North Carolina will lose 2 million acres of open land by 2027

Forest cover and farmland reduce due to development in North Carolina.

2 May, 2007: Here is sad news for all lovers of nature and a grim warning to the powers-that-be. Environmental groups have warned that North Carolina, the United States, will lose 2 million acres of farmland and forests over the next 20 years as so-called development continues to spread across the state.

North Carolina has already lost almost 2.4 million acres of open land (about 325 acres a day) over the past two decades, according to a report based on federal data by Environment North Carolina and Land for Tomorrow.

The two groups urged state leaders to develop long-range plans to protect open land in the future, and support legislation that would use a $1-billion bond issue to finance conservation projects.

The projections were based on development rates in North Carolina in the past 20 years, using data from the US Census Bureau and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Developed land in the state of North Carolina went up by 65% over the last two decades, compared to a population growth of 40%. In the next 20 years, developed areas will rise by 38% while the population grows by 30%.

Data reveals that North Carolina’s larger urban areas will suffer significant losses – cropland will disappear entirely in the Triangle as it loses 37% of its natural areas, while the Charlotte area will lose 30% of its undeveloped spaces.

Kate Dixon, director of Land for Tomorrow, praised the state’s recent agreement to buy Chimney Rock Park for $24 million from private owners and its role, in March 2006, in buying over 77,000 acres in eastern North Carolina from International Paper.

However, she said more concerted, long-range efforts are needed to protect open land in the future.

The environmental groups demanded support of legislation to create a referendum on a $1-billion bond issue to fund preservation of land, water and historical sites.

The money would be used to buy farmland, forests, stream and river buffer property, and historical sites through state trust funds that are already being used to pay for preservation all over the state.

The Natural Heritage Trust Fund has announced $12.3 million in grants to preserve over 6,800 acres. The projects include $4 million to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to help buy property at four natural areas, and $4.8 million for the Wildlife Resources Commission to help buy some of the former International Paper land and three other tracts.

The legislation on bond funding would create and finance a new programme called ‘landing jobs’ to promote jobs and other economic opportunities related to protected properties.



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