The NORTHEAST NEW HANOVER CONSERVANCY (NENHC) may be the smallest land trust you’ve never heard-of, but in truth, other than Landfall Associates, we are the largest single land-owner inside Landfall (more than 100 acres owned in fee simple and more than 420 acres that we protect in accordance with deeds of conservation).
The NORTHEAST NEW HANOVER CONSERVANCY manages natural habitats to protect ecosystem services they provide to the benefit of the entire Landfall community; services including storm water storage and filtration, air cleaning, carbon sequestration, and space for our ecoregion’s diverse array of plants and wildlife to continue thriving as they have for many millennia.
To that end, we are asking Landfall residents (and guests) to consider making a donation to NENHC’s “Adopt-an-Acre” sustaining campaign. Our goal calls for 10% of Landfall residents (~200 donors) to adopt an acre of Landfall conservation property. At $1000 per acre, the money we garner will go into direct, place-based habitat conservation work inside Landfall.
All told, NENHC protects more than 530 acres of undeveloped habitat spread across 30 distinct parcels inside Landfall’s boundary. That’s one quarter of Landfall’s total land area providing irreplaceable ecosystem services as intended when Landfall was first being developed.
For perspective, NENHC monitors and protects more natural habitat inside Landfall, than all the natural habitat areas owned and managed by the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County—combined!
When our New Hanover County properties outside of Landfall are added-in, NENHC’s total protected acreage (1,350) is greater than New Hanover County acreage under NC State Park control (1,049).
NENHC is a focused land trust. We have been protecting natural habitats in northeastern New Hanover County since 1982 and many of our most compelling properties, conservation areas inside Landfall, are among the last best parcels of New Hanover County’s natural heritage.
As steward of these precious natural assets, NENHC undertakes conservation actions designed and implemented to protect the beneficial ecosystem services these assets provide to all Landfall residents.
To be clear, the business-end of this work is driven by legally-binding deed restrictions that NENHC, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, must actively uphold on behalf of Landfall itself. As required by deed, we conduct baseline habitat assessment and annual monitoring of all the conservation areas under our control. We also respond to our neighbors who may have a question about some bird or wildflower they observed, or a concern regarding a storm-damaged tree near their property.
Protecting the wild habitats we own and/or manage is NENHC’s imperative because these places provide ecosystem services that clean our air and water—in addition to providing habitat for our ecoregion’s native plants and wildlife, and space for people to connect with nature right outside their doors.
We accept this resource management responsibility and welcome Landfall residents to help us with our endeavors, whether it’s planting a pollinator garden for butterflies and birds, or sharing notes about plants and wildlife you observe during field explorations inside conservation areas, or inside your own yard.
As example, NENHC’s “PROJECT BOX TURTLE” is a monitoring program that tracks Landfall’s population of Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapin caroliniana) (above). This once common species is in decline due to habitat loss throughout most of North Carolina. Not so inside Landfall however, where critical habitat areas support respectable, albeit isolated, populations of free-range box turtles that have dwelled in Landfall’s woods for half a century and more—before there were paved roads and cars. When encountered, each turtle is photographed and measured (without handling), and its location recorded (Note that no two box turtle shell patterns are the same).
Results of this work will help locate and mitigate areas where turtles are inclined to cross roads. We’ll expand this project with a pond turtle monitoring project, and welcome help from volunteer scientists.
Another example of our work includes a MILKWEED FOR MONARCHS project, funded in 2015 with a generous donation from a Landfall resident. This endeavor installed more than 1,000 milkweed plants (below right, staged before planting) and 4,500 other wildflowers around Landfall Lake in May 2015.
Above left, a Scarlet Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) being visited in summer 2015 by a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).
As part of this collaborative effort with COASTAL PLAIN CONSERVATION GROUP, Volunteers monitored more than 50 of the lake’s Monarch caterpillars through their full-life cycle; not to count the number of butterflies produced, but to learn which elements of the project will work best in other applications. In addition to monarchs, the wildflowers supported dozens of other pollinating insects, along with numerous insect-eating garden spiders, and lizards, that hid among the blooms.
Lessons learned from this experience will be applied in other Landfall conservation areas to benefit birds and butterflies, while also creating a colorful “urban-wildland” interface buffer. We think these garden spaces will in-turn build interest-in and greater awareness about NENHC and our works.
For almost four decades NENHC has been protecting many of the last best natural habitats on the New Hanover County mainland. And we’ve accomplished this work without a formal annual funding source outside of contributions from individual donors. Of course when calamity strikes, as with Hurricane Florence in 2018, we do get help from Landfall managers. But that help is understandably focused with attention to reducing hazards including fallen or broken trees, especially near conservation area trails.
With all due respect, Landfall’s conservation properties are in need of more help than Landfall managers can budget at this time and, because Landfall conservation properties are not available to public access, NENHC is excluded from most government grant opportunities. This is our conservation conundrum and this note is a NENHC appeal to Landfall residents and guests for financial support to ensure Landfall’s natural heritage legacy remains intact, ecologically healthy, and aesthetically pleasing.
Conservation properties under our management were originally established in partnership with Landfall’s founders to mitigate habitat loss resulting from development. The properties were set-aside but unfortunately no money was secured to sustain their proper management. The consequence of that lapse is seen in forested areas where fallen trees, broken branches and thickly-layered pine straw detract from what should otherwise be appealing natural gardens that provide a welcoming, natural sense of place.
Encounters in conservation: A few of the community members dwelling in Landfall’s natural heritage areas—
L to R: Slimy Salamander (Plethodon chlorobryonis); Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis); Amanita Mushroom
Based on the diverse plant and wildlife communities we’ve explored, some of Landfall’s natural habitats no doubt appear as they did when Pembroke Jones wandered these acres. Indeed, Landfall’s remaining wild places offer a glimpse of this region’s appearance when Europeans first set foot on North America’s Atlantic seaboard. Admittedly these habitats are mere vestiges of what once covered southeast North Carolina and that’s what makes them so very precious.
L to R: Marsh Pink (Sabatia stellaris); Old-growth Pond Pine (Pinus serotina); Coral Mushroom (Clavicorona sp).
The imperative tone behind these words has everything to do with ecological sustainability. NENHC properties are safe from development but they are not safe from languishing into decline as a consequence of neglect—an untenable condition for residents and guests of Landfall.