May 15 press release from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina:
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Representative Ted Davis, Jr., the City of Creedmoor, Carolina Mountain Club, Wells Fargo, Blue Ridge Parkway employee Sheila Gasperson, volunteers Everett Bowman and Barbara and Bob Strickland, and three longtime local land trust leaders honored by NC land trusts
Reporters/editors: For more information, contact Margaret Newbold, Associate Director, Conservation Trust for North Carolina: 919-805-0299 (c). You may download free photos from CTNC’s online file-sharing site (glide cursor over photo and save): http://ctnc.smugmug.com/Communications/Misc-Communications/2015-Land-Trust-Awards-Press-R
HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – North Carolina’s 24 local land trusts bestowed their annual awards on deserving winners during a lunch celebration at the land trusts’ annual meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville. The NC Land Trust awards are given annually to businesses, nonprofits, governments, and individuals who lead efforts to protect the state’s streams and lakes, forests, farms, parkland and wildlife habitat, thereby protecting clean drinking water and air quality, local food, and outdoor recreation. The award winners included:
· NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler for his dedication to the conservation of farms and forest land
· State Representative Ted Davis, Jr. (R-New Hanover Co.) for his passage of legislation to protect threatened Venus Flytraps
· City of Creedmoor for protecting drinking water and open space while spurring economic growth
· Carolina Mountain Club, based in Asheville, for its volunteers’ tireless trail building
· Wells Fargo for its commitment to environmental sustainability
· Sheila Gasperson (Asheville) for her longtime support of land protection projects along the Blue Ridge Parkway (her employer)
· Everett Bowman (Charlotte) for his philanthropy and passion for protecting the places he loves
· Barbara and Bob Strickland (Rutherfordton) for their inspiring commitment to protecting land for nature education
· Paul Carlson (Franklin) for his 17 years of exemplary service as founding executive director of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee
· Jason Walser (Salisbury) for his leadership and record of accomplishment as executive director of the LandTrust for Central NC
· Roy Alexander (Davidson) for his passion and dedication to conservation as executive director of Davidson Lands Conservancy (posthumous)
State Government Conservation Partner of the Year: Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Nominated by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, and The Conservation Fund
Since taking office in 2005, Steve Troxler, Commissioner of the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has been one of North Carolina’s strongest champions for conservation. His list of accolades is lengthy and he has made a great impact on the state.
Commissioner Troxler strongly supports farmland preservation and the NC Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF). During his tenure, the ADFPTF has protected nearly 10,000 acres and allocated almost $16 million in grant funding for working lands conservation easements and agricultural development projects. As a result of his leadership, the number of counties with Voluntary Agricultural Districts has more than doubled and more than half of the state’s counties have adopted Farmland Protection Plans.
Troxler seized opportunities to expand other conservation-related funding. In 2012, he helped direct $2.24 million in Tennessee Valley Authority air pollution settlement funds to projects in affected western NC counties that promoted agriculture and forest conservation. Additionally, in 2014 Commissioner Troxler spearheaded the creation of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a new funding source to support efforts to address the threats to the state’s hemlock trees from the hemlock woolly adelgid.
Troxler has insisted that the State must honor the permanence of conservation easements and not go down the slippery slope of altering these agreements once in place. “Conservationists in North Carolina applaud the strong stand that Commissioner Troxler has taken in favor of keeping our promises when it comes to protection of farm, forest and natural land through voluntary conservation easements” said Kieran Roe, Executive Director of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “All who value the conservation of the State’s natural and agricultural resources should be grateful for the principled leadership he has demonstrated.
Legislator of the Year: Representative Ted Davis, Jr.
Nominated by North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
Representative Ted Davis, Jr. (R-New Hanover) has been a staunch advocate protecting threatened Venus Flytraps. Lands protected by NC State Parks, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, the US Forest Service, the NC Coastal Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy have all lost flytraps in recent years because of poaching.
Following the poaching of more than 1,000 Venus Flytraps from a carnivorous plant garden in Wilmington in 2013, Representative Davis took action. He worked with conservationists and experts in plant conservation to craft a bill that made poaching flytraps in New Hanover County a felony, punishable by up to 25 months in prison. He introduced the bill in the General Assembly in 2014. Four nearby counties asked that the provision apply to them as well, and eventually the legislation passed in amended form so that it applies statewide.
Under prior law, Davis said, criminals only got a “slap on the wrist” for stealing Venus Flytraps. Davis said it is important to try to preserve the plant in its natural habitat, “There’s only a small area for the Venus Flytrap to grow naturally. If it goes extinct there, it’s gone,” said Rep. Davis.
