A Few Outdoor Adventures

On November 2nd, a couple of friends and myself took a hike at the 24/27 trailhead. It was a cold morning and the opening day of muzzleloader season, so there were a lot of vehicles parked on the side of the road on public land where hunters were eager to find a deer. We wore our orange so as to be seen, although hunters are supposed to keep a safe distance away from trails also.


We hiked on the mountain bike trails until you get to Wood Run Trailhead, then you hike a short way further on the Keyawee Trail before tying into the Uwharrie Trail. After hiking on it for a while, you’ll cut back onto Wood Run Road and take it back to the Wood Run Trailhead. Then we retraced our steps on the mountain bike trails back to 24/27. This is about 5 miles round trip. It was a great morning hike and we only saw a handful of mountain bikers so we almost had the trails to ourselves.


Last Friday, I hiked with several friends on the Uwharrie Trail from Highway 109 to Spencer Creek and back. I’ve done this hike a lot, but this was the first time for two of my friends to see this section of trail. It’s a nice section to do because there’s not too much topography, just a couple of small hills to climb on the way back. The fall color was really nice, and we’d had some rain the night before so there were also a good amount of brightly colored leaves carpeting the forest floor.


I was off on Monday for the Veterans Day Holiday, and it was a gorgeous day. The weather was perfect so I decided to take the opportunity to paddle, probably the last time for this year. A friend and myself put in at the Pekin access on the Little River at 2382 Pekin Road, just south of Troy. We paddled south on the river this time, towards the dam.


On our paddle, we saw a beaver lodge and a lot of wood duck boxes that had been installed along the river. There were even a few turtles out. When we stopped down near the dam, a bald eagle appeared and circled over us several times. There were several people working on the dam, which explained why the water was pretty low. They had pumped a lot of concrete on the western side and were working on the eastern side when we arrived. This dam still generates hydroelectric power.


On the way back, the water got really still and looked almost like glass. Then the breeze started up and pushed us much of the way back. We saw a monarch butterfly, one of only a few I’ve seen this year. There are quite a few really nice sycamore trees along this stretch, and the wind blowing through the leaves made for a pleasant sight and sound. I’ll miss kayaking now until the springtime, but it makes it mean that much more when I get to go again.


There’ll still be plenty of opportunities to hike and otherwise enjoy the outdoors this winter, too. I encourage you to find your own way to enjoy the outdoors, no matter the time of year. A friend of mine told me the other day that she was trying to spend more time being still. Taking time to be present in the moment is something nature offers us – there’s much to see and hear if you only take the time to stop and listen.

Three Rivers Land Trust Awards Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center with Grant

On October 29th, Three Rivers Land Trust presented the Horticulture class at Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center with a $500 grant toward improving their greenhouse and aquaponics system. This grant was made possible through a partnership with Three Rivers Land Trust and the Cabarrus County Community Foundation.

The students, led by teacher Terry Thomas, meet each morning to oversee all aspects of selecting, planting, maintaining, and harvesting plants.  Oftentimes the produce grown in the class is sent to the cafeteria to be used for meals served to students and staff.

The horticulture class includes a certification program broken into two-week modules. These modules are designed to teach the students skills that will prepare them for a future career in horticulture. Some of the modules available to the students are Soil Science, Composting, and Greenhouse Management.

Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center, located in Concord, NC, is a rehabilitation center designed to give at-risk youth an opportunity to continue taking high school courses or obtain their GED.


The Land Trust’s Leopold Society is designed to enlighten youth participants from grades 6 to 12 on the natural world and conservation issues. Participants learn conservation techniques, outdoor skills, and hands-on natural resource stewardship and service. They engage in outdoor recreation and skill-building activities. Many of these activities are completed independently with the intent to bring families together in the outdoors. The long-term goal of the program is to instill a lifelong love of nature in youth participants that will translate into positive action as adults.


