The Triangle Land Conservancy's deep cuts | News Feature | Indy Week
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The Triangle Land Conservancy's deep cuts 

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A forest management plan

The Horton Grove Preserve in Durham County (see "Logging on TLC lands" map) is undergoing a timbering campaign by its owner, the Triangle Land Conservancy. Here's how the plan divides the forests and recommends actions. The TLC will decide which actions to take.

  • Parcel A: 212 acres, mature hardwood forest, 50- to 90-year-old trees
    Action: Take down understory trees, clear-cut patches in the forest, leave some stands to grow (in progress)

  • Parcel B: 55 acres, hardwood bottomland forest along streams, 45- to 75-year-old trees
    Action: No forest management (no action taken yet)

  • Parcel C: 12 acres, natural pine forest, 20- to 25-year-old trees
    Action: Thin the trees now, then clear-cut in about 20 years (no action taken yet)

  • Parcel D: 12 acres, mature short-leaf and loblolly pine with mixed hardwoods, 80- to 85-year-old trees
    Action: Clear-cut now (completed)

  • Parcel E: 26 acres, hardwood and pine forest with grassland, 8- to 18-year-old trees
    Action: Clear-cut now, make a prairie (completed)

  • Parcel F: 52 acres, loblolly pines, 50- to 55-year-old trees
    Action: Leave to grow into mixed pine-hardwood stand (no action taken yet)

  • Parcel G: 30 acres, mixed hardwood and pine stand, 55- to 60-year-old trees
    Action: Clear-cut now, replant with shortleaf pine (no action taken yet)

Source: Horton Grove Forest Management Plan, David Halley, True North Forest Management Services, for the Triangle Land Conservancy

Local water customers paying for land

Last March, Triangle Land Conservancy officials, including President Kevin Brice, met with several Triangle city leaders over dinner at a restaurant near the airport, according to Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, who attended. At the dinner, Brice and other TLC officials discussed the idea of a penny surcharge on water rates to help the trusts continue buying land.

The forested conservation land would soak up pollutants that could sully Raleigh's water supply, land trust officials said. But the TLC's officials haven't told city leaders that they've been cutting down some of the trees in their nature preserves and selling the trees for timber.

Meeker said he didn't know logging might be in store for forests that city water customers help to buy. The TLC has already dipped into the city's water fund once; last year the utility fund gave the TLC $500,000 so the land trust could buy Brumley Forest.

We haven't addressed that issue," Meeker said of the logging. "Naturally Raleigh customers would prefer the land not be disturbed."

The Raleigh City Council in September approved a surcharge on water rates that will affect Raleigh and Garner customers beginning Nov. 1.

The surcharge of one cent per 100 gallons of water will raise about $1.5 million to help local land trusts, including the TLC, buy conservation land around Falls Lake and near streams that drain into the lake. The fee will cost the average Raleigh residential household about 45 extra cents monthly, city officials said, and will also help pay some of the land trusts' operating expenses. The revenue could be used for other projects, including water treatment system improvements.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell was at the dinner as well, he said, although he added that the Ellerbe Creek organization, on behalf of several conservation groups, had also made a public presentation at a May 5 City Council work session.

In June, the Durham City Council approved a water rate increase of one penny per tier for each of the five tiers (tiers are determined by the average customer usage.) The surcharge took effect over the summer and will raise about $100,000 annually to help local land trusts, such as the TLC, and the city buy land for conservation. The city is particularly interested in conserving land in the Lake Michie, Little River and Jordan Lake watersheds.

The fee will cost the average Durham water customer an extra 84 cents per year.

Bell confirmed that the decision to approve the surcharge was related in part to the conservation groups' request. But he was not aware that the TLC logs some of its land, adding that, "It would be my recommendation that we go back and put a stipulation that the money could not be used for that."