Local Government Conservation Partner of the Year: City of Creedmoor
Nominated by Tar River Land Conservancy
The city of Creedmoor is implementing a progressive vision to protect the quality of life within the city and surrounding areas, while also maintaining economic growth. Improving and protecting water quality, and increasing open space, while also developing as a community, requires skillful planning. Creedmoor demonstrates that it is possible to balance the development pressure that is moving into rural areas from North Carolina’s major cities while also protecting and enhancing local natural areas.
Creedmoor has partnered with Tar River Land Conservancy (TRLC) and other entities on several projects that provide open space or enhance and protect the water quality both in the Creedmoor area and downstream into Falls Lake. Creedmoor provided needed funds to acquire two tracts of land that will provide protected open space in southern Granville County. The city also assisted TRLC with the acquisition of a property and provided funds to help clean up an old hog lagoon located on the property that was a direct threat to water quality in Falls Lake. All three properties are listed on local greenway plans as locations for future public trails to get people outside.
Community Conservation Partner of the Year: Carolina Mountain Club
Nominated by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
The Carolina Mountain Club (CMC), based in Asheville, is devoted to facilitating the enjoyment of North Carolina’s natural lands, particularly in the western part of the state. In 2010, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) began work on the development of an extensive hiking trail network in Hickory Nut Gorge that would provide public access to visitors and enable them to traverse the ridges, hollows, and forests that link them together. Thanks to the Carolina Mountain Club’s hard work putting these trails on the ground, this trail is now nearly 10 miles long.
“The Carolina Mountain Club has defined selfless devotion to facilitating the enjoyment of our natural heritage among the community. Land conservation is more known, appreciated, and directly touched thanks to the immense involvement of the CMC in the Hickory Nut Gorge,” stated Kieran Roe, Executive Director of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.
CMC volunteers have donated 5,563 hours to Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Volunteers endure extreme temperatures and challenging weather conditions while carrying heavy tools in rugged and steep terrain. Their work is mentally daunting, sometimes dangerous, and always physically taxing. Carolina Mountain Club is a dedicated group of volunteers building trails to enable others to enjoy NC’s southern mountains.
Corporate Conservation Partner of the Year: Wells Fargo
Nominated by Triangle Land Conservancy, North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, and Sandhills Area Land Trust
Wells Fargo recognizes the importance of environmental sustainability and is committed to operating in an efficient way and promoting opportunities that contribute to “greener” communities. Whether it is partnering with nonprofits to preserve land, helping with trail building and maintenance, or cleaning brush and invasive species, Wells Fargo is dedicated to conserving and protecting the state’s land and natural resources.
Wells Fargo has contributed to a range of environmental projects, including donating over $100,000 to support three land trusts; Triangle Land Conservancy, North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, and Sandhills Area Land Trust. The Wells Fargo grants will help connect more people with nature by increasing the visibility of, and access to, nature preserves. Additionally, their contributions will support the important stewardship work required of land trusts, including preserve planning and ecological management.
“Wells Fargo appreciates the fact that our planet provides us with tremendous resources, and we make every effort to minimize our impact and contribute to the long-term success and sustainability of our communities,” said Jack Clayton, Wells Fargo’s regional president for the Piedmont East region. “We are proud to support these land trusts in their work to protect North Carolina’s natural areas for future generations, and we are honored to receive this award.”
Federal Government Conservation Partner of the Year: Sheila Gasperson
Nominated by Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Blue Ridge Conservancy, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Sheila Gasperson, Realty Specialist for the Blue Ridge Parkway unit of the National Park Service, has the monumental task of overseeing all real estate transactions and issues along the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway in NC and Virginia. Sheila’s passion for the Parkway and its conservation significance is unmatched. As the primary contact for land trusts working along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sheila is a strong advocate for protecting lands along the Parkway and the role of land trusts in doing so.
For 35 years Sheila has played a role in dozens of conservation projects along America’s second most visited unit of the National Park Service. Mrs. Gasperson has had a particularly close relationship with NC’s land trusts since 1996, when the Year of the Mountains Commission prioritized conserving land along the Blue Ridge Parkway recognizing that it is one of the most important economic drivers in western NC. Since then, land trusts along the Parkway in NC have conveyed 22 properties totaling 1,706 acres to the National Park Service for inclusion in the boundaries of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“Local, statewide and national land trusts working along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the millions of Parkway visitors, owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Sheila Gasperson for her decades of work, which have resulted in thousands of acres of protected land and dramatic vistas. Her efforts will leave a lasting legacy that will benefit wildlife, water quality, recreation and the Parkway’s associated economic benefits to Western North Carolina.” said Rusty Painter, Land Protection Director with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.
Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year: Everett Bowman
Nominated by North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, Catawba Lands Conservancy, and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Wilmington native and Charlotte resident, Everett Bowman, has wholeheartedly dedicated himself to protecting the places in North Carolina that he has felt most connected to throughout his life. His efforts have had a meaningful impact in the mountains and the cities, from the piedmont to the coast.
