found along the coastal plain to the Georgia/Florida border. This year, TNC began an extensive restoration project at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Angola Bay Game Lands, land that TNC protected and transferred to the state two decades ago. “It’s really neat to come back to a place and work with partners to improve and restore ecosystem function full circle,” says Eric Soderholm, TNC’s peat restoration specialist. 

Most East Coast peatlands have been ditched and drained for agriculture. When dried, they emit carbon and are easily ignited, leading to wildfires that belch carbon. Restoring more natural water flows to peatlands turns them from carbon emitters to carbon absorbers. Ten acres of drained peatlands emits the same amount of carbon as 21.5 passenger vehicles. Rewet the peatlands and that same ten acres absorbs the carbon equivalent of 3.25 passenger vehicles.

Keep reading about our peatland restoration work.

A group of fire practioners pose together in a line during a controlled burn.
All Female and Nonbinary Burn All Female and Nonbinary Burn Crew © SYDNEY BEZANSON


The First All-Female/Nonbinary Crew Burn at Carvers Creek State Park

A few years ago, Carvers Creek State Park Superintendent Colleen Bowers was chatting with State Parks Fire Management Officer Thomas Crate about how the face of prescribed fire was changing with more women joining the ranks. “The burn crew was almost all female at the time and my staff was half female,” she remembers. “We have enough females to have a burn with just them.”

TNC Burn Program Manager, Carmella Stirrat, made this happen! Stirrat put together a 15-member female/nonbinary burn crew with State Parks, TNC and the N.C. Forest Service taking part, and the burn came together on April 19 at Carvers Creek State Park. Bowers says that the burn was important to her personally and professionally. “It gave me a sense of pride of how things are changing in the fire world. 

Read more about the role that fire has in the forest.

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