Southeastern North Carolina
Building Connections and Growing Stewardship
If you look at a map of our longleaf pine protection work, you'll see a cluster on the southern Coastal Plain extending from the South Carolina line to Jacksonville. There's a gap between those two areas, mainly in Bladen County. That's not to say there aren't any longleaf in that area. There are. We're hoping dollars raised during the campaign can bridge that gap.
During the Depression, the Federal Government bought property in the area as part of a federally financed work program. Later, that property became Jones Lake and Singletary Lake state parks and Bladen Lake State Forest. There has been very little acquisition in the Bladen Lakes area since then. So far the development of nearby counties hasn't crept in, but with North Carolina on its way to becoming the seventh most populous state by 2030, that's likely to change.
Protecting big blocks of land, creates a situation that allows for the forest to withstand disturbances like hurricanes. It also creates connectivity that allows a genetic interchange between plants and animals and keeps them healthy and thriving.
And it isn't all about the longleaf pine. The area is rich with bottomland hardwoods. The Black River, which counts the oldest trees east of the Rockies among its residents, lies in the landscape. Continuing to protect land along the Black River is part of the current campaign. The Conservancy recently took out a loan to buy a tract on the Black River. Paying back that loan and acquiring other property in the area is crucial to ensuring that the trees, bald cypress dating from Roman times, remain protected.
We've already scored a major campaign victory; the U.S. Navy endowed a new burn boss position to work at the northern end of the longleaf range. "The more successful we are with land acquisition," says Ryan, "the more that we're responsible for that land. Having fully qualified burn bosses allows us the opportunity to hire additional staff that can put fire on the ground." A win for our Chapter is also a win for conservation partners. The new burn boss will support burning in Croatan National Forest and increase our potential to expand habitat for federally endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker. Having more qualified people on the ground is good for the whole landscape.