In following with our purpose to conserve NC's native plants and their habitats, the NCNPS has written letters stating our position on certain issues. You are encouraged to individually contact your State or Federal representatives. You are welcome to use the Society's draft letters as a starting point for your own correspondence.

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Titan America Cement Kiln
Golden Sedge Habitat
Endangered Species Day Recognition
Chimney Rock Park Sale
Land for Tomorrow
Sale of National Forest Land
North Shore Road Construction in Swain County
Contact your State or Federal Officials

Titan America Cement Kiln

Tom Harville, NCNPS President, addressed this letter, "Scoping comments on USACE Action ID SAW-2007-00073 regarding the proposal by Titan America to construct a cement kiln and dig a quarry" to Mr. Henry Wicker of the US Army Corps of Engineers on March 2nd.

Dear Mr. Wicker:

The NC Native Plant Society wishes to submit these scoping comments regarding the subject matter.

Our Society has 400 households as members throughout North Carolina. We were founded in 1951 and are an all-volunteer organization. For those 58 years our mission has been to promote the conservation of native plants and their habitats through education, appreciation, protection, propagation and advocacy. While our focus is on native plants, we are very much aware that when native plants are conserved, the total environment in which they thrive will be healthy and diverse. Further, such healthy plant habitats will make a strong contribution to decreasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, allowing rainwater to replenish aquifers and reducing stormwater pollution of our streams and wetlands.

The Society is a strong supporter of the letter and spirit of the North Carolina Plant Protection Act of 1979 (G.S. 106 – 202.12 – 202.22) and the Plant Conservation Board and the Plant Conservation Scientific Committee which it established.

Since the lands of the proposed kiln and quarry are private property to which we have no legal access and since our Society is an all-volunteer organization, we have relied on the work of governmental agencies which both have access rights to the property and have science staffs to perform preliminary scientific studies of the plant communities and habitats on the site. To our knowledge, the most definitive scoping letter concerning the flora of the site that has been submitted to the USACE is the one from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) dated August 6, 2008.

The Plant Communities and Probable Impact

The USFWS letter identifies these four plant communities on the 1,868 acre site:

Cypress-gum swamp (Blackwater subtype) (294 acres)

Non-riverine wet hardwood forest (115 acres)

Mesic mixed hardwood forest (Coastal Plain subtype)

Xeric sandhill scrub

USFWS letter states:

The PN (public notice of the subject action) states that proposed quarrying action at the Castle Hayne alternative would impact approximately 493 acres of wetlands. . . . While the nature of the impacts is not specified in the PN, it is likely that the existing vegetation of the site would be eliminated.”

“The alternative identified near Castle Hayne contains tidal, freshwater, forested wetlands, a unique subset of alluvial wetlands. This wetland type occurs along rivers where flooding is influenced by lunar or wind tides and includes both forested areas and marshes with dense herbaceous vegetation . . . . These forests are regularly to irregularly flooded with freshwater lunar or wind tides and there is little or no salinity in the water. Tidal flooding brings seawater-derived nutrients and varying amounts of sediment into the community which probably makes the tidal forest more productive than the non-tidal blackwater subtype of cypress-gum swamp.”

“The North Carolina Wildlife Action Plan identifies the Northeast Cape Fear River as a priority area of habitat protection. . . . . Priority areas have high species diversity, rare species, and endemic species. These areas are also considered to be critical to the survival of certain species by providing, for example, spawning area, and/or contain diverse biological communities. . . .Sites in North Carolina that have a high priority for habitat protection and or contain rare or endemic species should be avoided if at all possible.”

Our Society’s Broad Concerns

Our Society agrees completely with the above concerns of the USFWS. These forested wetlands with their understory of woody and herbaceous shrubs have been at least a thousand years in formation and are hugely important.

Wetland sites like this one have been the target of protection by governmental agencies, citizens-based conservation organizations and citizens. Specifically, following is a summary of funds expended since 1999 for conservation within 25 miles of the kiln and quarry site, most of which has been for riparian corridor protection:

The NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund $42,982,000

Other state, federal and private funding 68,401,000

Total $111,383,000

It seems to us to be very flawed public policy for any federal and state environmental regulatory agencies to consider allowing the optional destruction of this large tract of wetlands at the same time that different governmental agencies are working so hard and expending large public sums to preserve very similar sites within no more than 25 miles.


We believe that true mitigation of the destruction of mature, forested wetlands is a problematic activity at best anywhere. Additionally, the unique characteristics of this site make successful mitigation for this destruction to be very, very problematic.

We concur with these statements concerning mitigation in the USFWS letter:

“The large, forested wetland tract at the Castle Hayne site represents a very valuable resource that may be irreplaceable with the landscape of southeastern North Carolina.”

