State awarded $9.2 million for conservation projects near military bases
Projects will protect farms, forests, plus training areas for Marines, Air Force
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has secured $9.2 million in federal funding to protect land from development and maintain agricultural, forestry and military uses.
The funding will support conservation efforts by the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Partnership, which includes the NCDA&CS, the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, other federal and state agencies, local governments and nonprofit organizations.
“The Sentinel Landscape Partnership will use this grant to protect farms and forests that are vital to relieving encroachment on military training areas and airspace,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
"Working with willing landowners, this effort will establish conservation easements and management programs on high-priority lands to the benefit of both agriculture and the military, North Carolina’s two largest industries.”
The funding was awarded through a biennial competition known as the REPI Challenge, which is operated by the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program. North Carolina topped nine other states in the competition.
Of the $9.2 million, $5.8 million will be used by the Marine Corps to establish an easement and support the creation of habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker on more than 12,100 acres of state-owned land. This will free up Marine Corps lands for training.
The Air Force will use the remaining $3.4 million to protect more than 4,500 acres of high-priority land necessary to maintain training airspace for the Dare County Range, the primary training range for F-15E aircraft crews at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.
The REPI award will be matched with funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.
Agriculture and agribusiness make up North Carolina’s largest industry, with an economic impact of $84 billion. The military is second at $66 billion. The funding and related work of the Sentinel Landscape Partnership will help both, Troxler said. “The partnership will help ensure farmers and foresters maintain their livelihoods, wildlife habitats and natural resources are protected, and compatible uses for military training and operations are provided,” he said.
In 2016, the federal government designated 33 counties as the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Partnership. The designation is part of a joint federal partnership between the federal departments of Agriculture, Interior and Defense that aims to strengthen farms, ranches and forests while conserving habitat and natural resources and protecting vital training grounds for military installations. North Carolina is the only state to have multiple military branches, military installations and counties named as part of the designation.