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Swain, Macon, and Jackson counties get state grant money for land conservation projects

The North Carolina Land and Water Fund awarded grants this week totaling $70.3 million, providing funds for 117 projects that will protect North Carolina’s land and water from the mountains to the coast, Governor Roy Cooper announced today.

“Clean water is critical for the health of our families and our economy,” Governor Cooper said. “These grants will benefit local communities by enhancing water quality and providing open space for North Carolinians to gather and enjoy the outdoors.”

The funds will protect 27,157 acres, including 20,998 acres that will eventually be open to the public for hiking, hunting, boating, birding and other recreational uses. Funds were also granted for 37 projects to restore or enhance over 36 miles of streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries and to restore over 8,000 acres of drained wetlands. Funds were awarded for four projects designed to evaluate innovative techniques for managing stormwater. In addition, eight planning projects were funded to identify key water quality and conservation opportunities in mountain, piedmont and coastal watersheds.

Grants awarded will help protect 166 types of rare plants, animals and natural communities. Conservation projects will benefit 55 Endangered or Threatened plants and animals. Neuse River Waterdog, which was added to the Federally Threatened list in 2021, and Hickory Nut Gorge Green Salamander, an animal species first discovered in 2020, are among the species endemic to North Carolina that will benefit from these awards. More than $35 million in grants will go to rural and economically distressed counties.

“In addition to protecting water quality, these state investments will increase recreation opportunities, conserve wildlife habitat, preserve historic and cultural sites, and enhance quality of life,” said Reid Wilson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “This funding from the General Assembly and Governor demonstrates our state’s commitment to protecting our streams and natural areas for the benefit of communities in all 100 counties.”

This year’s grants will support North Carolina’s $3.3 billion outdoor recreation economy by:

Protecting over 10,000 acres to be added to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission game lands in Ashe, Bertie, Bladen, Cherokee, Gates, Graham, Halifax, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Pamlico, Pender, Wilkes, and Yancey counties

Adding over 5,000 acres to N.C. State Parks in Bladen, Harnett, Orange, Robeson, Wake, Watauga, and Yancey counties

Protecting over 7,000 acres in local parks and preserves in Ashe, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Carteret, Chatham, Craven, Gaston, Graham, Henderson, Hyde, Macon, Mitchell, Montgomery, New Hanover, Pender, Polk, Transylvania, Wake, and Wilkes counties

Protecting 15 sites with historic and cultural resources such as Valle Crucis Historic District, the site of Seabreeze Beach Resort, Occoneechee Speedway, archaeological sites, and buffer to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Overmountain Victory Trail and Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Enhancing sport fisheries across the state, including trout waters in Ashe, Buncombe, Caldwell, Graham, Jackson, Macon, Mitchell, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties, Muskellunge habitat in Henderson and Transylvania counties, and saltwater fisheries in New Hanover County

Funding shoreline protection and river access stabilization projects at popular recreational locations from Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Dare County to the New River State Park in Ashe County

Funding planning grants across North Carolina, including efforts to identify wetlands and floodplains capable of mitigating flooding, identifying threats to water supplies and fishing spots on the Rocky River near Siler City, reducing nonpoint source pollution to recreation areas of the South Fork Catawba River, and addressing flooding issues in multiple North Carolina towns including Boone, Canton, Smithfield, and Washington.

N.C. Land and Water Fund grants will also provide buffers for military installations and training areas, awarding $5.5 million and protecting over 6,200 acres near MCAS New River Air Station, MCAS Cherry Point, US Army Fort Bragg, USAF Seymour Johnson, and USMC Camp Lejeune. The military sector comprises over 12% of N.C.’s economy.

“The board considered over 145 outstanding applications from our conservation partners for a wide variety of great projects throughout the state,” said John Wilson, chair of the N.C. Land and Water Fund board. “We had to make tough choices because demand continues to far outpace our available funds. I’m confident that our process and deliberations resulted in grants that will pay dividends for the people of North Carolina for generations.”

Macon County Grants: 

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission-Kelly Cove-Needmore Game Land- $230,541

Mainspring Conservation Trust-Klatt Wetland-Little Tennessee River- $209,078

Mainspring Conservation Trust-Polecat Ridge-Bradley Creek-$184,620

Mainspring Conservation Trust-Bartram Wetlands-Little Tennessee River-$154,000

Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy-Eastern Hellbender-Working Lands for Wildlife-$25,300

Jackson County Grants: 

Mainspring Conservation Trust-Mull Creek-Coney Fork Headwaters-$236,511

Mainspring Conservation Trust-High Knobb-Caney Fork Headwaters-$259,099

Mainspring Conservation Trust-Amazing Grace Complex-Big Ridge-$4,700,000

Swain County Grant: 

Mountain True-Island Park-Ecological Enhancement-$83,500

About the North Carolina Land and Water Fund

The North Carolina Land and Water Fund, a division of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, was previously known as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and was originally established in 1996 to protect the state’s drinking water sources. The North Carolina General Assembly expanded the Fund’s mission to include conserving and protecting the state’s natural resources, cultural heritage and military installations. The North Carolina Land and Water Fund has conserved over 500,000 acres and protected or restored 3,000 miles of streams and rivers. To learn more, visit

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