/ Places You Helped Protect,

State Funding Puts Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

Ruth Jones’ farm on Cedar Mountain.

This column by Torry Nergart, our Conservation Easement Manager was published in the Transylvania Times. 

Many thanks to all those who work tirelessly on one of the toughest parts of government to get ironed out, a budget.

Grandstanding and wedge issues are distractions, and where the rubber meets the road is where our spending priorities meet our true values. Those values are very clearly farm and forest land, open space, and clean air, soil and water, according to our most recently passed bipartisan legislation. North Carolinians have long enjoyed our state constitutionally enshrined protections of the land itself, it is good to see our budget reflect that.

I have travelled across the state and learned that from region to region (North Carolina is so diverse!) we all seem to agree that protecting the land in our communities is utmost. Communities across North Carolina will benefit from this budget, and yes, our little ones too.

The common thread is the entity that seemingly can’t speak for itself – at least by not being able to register for public comment at some meeting and whatnot – is the land itself. The land has a way to speak, though not in English, can say loud and clear what it may need and how not to be treated.

The land can reject you and it can reject all of us if no care is taken. We must be mindful of our treatment and work towards right relations with the land we are on.

Parts of this budget include substantial increases to the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, which Conserving Carolina actively engages in.

We work with legacy farmers to keep the land they have in production and work to make opportunities for the next generation for access to land. We have all got to eat, or at least I have made somewhat of a habit out of it.

I’m not sure if anyone has accounted for that on the land itself with all the farmland we have going into other use lately, but our stomachs may remind us what is truly important. Our budget also protects open space and the ability to access it.

Conserving Carolina creates those opportunities by adding protected land to our suite of public land. Those places are also coincidentally of incredible conservation or scenic value, whose destruction for some private purpose would irrevocably alter nature and what we know as our community. As a final note, our state budget allocates for genuine response and mitigation to disasters that seem much more frequent.

A commendation is in order for not just reacting to any local crisis, then on to the next crisis: it is in order for a more forward thinking funding of building in mitigation and resiliency. We have absolutely got to rebuild wetlands into our environment.

Draining, dredging, diking, followed by timbering, followed by sedimentation, followed by infilling, followed by development, have left our local community without much capacity to soak up any real amount of rainfall and runoff.

Where wetlands once were, where they are most appropriate, there is funding to reinstall those. With that we would hope to see an ecosystem be of better health.

That better health would come in ways we all could share.

How could you describe a night on the porch full of crickets and frogs to someone who never had the chance to hear that before? How would you explain what you once knew is now gone?

Torry Nergart is an avid adventurer, a local Brevard dad and spouse, and just happens to be conservation easement manager for Conserving Carolina, a calling that often puts him in a climbing harness, or waders, on a bike, or, yes, in a kayak, too, to protect the land and water we all love.