For the Harris Family, conserving their 55-acre longleaf pine forest in Moore County is a legacy that has been years in the making, and is a true family affair. The patriarch of this family, William Joseph “Bill” Harris, first began talking with the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program (NCPCP) over 12 years ago. He met with then Program Director, Lesley Starke, and discussed his desire to see the property included in the preserve.
Mr. Harris knew how important this tract was for the continuity of the preserve, since it connects two disjunct parcels. Its acquisition would be the critical link needed to help NCPCP better manage the whole preserve with prescribed fire. Prescribed fire is an essential tool for land managers to help restore the fire dependent ecosystem here and improve habitat for rare plants, including Sandhills Lily.
Although Mr. Harris passed away shortly after the application was submitted to NCLWF, his three daughters were intent on continuing with the process and helping realize their father’s dream of seeing the property protected. They continued to work with TRLT, and in spring of 2023 full funding was awarded by the NC Land and Water Fund for the acquisition of the tract. The tract was acquired by Three Rivers Land Trust and immediately transferred to the State of North Carolina in December, 2023.
“The Harris family has been an absolute pleasure to work with, and their commitment to their father’s dream has been truly inspirational,” states Crystal Cockman, Associate Director of Three Rivers Land Trust. “The conservation of this property is due in large part to their patience, vision, and steadfast determination to honor their father’s wishes.”
“Conserving this property helps TRLT accomplish two things; expand public lands by filling in an important missing link and protecting land that likely has rare species found on them,” states Executive Director Travis Morehead. “Although NCPCP preserves are not open to the public, they are open through guided hikes and by permit. This allows the public to see up close the rare plants and habitats that help make North Carolina such a special place.”
Plant Conservation Program Manager Julian Wilson states: “The North Carolina Plant Conservation Program is very thankful to Three Rivers Land Trust for their work to acquire and donate the Harris Tract for permanent protection at our Eastwood Plant Conservation Preserve in Moore County. The acquisition of the Harris Tract will help to improve habitat connectivity by linking the two sides of Eastwood Preserve and it will allow us to more efficiently and effectively manage the rare plants such as Sandhills lilies and sundews, the longleaf ecosystem and the wildlife habitat contained within the preserve. As our state toast proclaims us the “land of the longleaf pine,” this ecosystem is part of what make North Carolina’s natural areas so unique and special. This project is an important win for the conservation of North Carolina’s rare plants and natural resources.”
William Joseph “Bill” Harris and his wife, Mary Alice Fields Harris were both born and raised in Goldston, NC. After finishing undergraduate degrees at East Carolina and a Masters degree at UNC (Bill) they moved to Miami, FL where they raised their family. After retiring as a supervisor from the Miami-Dade County Public School System they divided their time between Port St. Lucie, Florida and Banner Elk, NC. This land was originally purchased by Bill’s mother, Georgia Reynolds Harris.
This project was made possible by funding from the NC Land and Water Fund, the NC Native Plant Society, the Carolina Bird Club, a generous donation by Tim Peppe, and the support of other TRLT members. If you would like to find out to conserve your property or support TRLT’s conservation mission please contact Emily Callicutt, Senior Land Protection Specialist, at email@example.com.
About Three Rivers Land Trust
Three Rivers Land Trust works with private landowners and public agencies to conserve the most important natural areas, scenic rivers, family farms, and historic places in a 15-county region of the central Piedmont and Sandhills. Since 1995, The Land Trust has worked to offer reasonable and attractive options to landowners who want to save their lands for future generations to enjoy. Our mission is to work thoughtfully and selectively with property owners, conserving land that is essential to our region. For more information about Three Rivers Land Trust, please contact the Land Trust at 704-647-0302 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at trlt.org.