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RC5: Recognize the importance of connectivity between protected lands by managing wildlife and recreation corridors for biodiversity and protecting unfragmented forest blocks.

Description

The varying topography and microclimates of the region, combined with large swaths of protected land, result in high levels of biodiversity. There are 255 significant natural heritage areas in the region, and a total of 33 of these are of national significance. It would be difficult to find another five counties in the southern Appalachians that offer such a diverse array of habitats and species. The health of wildlife, both game species and non-game species, depends on landscape-level habitat connections and corridors.

Typically, urbanization leads to the fragmentation of habitats, which results in the isolation and decimation of populations of species. This progression can be halted with intervention. Local land use policies can encourage development where it does not conflict with critical habitats. Ecological corridors can be protected on a landscape scale through targeted land acquisition and the use of conservation subdivisions. Habitats and connections on the site level can be preserved through the use of low-impact development principles. Unique natural features, including riparian corridors, wetlands, rock outcroppings, and vernal pools, can be preserved so that they serve as amenities to new development. Habitat fragmentation and degradation can even be reversed. Reconnection of habitat linkages can be made through carefully designed infrastructure investments, such as wildlife overpasses or underpasses. Stream and wetland restoration projects funded by non-profits or through mitigation efforts can restore valuable ecological services.

The Linking Lands and Communities project is a five-county effort to gather information about the region’s natural resources and identify opportunities to link these important natural systems via a Regional Green Infrastructure Network. For more information on the region’s system of green infrastructure, see the Linking Lands and Communities project.

Strategies

RC5.1: Coordinate with non-profits, land trusts, the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to identify priorities for wetlands and stream restoration, as well as wildlife underpasses or overpasses. Read more »
RC5.10: Develop Advisory Boards related to land conservation for the five counties in the region. Read more »
RC5.2: Consider Wildlife Habitat Overlay District ordinances in order to protect prime habitat and key ecological corridors. Read more »
RC5.3: Identify and develop more regional and local sources for conservation funding. Read more »
RC5.4: Use Linking Lands and Communities assessments and other available resources to prioritize areas for directing funds for conservation easements and other conservation activities. Read more »
RC5.5: Work with local governments, NCDENR, and other partners to protect critical habitats and key ecological corridors through the use of tools such as the Linking Lands and Communities assessments and the NC Conservation Planning Tool. Read more »
RC5.6: Update local ordinances with best practices from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s Green Growth Toolbox. Read more »
RC5.7: Coordinate with the NC Department of Transportation and the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization to improve pre-National Environmental Policy Act environmental screening of transportation projects. Read more »
RC5.8: Develop partnerships to identify target areas and remove invasive species and restore native species. Read more »