Clean Water Management Trust Fund Gives Birds a Boost

As lawmakers craft this year’s budget, analysis reveals importance of Clean Water Management Trust Fund to birds.

DURHAM, NC – For more than two decades, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund has played a critical role in protecting North Carolina’s most sensitive bird habitat, from seabird nesting and foraging grounds on the coast to the Grandfather Mountain backcountry.

“Birds across North Carolina are feeling pressure from all sides – from the state’s booming population and the development that follows to the impacts of extreme weather,” says Andrew Hutson, Executive Director of Audubon North Carolina. “The Clean Water Management Trust Fund has served as a vital bulwark for birds and all our wildlife by allowing the state to protect important habitat even as North Carolina grows. We urge lawmakers to reinvest in this important funding source for conservation, ensuring we continue to protect our birding, hunting and fishing heritage for future generations.”

Created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1996, the fund has put more than $1 billion toward safeguarding the state’s water and land resources and establishing new state parks, game lands and recreational areas.  According to a new analysis by Audubon North Carolina, nearly two-thirds of the land that has been acquired and protected by the Clean Water Management Trust Fund is in places deemed critical to birds, landscapes known formally as Important Bird Areas, or IBAs.

North Carolina is home to 96 IBAs, a designation that is granted by Audubon and global partner BirdLife International to habitats that are vital to the survival of birds. Audubon North Carolina’s complete analysis of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund’s impact on birds includes a map that overlays IBAs with fund projects and a breakdown of spending within IBAs.

The fund has put $291 million toward conserving land in IBAs, nearly one-third of all money spent through the grant program. That’s good news for birds facing habitat loss from development pressures and our changing climate, including nearly 170 threatened species in North Carolina, and for the state’s $1 billion bird-watching industry. Many of the places protected by the fund are also hotspots for birders and hunters and are cornerstones of our state’s tourism economy.

Despite the Clean Water Management Trust Fund’s track record as a critical conservation tool, the fund has taken a hit in past years, dropping by as much as 90 percent from historical levels in the wake of the recession. North Carolina lawmakers have more recently acknowledged its importance by steadily increasing funding to as high as $27 million in 2017. Audubon North Carolina applauds those efforts and

encourages state lawmakers to grow funding at a level on par with state population increases and demand for the program from local communities, recreation groups and conservation organizations.

As lawmakers craft this year’s budget, Audubon North Carolina is urging state leaders to set the fund on a growth trajectory to ensure that North Carolina’s natural heritage and birding hotspots like Pilot Mountain and the Caswell Game Lands continue to be protected.

Audubon is a member of the NC Forever and Land for Tomorrow Coalitions, which represent a broad set of partners advocating for conservation support in North Carolina.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at and @audubonsociety. Audubon North Carolina, a state program of the National Audubon Society, has offices in Durham, Boone, Corolla, and Wilmington. Learn more at and on Twitter at @audubonnc.​

Media contact: Ben Graham,, 919-880-3793

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