By Debra Murray
In 2017 the North Carolina Native Plant Society established a fund through a generously willed gift from Alice Zawadzki, a longtime member of the NCNPS and a past president. The Alice Zawadzki Land Conservation Fund helps land trust organizations preserve natural habitats through preservation of land, either by managing the property themselves or by turning ownership over to other organizations or governmental agencies. To date, these grants have been used to conserve over 6,500 acres across the state, from coastal marshes and natural Piedmont habitats to forested mountainous regions. These purchases protect pristine headwaters, stream buffers, forested habitats, bogs, rare species, and unique plant communities.
Below are descriptions of three awards made in 2021 that NCNPS helped conserve. Read about other properties conserved here on the NCNPS website.
Adjacent to Morrow Mountain State Park
A grant from the Zawadzki Fund helped Three Rivers Land Trust purchase 216 acres of rich oak-hickory forest from the Aluminum Company of America. Situated between the town of Badin and Morrow Mountain State Park, the parcel was under strong threat from development, but is now permanently conserved. The land hosts impressive populations of Ringed witch grass (Dichanthelium annulum), recently listed as a State Endangered species, and Western rough goldenrod (Solidago radula). Conservation of the property also protects forested tributaries to the Pee Dee River.
Tate Mountain Natural Heritage Area
Foothills Conservancy used an award from the Zawadzki Fund to help purchase 118 acres along the Johns River in Caldwell County, protecting the Johns River watershed and surrounding Southern Appalachian plant communities. Pisgah National Forest surrounds the property on three sides, and Foothills Conservancy will eventually transfer the property to it. The area, which lies within the Tate Mountain Natural Heritage Area, is recognized for its high ecological value and contains rich forest habitats, beautiful meadows, clear streams, exposed bedrock, and impressive rocky summits. Six rare species are found there, along with suitable habitat for other threatened species. A wildflower trail established on the site showcases an impressive display of spring ephemerals.
Along the Cape Fear River
An award from the Zawadzki Land Conservation helped the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust complete the purchase of 265 acres along 1.1 miles of the Cape Fear River in Bladen County. Located in the small town of East Arcadia just north of Riegelwood, the property hosts mature floodplain forest and upland hardwood ravines, a natural area providing nesting habitat for wading birds. The upland and wetland forests on this property help store carbon critical for climate resiliency, moderate floodwaters, and filter the water.The forest includes a portion of Steep Run Swamp, a site identified as “ecologically significant” by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. This designation is due to the age and near pristine bottomland hardwood and cypress-gum forest. The newly acquired area rich in wildlife and native plant habitat will now be conserved for the benefit of “birds and other critters” and for people, too.
Debra Murray is chair of the North Carolina Native Plant Society’s Grants and Scholarships Committee. The committee awards grants from the society’s Alice Zawadzki Land Conservation Fund, B.W. Wells Stewardship Fund, and Tom and Bruce Shinn Fund.