North Carolina congressional delegation protects state treasures

Nov 19, 2009

North Carolina recently gained more public land and a breathtaking waterfall thanks to bipartisan legislative support. President Obama signed the 2010 Interior Appropriations bill which gave Pisgah and Uwharrie National Forests more acreage.

The support for the appropriations bill in North Carolina came from Rep. Heath Shuler (D-11th), Rep. David Price (D-4th), Rep. Howard Coble (R-6th) and Senator Kay Hagen (D-NC).

“Western North Carolina hasn’t received land funding for almost 15 years, so it’s a pretty big deal for us,” said Brent Martin, a conservationist in The Wilderness Society’s North Carolina office of the newly acquired land. “Because of this funding, there is finally public access to Catawba Falls.”

Along with bipartisan support, a partnership comprised by local and national organizations The Land Trust for Central North Carolina, Foothills Land Conservancy and The Wilderness Society pushed for the appropriations bill.

“We all wanted each other to be successful in getting funding,” said Jason Walser, the executive director for the Land Trust for Central North Carolina. “None of us thought we would all get what we were seeking, but we did.”

I’m writing you today to encourage your editorial writers to recognize what our state’s congressional delegation and local organizations did to acquire these treasures. The work they accomplished is something North Carolinians will be able to appreciate for generations to come. Beautiful waterfalls and other public lands are a shared cultural heritage for North Carolinians.

Their job, however, is not done. There’s something else our congressional leaders can do.

In order to protect national forests like these our conservation champions must continue to set good examples. A bill has been introduced that would expand conservation opportunities nationwide.

Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) recently teamed up with Sen. Max Baucus (D- Mont.) to co-sponsor a bill that would make the annual $900 million for the Land Water Conservation Fund mandatory. Currently there is no guarantee that the LWCF will get this funding every year.

The Land Water Conservation Fund is a federal program that provides monies and matches grants to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of land and water for the benefit of all Americans. North Carolinians should contact their congressional representatives and both of our U.S. senators and ask them to support the new bill.

With the passage of the Baucus and Bingaman bill, acquisitions like the Catawba Falls Access and the Uwharrie trail would be much more common in North Carolina and all over the nation. The Wilderness Society is asking your editorialists to recognize the bipartisan support that occurred and also make North Carolina readers aware of the new bill. If it passes, the U.S. will be guaranteed funding that will preserve land, protect wildlife and provide the public with more outdoor opportunities.

This is a joint release by The Wilderness Society, The Land Trust for Central North Carolina and Foothills Land Conservancy.