N.C. approves funds for conservation buy

Dec. 26, 2013 @ 06:58 AM

Board members of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund approved spending $750,000 in a meeting Dec. 18 to buy more land in the Globe Township for conservation.

The money is for the purchase of what was listed as the Racket Creek portion of a 750-acre tract called Backbone Ridge that is in the viewshed of Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It was among 30 projects worth $16.26 million that the trust fund board approved, including almost $600,000 for purchasing land in the South Mountains in Burke County.

The Dec. 18 meeting was the first time the board awarded grants since the General Assembly eliminated the Natural Heritage Trust Fund this past summer and merged its funding into the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. The legislation reshaped the trust fund’s mission to focus on protecting the state’s water supplies and natural heritage rather than wastewater improvements or stormwater projects.

The Backbone Ridge property, which includes the headwaters of the Johns River and tributaries of Wilson Creek, was bought by The Conservation Fund, a group based in Arlington, Va., for more than $8.9 million in 2009 and 2010. The property belonged to Keith Brown, who initially planned to develop the property, but when the real estate market suffered Brown sold to The Conservation Fund instead.

The Conservation Fund has been selling portions of the tract to the state and federal governments for permanent conservation.