Land Trust Funds Face Serious Cuts
Sandhills Area Land Trust has worked since 1991 to protect land and water, open space and farmland in the North Carolina Sandhills. This includes the counties of Moore, Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland, Richmond and portions of Harnett. More than 8,200 acres has been protected through conservation easements.
In The Pilot last November, Matthew Moriarty wrote a splendid piece about Drowning Creek. He told how, by winning a grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), SALT was able to protect 11 miles of the creeks' banks. It was, he wrote, "something that is of more than incidental tree-hugging interest to us in Southern Pines, since that is where our drinking water comes from."
Then came February 2009, and Gov. Beverly Perdue pulled $100 million from the CWMTF, followed in May by another $12.8 million. This placed all projects awarded funding in fall 2008 on hold.
Drowning Creek was affected as well as projects on the Little River, McLendon's Creek and Deep River. Next year's budget may or may not replenish these funds. Funding is expected to be low for a couple of years.
These are extraordinary economic times, and Perdue is mandated to balance the state budget. But $112.8 million from one source, rather than a broad reduction in spending across all state entities, is not equitable.
Land values may never fall this low again. The ability of organizations like SALT to purchase conservation easements at these prices may never recur. It has been estimated that North Carolina has lost an average of 100,000 acres of farmland each of the past 10 years.
Here is your opportunity. Join SALT. Become a member. Find out how we work. Join a committee. Write legislators and ask that some of the funds be returned. If you have the means, make a tax-deductible contribution. Protect our quality of life.
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