To learn more about how you can get your school involved in the Leopold Society, or how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust, contact Steely Russell at

704-647-0302 or


Piedmont Mines: Golden Opportunities for Tri-colored Bats

By Katherine Caldwell Etchison, NCWRC Wildlife Diversity Biologist

The tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) is a hibernating species with a statewide distribution in North Carolina. This species, once common, has recently experienced population declines exceeding 70% in western North Carolina where White-nose Syndrome (WNS) and the caves that harbor it are widespread. WNS is disease caused by the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), which first showed up in a cave in New York in 2006 but has origins in Europe. Pd grows in cold, dark, damp conditions like those found in caves and mines where it attacks the bare skin of hibernating bats. Infected bats awake repeatedly to clean off the fungus and often deplete fat reserves before Spring arrives and their insect prey are active on the landscape.

WNS appeared in the NC Mountains in 2011 and has caused population declines across the region in the ensuing years. As WNS continued its spread across the Mountains, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) biologists began searching for bat hibernacula (caves and underground mines) in the Piedmont Region, which had not been a traditional focus for NCWRC bat monitoring. Though few caves exist east of the Southern Appalachian Mountains in NC, recent efforts by NCWRC biologists uncovered a link between the nation’s first Gold Rush and hibernating tri-colored bats. The first documented discovery of gold in the US occurred in Cabarrus County in 1799 and kicked off 50 years of gold mining in the state, drawing miners from across the globe. The NC Gold Rush was eclipsed by the more familiar California Gold Rush in 1848, but gold mining continued to a lesser degree in NC for another century. Though not as productive as its California counterpart, the NC Gold Rush left hundreds of underground portals throughout the Piedmont Region, providing critical hibernation habitat for the tri-colored bat in a region where caves are scarce.

Nine of these mines were surveyed by NCWRC in winter 2019, including two on Three Rivers Land Trust property. NCWRC staff counted 86 tri-colored bats, 30 of which hibernated in a single site. This count is slightly greater than the highest counts in Mountain hibernacula, some of which formerly held thousands of tri-coloreds before the arrival of WNS. Fungal swabs were collected from each site, and mines in Montgomery, Rowan, and Gaston County tested positive for Pd. This brings the total number of Piedmont Counties with Pd presence to five. While this result was disappointing, no signs of fungal growth were seen on bats and Piedmont sites that tested positive for the pathogen in the past continue to show stable counts. This could be an indication that WNS is unable to grab a foothold in the Piedmont Region, perhaps due to the warmer, shorter winters that provide small amounts of insect activity for bats to re-build fat reserves. The explanation for continued health among these tri-colored bats remains unclear, but one thing is for sure, NCWRC biologists are finding inactive gold mines now hold a different kind of treasure.

How You Can Help

The NCWRC is seeking new survey sites and landowners with underground mines or caves on their property can contact Katherine Etchison at for more information about conducting a bat survey.

Consider installing a bat house, which provides roosting habitat for bats during warm months. See Bat Conservation International for tips on buying, building, and installing bat houses.

Be an ambassador for bats! Bats are often underappreciated and sometimes even feared, so spread the word about the importance of bats. North Carolina is home to 17 species of bats that play a critical role in our ecosystems by keeping insect populations in check, including mosquitoes! Additionally, bats save the US agricultural industry over $3.7 billion dollars annually in pesticide use (Boyles et al. 2011). For more information on bats, see Bats of North Carolina and Coexist with Bats.


Boyles, J. G., P. M. Cryan, G. F. McCracken, and T. H. Kunz. 2011. Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture. Science 332: 41-42.

Weekend Wrap-up

This past weekend I was able to spend some time on both Saturday and Sunday outside – which makes for a great weekend about anytime. On Saturday morning, I went kayaking with a friend at Lake Reese near Asheboro, and on Sunday I helped lead a hike for A3 Healthy Communities on Three Rivers Land Trust’s Low Water Bridge Preserve in Montgomery County.

