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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Durham: we won't use conservation money to cut down trees

Posted by on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 5:25 PM

The Triangle Land Conservancy is logging on some of its lands, including this tract in northern Durham County.

In the week since the Indy published a cover story on controversial logging practices by the Triangle Land Conservancy, Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard says he's been flooded with questions on the city's connection to the nonprofit group.

As reported last week, the council in June approved a water use surcharge that is expected to raise about $100,000 annually to purchase land for conservation in conjunction with local land trusts, such as the TLC. This would be an extra 84 cents a year on the water bill for the average Durham user.

Concerned residents, including members of the city's Environmental Affairs Board and the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission, contacted the council to learn more about where the money was going, Woodard said.

"At this point, all we've done is adopt the rate surcharge, and haven't entered into any agreements to use those funds" said Deputy City Manager Ted Voorhees. There is one project the city is discussing with a conservation group, but it "doesn't involve the TLC at all," Voorhees said.

The intent of the surcharge was to broaden the funds available to purchase land for conservation in the watershed area for Lake Michie and other drinking water supplies, to preserve water quality. Intact watersheds help to clean water as it flows from developed land into the waterway.

The city intends to use the revenue to acquire more conservation land, and may do so as a joint project with a conservation group. However, no revenue from the surcharge will be given to any third party, such as the TLC, to purchase land, City Manager Tom Bonfield reiterated.

Any decisions to spend revenue from the surcharge to purchase land will have to be made by the council, Voorhees said. He also said that the city hasn't developed a plan for spending the conservation money, but that it won't involve clear-cutting trees.

"Even though we haven't developed specific program plans, we don't log our land, and we don't typically entertain that as part of a management program," Voorhees said.

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