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TLC seeks $625,000 from the county to protect more land

Posted on June 12, 2022

Updated on June 18, 2022

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Already, the Triangle Land Conservancy has secured nearly 60 conservation easements along the Little River in Johnston County. It's seeking the county's help to conserve more.

Triangle Land Conservancy photo

Already, the Triangle Land Conservancy has secured nearly 60 conservation easements along the Little River in Johnston County. It's seeking the county's help to conserve more.

sbolejack@johnstoniannews.com | 919-424-1776

SMITHFIELD — The Triangle Land Conservancy says $625,000 from County Commissioners could help preserve another 600 acres in Johnston.

“We think this is critical,” Leigh Ann Hammerbacher, a TLC director of land protection and stewardship, told commissioners on June 6. “Given the rate of growth in the county, it’s really important to protect and conserve our highest-value natural resources and working lands while we still can.”

And Johnstonians agree, Hammerbacher said, pointing to a recent survey in which people here said nature trails, greenways and nature parks were important to them. “In fact, over 50% of the 660 respondents indicated that those were the highest facilities they wanted to see in the county,” she said.

“The third-highest-ranked amenity was game lands, and TLC also supports land acquisition for hunting lands,” she added.

The TLC would use $625,000 from the county and other dollars to protect at least six tracts. An agreement on a seventh is possible but less likely, Hammerbacher said.

Five of the landowners are willing to either donate their land or provide a conservation easement at no cost, though the TLC would incur some legal fees in securing those tracts, Hammerbacher said. “We also are working with two landowners on purchased easements for which we have submitted state grants,” added. “One of these may fall through.”

One proposed deal would protect a 105-acre farm with 1,500 feet of frontage on the Little River, Hammerbacher told commissioners. “It’s a historic farm that’s been farmed by three generations now,” she said. “It has working forest, active-production farmland as well as wildlife and riparian corridors.”

“The remaining projects are dispersed throughout the county, including working farms on Buffalo Creek and Middle Creek,” she added in an email. “We are also working on projects along the Neuse River and near Bentonville that could provide critical trail corridors.”

A $625,000 pledge from the county would improve the TLC’s chances of landing the state grants, Hammerbacher said. “Securing a commitment from the county to support these projects will help increase our scores in those state rankings and help us leverage additional funds,” she said.

Commissioners have not yet adopted their 2022-23 budget, and they made no promise to Hammerbacher. But support appeared likely in a county that has recently embraced acquiring parkland.

“In the past, I know I haven’t been really strong supporting this type of thing,” Commissioner Ted Godwin said. “But as we have evolved with our commitment toward this kind of passive recreation, this is a way to leverage other funds to accomplish that.”

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