To better understand how these conservation projects are conducted, let's look more closely at some of the work of the North Carolina Chapter of the Conservancy. According to communications director Ida Lynch, the Tar Heel state's diverse wildlands range from "rugged mountaintops cloaked in misty spruce-fir forests to dynamic, wind-scoured barrier islands." The variety of habitats within the state's 500-mile length include:
- Mountain bogs
- Brownwater and blackwater rivers
- Piedmont "prairies"
- Longleaf pine savannas
- Carolina bays
- Bottomland hardwood swamps
- Maritime forests
According to Lynch, North Carolina's natural areas are threatened by human activities, such as development and pollution. A 1995 Defenders of Wildlife report identified some of the habitats found in North Carolina as among the country's most threatened ecosystems. This list included the southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest, the longleaf pine forest and savanna, eastern grasslands and coastal communities.
Due to air pollution, the destruction or alteration of habitats, and the suppression of fire, some of North Carolina's most colorful birds -- the Carolina parakeet, the passenger pigeon and the ivory-billed woodpecker -- are now extinct. Other species, including the gray wolf, the woodland bison and the elk, have been destroyed in North Carolina but still exist in other locales.
Despite these losses, North Carolina has many conservation success stories to tell, according to Lynch. Some of these are:
- Since it began in 1977, the N.C. chapter has protected more than 460,000 acres of wildlands. Much of this land was acquired on behalf of state and federal conservation agencies and is now publicly owned.
- The N.C. Chapter owns and/or manages more than 59,000 acres in its statewide system of nature preserves.
- The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina works with The Timber Co. to manage 21,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forest in the lower Roanoke River floodplain.
The Conservancy recently helped the State of North Carolina acquire the 17,734-acre Buckridge Coastal Reserve and 9,750 acres of the Jocassee Gorges.