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.
- Jump to:
- 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
“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 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
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,
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
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
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)
(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
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)
All three of these species are also
classified as Endangered by the NC Plant Conservation Program.
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,
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
- 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".
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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
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
You can submit your comments to:
North Shore Road Project
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
PO Box 30185
Raleigh, NC 27622
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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
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