“. . .we believe the forested wetlands that would be impacted over the course of the plant operation at the Castle Hayne site may represent an aquatic resource of national importance (ARNI). Adverse impact to these resources may be unmitigable.”

EIS Request - Plant Inventory

We request that as part of the EIS process that there be a complete, multi-seasonal inventory of all plants on the site. Due to the herbaceous nature of the diverse plants on the site, some species can only be identified during a narrow window in their growing season. In order to ensure that the study and resulting inventory are done with solid science and full independence, we request that this project be directed by the NC Plant Conservation Board and its Plant Conservation Scientific Committee. That is, the Board and its Scientific Committee would define the scope of the study, select the scientists to do the work, monitor the project over the four seasons, receive the inventory report and provide conclusions from the study. Because of the very special characteristics of some of the rare plants on this site, it is important that that the survey be performed by biologists who are familiar with the species and their preferred habitat and have recently observed the species in the field in order to have a good search image for the species. This is likely to require a significant number of biologists to focus on this project over the four seasons.

The applicant, Titan America, should pay for the costs of the study including the fully allocated costs of the Board and Scientific Committee to direct the study.

Threatened and Endangered Plant Species

The main reason for the plant inventory study will be to identify all endangered, threatened and special concern plant species that are on the site. The USFWS letter identifies these two species as likely to be found on the site:

Carya myristiciformis (Nutmeg Hickory) (classified as Endangered by the NC Plant Conservation Program)

Gelsemium rankinii (Swamp Jessamine) (classified as Significantly Rare)

Additionally, a biologist very familiar with the NE Cape Fear and Island Creek edges of the subject site knows that this species is present in the wetlands:

Nuphar luteum ssp sagittifolium (Cape Fear Spatter-dock) (on the Watch List of the NC Plant Conservation Program)

Another plant specialist expects that some federally listed endangered plants may occur at the site given the approximate habitat there and the fact that they exist in the nearby Holly Shelter Game Land in Pender County. They include:

Lysimachia asperulaefolia (Rough-leafed Loosestrife)

Carex lutea (Golden Sedge)

Thalictrum cooleyi (Cooley’s Meadowrue)

All three of these species are also classified as Endangered by the NC Plant Conservation Program.

Summary Recommendation

Based on the scientific analysis already performed concerning the site and the recognition that true equivalent mitigation is not feasible, we recommend that the US Army Corps of Engineers very carefully consider granting the applicant, Titan America, permission to destroy these wetlands.

Thank you very much for allowing us to submit these comments. Please contact us if we can provide further assistance in your EIS processes. Will you please place us on your information list for updates on the status of the EIS project?

Very truly yours,

Tom Harville




Golden Sedge Habitat

Recently we were contacted by Dr. Emily Roberson, the director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Native Plant Conservation Campaign, asking our supporting in filing suit against the Federal Wildlife Service to seek protection under the federal Endangered Species Act for Golden Sedge's critical habitat here in North Carolina.

After consulting with a number of experts on the subject, we decided to not support this action. Instead, we are signatories to the following email written by Dr. Alan Weakley back to Dr. Roberson:

Dear Emily,

Dr. Peter White forwarded this request on to some of us who have been involved in the multi-agency inventory and conservation effort to protect the very important biodiversity resources in the Maple Hill, NC area, where Carex lutea and other species are endemic.

We feel that formal, legal designation of critical habitat would have no benefit for the conservation of this species, and would instead be detrimental to the conservation prospects for this species. Some of the reasons for this considered opinion include:

  1. Designation of critical habitat can have benefits in some cases, especially with animals and especially when the bulk of occurrence is on public (especially federal) land. That is not the situation in this case.

  2. The unprotected populations are under fragmented ownership by private landholders who own a few acres each, in a semi-suburban (in a small town way) situation, in a reconstruction era town (Maple Hill) which is primarily African-American, with some (warranted) suspicion of the good intentions of the federal government and of outsiders.

    Effective conservation in cases like this requires working with a local community, rather than applying legal solutions likely to alienate the human community whose cooperation is needed. This particular effort could very well be seen as an attack on the Maple Hill African-American community.

  3. Much of what the lawsuit would seek has already been achieved. In this case, both the North Carolina Dept. of Parks and Recreation and the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy are actively acquiring critical habitat for Carex lutea, and in our opinion a lawsuit would decrease, not increase, the opportunities for these conservation actors to achieve their goals in this area.

    In the last few years, multiple agencies in North Carolina have worked together to protect the majority of populations of Carex lutea, and supporting funding for the purchase of remaining private lands and management of public lands would do far more for protecting this species than any litigation.