The Orange Water and Sewer Authority, which serves Carrboro, Chapel Hill and UNC-Chapel Hill, is considering the rate increase as well, but Planning Director Ed Holland said he is not certain how the land acquisitions would help OWASA water customers. More data is needed, he said, on the locations of the possible purchases. He noted that zoning and other regulation could also be ways to protect local water supplies.

Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said the town's water customers would not support a rate increase this year. But he is looking into other ways for Cary to help fund the land trusts that are struggling after state budget cutbacks. He said he was surprised to hear that the TLC was logging trees in its preserves.

"It's my impression that the council and the Cary citizens would have concerns," he said of the land trust logging. "We would want to know why they are doing what they are doing."

Who's who on the TLC board of directors

Eighteen people serve on the TLC's board of directors and provide governing policy and oversight for the environmental group's staff. In the 2010–2011 year, the board members consisted of many real estate developers, corporate executives and business people. There is one environmental planner and one agricultural soil conservationist, but no ecologist, biologist or wildlife specialist.

Here is the rundown of the board members and their occupations:

  • Chairwoman Anne Stoddard of The Stoddard Group, Chapel Hill, real estate development and consulting

  • Chairman Emeritus Ron Strom of The Ron Strom Company, Chapel Hill, real estate development

  • J. Adam Abram, founder and former president of Adaron Group, a developer of about 2 million square feet of commercial property in North Carolina; former CEO and director of James River Group, Inc., a NASDAQ-listed company

  • Danny Kadis, president of Centrex Properties, Inc., a real estate development and management company with offices in Raleigh

  • Laura Horton Virkler with Pleasant Green Farms, a high-end residential development near Chapel Hill

  • Rodney Gaddy, regional vice president at Progress Energy, who recently resigned from the board. Gaddy was replaced by another Progress Energy executive, Becky Daniel, manager of regulatory planning.

  • Michael Mankowski, a senior director of finance at Quintiles Transnational Corp.

  • Virginia Parker, a former business development officer with Paragon Commercial Bank in Raleigh and director of strategic partnerships for the Wake Tech Foundation

  • Kevin Trapani, president and CEO of The Redwoods Group, an insurance company in Morrisville

  • Sig Hutchinson, president of Sig Hutchinson & Associates, a sales consulting firm in Raleigh. He is also past president of the Triangle Greenways Council.

  • William "Skip" London, vice president and general counsel for Static Control Components, Inc., in Sanford

  • Joan Siefert Rose, president of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development

  • Tom Bradshaw, a former secretary of the N.C. Department of Transportation

  • Larry Tombaugh, former dean of N.C. State University's College of Natural Resources, where he specialized in forest economics and a member and former president (volunteer) of the N.C. Forestry Association, a trade organization for professional foresters and loggers

  • Charlie Bolton, a cattle farmer in Chatham County

  • Larry Zucchino, a landscape architect with JDavis Architects in Raleigh

  • Stacey Burkert, a Durham stay-at-home mom who graduated from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and then worked in real estate investment

  • Dale Threatt-Taylor, director of the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District

  • Bill Holman, director of state policy at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

How conservation forests help us

Conservation forests are important to a community.

  • They provide clean water. Forests are like sponges soaking up and transforming pollutants that would otherwise end up in our streams.

  • They provide clean air. Trees store carbon in their limbs, trunks, roots and leaves, which helps decrease levels of carbon dioxide, a contributor to global warming. Trees remove other pollutants from the air and produce oxygen.

  • Forests are places to hike, fish, watch birds, take photos and play.

  • Forests provide homes and food for wild animals.

  • They are living laboratories where people can study the processes and wisdom of nature.

  • They uplift the human spirit. Forests are places where people can connect to nature and experience a wider world. The beauty of forests can help people relieve stress and mental fatigue.

Sources: Interviews with more than 15 ecologists, conservationists, environmentalists, forest watchers, psychotherapists and other professionals.

  • The TLC's mission is to protect forests. So why is it logging?

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