In 2014, Bowman pledged to make simultaneous six-figure donations to the NC Coastal Land Trust, Catawba Lands Conservancy and Southern Appalachian Conservancy. These generous gifts are an extraordinary example of philanthropy and serve as a model for the many North Carolinians who have ties to lands in more than one region of our state. Bowman’s story showcases the vitality and vibrancy of the state’s land trust community and how one individual can make a difference at three special places he loves, inspiring similar actions from others.
In addition, Bowman has served on the Board of the NC League of Conservation Voters since 2011. This fall, to the applause of business and environmental leaders in Charlotte, he received the League’s 2014 Catalyst Award, which recognizes leaders who have taken exceptional action to create change and bring attention to important environmental issues.
Mr. Bowman recently stated, “I believe that, as citizens and as human beings, our greatest responsibility and ethical calling is stewardship of the Earth. As I see it, that means to support environmental conservation, preservation, and restoration — to preserve and protect the diversity of plant and animal species and the native habitats of those species, and to stop and reverse global warming and other deleterious effects we human beings and our civilization have had on the environment. “
Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year: Barbara and Bob Strickland
Nominated by Pacolet Area Conservancy
Barbara and Bob Strickland are inspirational advocates for education, conservation and the protection of natural areas. Working with the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), the Stricklands have protected 1,554 acres of fields, beautiful views and forested creek valleys known as Walnut Creek Preserve, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Stricklands also opened the Anne Elizabeth Suratt Nature Center in memory of their daughter. The 1,500-acre protected forest surrounding the Nature Center is a natural outdoor classroom for learning about native Southern Appalachian plants and animals. The Center is the home to nature programs offered by Walnut Creek Preserve in a partnership with The Pacolet Area Conservancy, with a goal to further an appreciation by young and old of the importance of the forest in our daily lives.
In addition to being active conservationists of their own land, Barbara is currently Pacolet Area Conservancy’s Board President, where her time and talents are making a great impact. “Babs is as comfortable on the bush-hog as she is in the board room. Hard working doesn’t begin to describe the Stricklands,” said Mary Walter, Executive Director for the Pacolet Area Conservancy.
Local Land Trust Leaders Honored
North Carolina’s land trusts also recognized three respected leaders within their community for their many years of dedication and commitment to conservation – former Executive Director of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (LTLT) Paul Carlson, former Executive Director of the LandTrust for Central North Carolina (LTCNC) Jason Walser, and former Executive Director of Davidson Lands Conservancy (DLC) Roy Alexander.
North Carolina Land Trusts Founders Award
Paul Carlson is the founding Executive Director of LTLT, and served in that position for 17 years before stepping down at the end of 2014. He now serves in a part-time advisory role to the organization. Paul earned a B.A. in Economics and an M.S. in Forestry from the University of Illinois. He had a 12-year career in the Andean region of South America as a forestry and agro-forestry advisor for the Peace Corps, the US Agency for International Development and CARE International. Since its founding, LTLT has conserved approximately 24,000 acres in Western North Carolina – including 33 miles of Little Tennessee River frontage. The group has worked extensively in northern Macon County purchasing the Needmore Tract, Hall Mountain and the historic Rickman Store.
North Carolina Land Trusts Leadership Award
Jason Walser, after 12 years of service to the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, will step down as Executive Director on July 1. Jason graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a BS in Business Administration, and returned to Chapel Hill to obtain a law degree. After practicing primarily estate planning and probate law with Linkous and Associates in Hendersonville, Jason joined The LandTrust for Central North Carolina in 1999 as the Associate Director for Land Protection. He was promoted to Executive Director in 2001. Under Walser’s leadership the LandTrust’s primary focus has been protection of the Yadkin and Pee Dee Rivers, conservation of scenic farmland, and enhancement of public access and ecological restoration of the Uwharrie Mountains region. Founded in 1995, LTCNC has conserved more than 25,000 acres in a 10-county region.
North Carolina Land Trusts Lifetime Achievement Award
This past winter the land trust community experienced an unexpected loss when Roy Alexander, Executive Director of the Davidson Lands Conservancy (DLC), passed away unexpectedly. A graduate of Davidson College, Roy spearheaded efforts in Mecklenburg County to protect water quality, air quality, and the land. He achieved a statewide reputation for his work. Previously, he served as a high school science teacher and was the Director of Biological and Earth Sciences at Discovery Place. He was active with the Catawba Lands Conservancy and was an early board member of DLC. Roy joined the Davidson Lands Conservancy in 2006, which has helped protect about 400 acres since it formed in 2000, including a wetland threatened by development that is now a nature preserve.
North Carolina land trusts have protected 406,684 acres in 2,559 places across the state. North Carolina land trusts preserve land and water resources to safeguard your way of life. We work in local communities to ensure critical lands are protected for clean drinking water, recreation, tourism, and working farms and forests.