    These conservation actions have come about because of the hard work and partnerships forged among individuals from the following agencies, working together: The Nature Conservancy, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina Division of parks and Recreation, and Progress Energy, with inventory support from US Fish and Wildlife Service, NC Natural Heritage Program, NC Plant Conservation Program, and NC Botanical Garden, funding from NC Natural Heritage Trust Fund, and cooperation from the private landowners who agreed to sell their land for conservation.

  4. We appreciate the frustration with the current gridlock in the Fish and Wildlife Service involving the endangered species processes, but efforts to punish the agency for its "issues" are likely to be counter-productive to actual conservation, in this case and in many others.

Unless you can provide compelling reasons why those who best know the species and its conservation situation in Pender and Onslow counties, NC are wrong about the opinions expressed above, we must not only decline to provide assistance in your litigation, but state our intention to actively oppose your efforts, should you move forward with this.

We additionally hope that any parallel efforts to force legal designation of critical habitat for other listed species in North Carolina will be carefully considered, and vetted with active conservation professionals in the area.

Alan Weakley, Ph.D.
Curator, University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU), North Carolina Botanical Garden
Adjunct Assistant Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill
CB 3280, Chapel Hill NC 27517

The following people and organizations have requested to be signatories to this letter as well:

The North Carolina Native Plant Society
Hervey McIver, The Nature Conservancy, North Carolina Chapter (actively negotiating for protection of remaining unprotected Carex lutea populations)
Richard LeBlond, Herbarium Associate, UNC Herbarium (foremost expert on the species and its habitat)
Bruce Sorrie, Herbarium Associate, UNC Herbarium

In addition we sent a follow on letter (DOC 120 KB) to Dr. Roberson.

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Endangered Species Day Recognition

The NCNPS has given our endorsement to the Endangered Species Coalition in urging the US Senate to recognize "Endangered Species Day".

To learn more, see the Coalition news release* (PDF 35 KB) and the letter* (PDF 48 KB) sent by the Coalition.

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Chimney Rock Park Sale

You may have heard that this wonderful piece of property is to be sold by the owners. We have urged state officials to purchase Chimney Rock Park (DOC 267 KB). To find out more about it, we suggest you visit:

Chimney Rock is now a State Park!!!

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Land for Tomorrow

We supported the efforts of Land for Tomorrow, with this resolution* (PDF 30 KB).

Here's a status report on Land for Tomorrow, the partnership asking the NC General Assembly for $1 billion over five years to protect rivers, farms and forests, parks and historic places.

They asked the NC Legislature to provide funding through general obligation bonds. Thanks to hundreds of volunteers, who let their legislators know how important conservation is to the future of the state, 75 of the 120 House members, and 22 of the 50 Senators co-sponsored the bills. The sponsors were incredibly diverse: Republicans and Democrats; rural and urban; mountain, coastal and Piedmont; African American and Caucasian.

For several weeks, it seemed very likely that the bills would pass, and a referendum would be placed on the ballot in November. Unfortunately, Governor Easley then came out strongly against additional debt, and the Senate leadership became unwilling to act. When Speaker Black realized that the House would not have support from either the Senate or the Governor, he decided not to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

So now they're working to build even stronger support next year. The first step was to encourage the Legislature to establish a study commission of legislators and Governor appointees to investigate financing options and recommend how to meet the funding need. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate. The commission's final report is due February 1, 2007, in time for legislation to be introduced next session.

In the past, similar commissions have broken impasses on how to meet other critical funding needs, and we hope that this one will be as successful. A number of key legislators and leading citizens have already expressed interest in serving on the commission, and Land for Tomorrow will do all it can to support the work of the commission.

This fall and winter, Land for Tomorrow will also continue our work around the state: building public awareness about why conservation is so critical to the state's economy and quality of life and involving more citizens in our network of volunteers.

Every day, new stories surface about rivers, farms, forests and historic places that will be lost if additional funding is not available soon. Although the proposal did not get on the ballot this year, they will continue to work for more funding next year because the future of North Carolina depends on it.

The bottom line: the work is not over.

You can sign up for Land for Tomorrow updates on their website.

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Sale of National Forest Land

We opposed the sale of National Forest land by sending this letter of opposition* (PDF 96 KB).

To find out more, Google for "sale of national forest land".

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North Shore Road Construction in Swain County

We opposed the construction of the North Shore Road in Swain County by sending this letter of opposition* (PDF 359 KB).

You can submit your comments to:

North Shore Road Project
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
PO Box 30185
Raleigh, NC 27622

or post a comment electronically

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Contact your State or Federal Officials

You are encouraged to individually contact official representatives about these important issues. You are welcome to use the Society's draft letters as a starting point for your own correspondence.

NC State Officials

NC Governor

NC State House Representative

NC State Senator

Federal Officials

US Representative

US Senator

US Executives

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