SALT Wins Big Grant to Protect Land
The Sandhills Area Land Trust (SALT) has received a $661,000 grant to protect a key tract of land on Drowning Creek.
The North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund board met Sunday and Monday and decided to award a grant to SALT to buy a conservation easement on 209 acres along Drowning Creek south of Pinebluff.
"The intent is to buffer the waterway," SALT Executive Director Dan Bell said, "to protect water quality."
It's the only project in Moore County to receive funding.
The tract is the only missing piece of property in an 11-mile stretch of Drowning Creek that SALT has managed to preserve. Drowning Creek is the main source of water for the town of Southern Pines, and the remaining tract surrounds the town's water intake.
"This is the critical last piece of the puzzle," Bell said.
The next step is reaching an agreement with the landowner, who wants it to be preserved as long as the price is fair, according to Bell.
It will take some time for SALT to receive the money from the trust fund. To expedite matters, SALT asked Southern Pines to front the money to conduct an appraisal of the property -- about $14,000.
The Southern Pines Town Council agreed to do that, and SALT is now in the process of having the land appraised. When SALT receives the state funds, it will repay the town.
SALT hopes to have an agreement with the landowner by the end of the year. If all goes according to plan, the conservation easement could be in place early next year.
An elderly couple own the land. Bell said he didn't want to identify them yet because the deal hasn't been completed and he wants to protect their privacy. But he did say that they've owned and operated a long-standing tobacco farm on the land.
The tract totals 850 acres. Bell called it a beautiful farm with a nationally recognized historic barn.
As long as the appraisal comes in at the expected price, Bell said he didn't anticipate any problems.
"The best we can hope for is to have a landowner like this, who cares so much for the property," he said. "They've farmed it for decades and would like to see it preserved."
SALT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to natural preservation in the Sandhills. It covers a six-county region and has targeted land around Drowning Creek, Deep River and the Lumber River for conservation. It has also placed conservation easements in parts of Moore County's horse country.
A conservation easement lets the private property owner maintain ownership, but give up the right to develop it.
Since SALT's formation in 1991, it has placed 46 separate conservation easements on more than 4,300 acres and owns 16 nature preserves, bringing the total number of acres protected to over 8,500.
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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