Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of North Carolina that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor recreation jobs across the country.
Creation of a blueway along the Waccamaw River and conservation of important wildlife habitat in the Long Hope Valley are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the natural world.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These critical projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Beverly Perdue and the state of North Carolina, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of North Carolina and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in North Carolina highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Waccamaw River Blueway
Creating a blueway along the Waccamaw River would preserve critical floodplain, protect an important wildlife-migration corridor, provide many recreational opportunities, and support new adventure-tourism businesses. Linked with the Waccamaw River Blue Trail in South Carolina it would create a two-state water trail from its source at Lake Waccamaw in North Carolina to Winyah Bay in South Carolina.
The 60,000-acre Waccamaw River floodplain in southeastern North Carolina stretches south to the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina, as one of the largest contiguous wildlife habitats in the southern coastal plain. Significant features include three endemic natural communities, one endemic plant, and 11 endemic animals, including the federally-listed Waccamaw silverside, Waccamaw darter, and Waccamaw killifish. These three fish exist only in Lake Waccamaw or the Waccamaw River.
The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission have identified this corridor as a top state conservation priority for 20 years. Two counties along the corridor, Brunswick and Columbus, have expressed support for the Waccamaw River Blueway, which can provide multiple recreation opportunities and support new businesses.
Elk Knob-Long Hope Valley
Long Hope Valley supports 10 high-quality natural communities, 37 rare plants, and eight rare animal species. The 2,200-acre natural area is one of the most important unprotected natural areas in the Southern Appalachians. It also contains 23 Southern Appalachian bogs, the highest concentration and highest quality bogs known in the South. The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program has identified this area as a top conservation priority for more than 30 years, and it recently became available to purchase for its conservation values.
Conservation of this tract will supplement previous land-conservation, which includes a state park, plant-conservation preserve, Nature Conservancy preserve, and state game land. In total, this area would represent more than 50,000 acres of contiguous habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified this site as a potential component of the newly authorized Southern Appalachian Mountain Bog National Wildlife Refuge.
The report will also include potential action by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In North Carolina, for example, the department could designate the Waccamaw River a national blueway and potentially provide financial support for habitat conservation in Long Hope Valley and evaluate areas that could be added to the Southern Appalachian Mountain Bog National Wildlife Refuge. While Interior cannot commit to federal financial support for the projects identified in the report due to budgetary constraints, Secretary Salazar is committed to doing everything possible to advance each project in the coming year through whatever means available.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.