Evergreen maritime forest and pond at Pine Island Sanctuary in Corolla. Photo: Robert Fearn/Audubon North Carolina

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NC Forever: A Partnership to Conserve North Carolina’s Lands and Waters

Leaders from business, environmental, agriculture and conservation organizations and both political parties came together Tuesday to formally launch North Carolina Forever, a new partnership dedicated to conserving and protecting the state’s lands and waters.

Leaders from the General Assembly joined more than 100 representatives of member organizations and invited guests for the announcement at the Umstead Hotel in Cary – near Umstead State Park.

Leaders of North Carolina Forever announced that its first major project will be commissioning a benchmarking study by RTI International that will:

  • Assess North Carolina’s historical and current levels of land and water conservation funding and compare those levels to funding in other states in the Southeast.
  • Identify priority needs for the future. These findings will guide North Carolina Forever as it advocates for increased statewide funding to conserve North Carolina’s lands and waters.

“Our unconventional partnership has a bold mission,” said Kathy Higgins, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and board chair of NC Forever. “We have come together to help secure the funds needed to deliver on a commitment made in the State Constitution – that ‘It shall be the policy of this State to conserve and protect its lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry’.”

The impetus for the partnership came from Smithfield Foods, Inc. which was instrumental in founding and leading a similar initiative, Virginia Forever. That organization is now in its 10th year of successfully advocating for increased conservation funding in Virginia.

In addition to Smithfield Foods and Blue Cross Blue Shield, other founding partners of North Carolina Forever are Environmental Defense Fund, Martin Marietta, NC Forestry Association, Friends of State Parks, NC Farm Bureau, Coastal Federation, NC Recreation and Park Association, Partners for Parks, and Audubon North Carolina.

David Kelly, Manager of NC Political Affairs for Environmental Defense Fund and Vice-Chair of NC Forever said, “North Carolina is blessed with abundant natural treasures. EDF is proud to be working with these partners to advocate for the funding needed to preserve North Carolina’s rivers, sounds, wetlands, beaches, farms, forestlands, open spaces and places of beauty.”

Higgins said, “This is a time when so many things seem to be dividing us. I am proud to be part of a consensus-driven collaboration that brings together diverse interests. I am proud to be part of a collaboration with a bold and vital mission for our state.

“There is a fierce urgency to our task. Our state’s population is growing fast. There are now more than 10 million of us, with more on the way. We’re the ninth most populous state. Our urban footprint is growing even faster than the population.

“North Carolina needs to make reasonable and necessary investments in the conservation and protection of its lands and waters. We, the partners of North Carolina Forever, have joined forces to encourage those in authority to do just that.”

RTI International Benchmark Study

The study, commissioned by NC Forever, will serve as a key resource in formulating the partnership’s legislative agenda. Results of the study will be released publicly in the spring of 2018.

In addition to assessing current and past North Carolina funding levels and comparing North Carolina with other Southeastern states, the study will identify best practices for determining optimal levels of land and water conservation funding in the future.

About North Carolina Forever

NC Forever is an unconventional partnership of businesses and nonprofit organizations that share a commitment to the conservation of our state’s lands and waters.

NC Forever is supported by businesses, organizations and individuals who share these goals. Its programs include:

  • Preservation of Lands and Waters: The increased funding advocated for by NC Forever will help to preserve our state’s resources so that they may be utilized and enjoyed by its residents of today and tomorrow.
  • Partnerships: The relationships developed between unique allies through NC Forever have the potential to spark cooperation and collaboration far beyond and outside the reach of the organization itself.
  • Advocacy: Partners have an opportunity to interact with and educate lawmakers on issues important to NC Forever.

For more information, visit www.ncforever.org.

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