A3 Healthy Communities is a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging the Asheboro Community to “embrace and value a healthy and holistic lifestyle through education, support and advocacy.” This group regularly hosts hikes in the Randolph County and surrounding area that are free and open to all. If you are interested in getting on their email list, you can contact Dr. Jim Rich at 336-625-2993 or by email at

My friend and myself started our paddle at Lake Lucas on Saturday at 9am. This beautiful lake is small enough that you can kayak around the entire perimeter in about 3 hours. We saw a number of great blue herons and kingfishers, a great egret, several turtles, and a variety of native wildflowers in bloom – but the most impressive thing is the number of butterflies we saw. There were butterflies flying around us almost the entire time we were there, and a large cluster of them putting on a show around some blooming buttonbush on one cove on the lake.

Water primrose with its yellow bloom could be found in thick patches on the edge of the shore. Back in the headwaters of the lake we saw swamp milkweed in bloom with its bright pink hue standing out amongst the greenery. A vine known as “love dodder” was also found in the same area as the buttonbush, covering the surrounding vegetation with a lime green canopy that looked like it was made of thin, long hairs.

The hike on Sunday at Low Water Bridge began around 2:30pm and we had a very large group of almost 50 people in attendance. We hiked a trail that follows the Uwharrie River to Crow Creek and back, about 2 miles total trip. We saw rattlesnake plantain orchid in bloom as well as desmodium and goldenrod. We heard a hooded warbler across the river with his bright “weeta-wee-te-o” call. There were a couple of streams we had to cross and a few downed trees we needed to navigate, but overall it was a fairly leisurely stroll under a shaded canopy.

The A3 group was very appreciative of the guided hike and seemed like a great group to hike with. They will be leading another hike to Cooper Mountain Cemetery in the Birkhead Wilderness Area on Sunday afternoon August 25 from the Robbins Branch trailhead, if the water in the creek is not too high. Contact Jim Rich if you are interested in joining them for more details.

A Week in the New River

Last week, I took a week off from work to volunteer with NC State Parks to help with hellbender surveys in the New River in Ashe County. Hellbenders are large salamanders that live under rocks in clean, swift-moving rivers in Eastern North America. Their brown, black and green marbled patterned backs blend in perfectly with their underwater surroundings. They can reach as long as 29 inches and can weigh up to 5 pounds.

This is the second year I have gone on this adventure and it was just as exciting the second time around. Over the course of the week, we found 23 hellbenders and 2 mudpuppies. On Thursday, we found what may be the largest hellbender ever caught in North Carolina. We visited various courses of the south fork of the New River, and some were shallow and slow flowing and other areas were deep and fast moving. Last year we did not have any storms or rain, but this year was a different case. Monday we were able to work all day, but Tuesday saw a large storm come up around 3:30pm. Lightning struck nearby and all we had to all get out of the water.

Wednesday we were helping a graduate student at Appalachian State University compare night-time surveys with day-time surveys. We surveyed transects of the river which were marked off with orange flagging. That day we worked through lunch so that we could get this done before the storms came. We stopped around 2pm that day as black ominous clouds settled in above the river valley.

So what does a hellbender survey entail? There are several jobs associated with this activity, and for most of the time this year I helped with the seine net. This is set up behind large rocks, which other people who are lifters will raise up with peaveys and cant hooks. Still others will don goggles and gloves and search under those rocks, feeling around for the critters. The seine is there to catch any hellbender that might escape. Those who lift the rock and those who dive have to be very careful, and the lifters yell “set” when they have the rock stable, and then the divers will yell “clear” when they are done searching.

When a hellbender is caught, a runner takes the animal, keeping it in a small bag and holding it in the water as they carry him to the data boat. This canoe houses a PVC pipe cut in two where the animal is submerged in water and measurements are taken. First we weight the creature in the bag and then weigh the bag to get the weight of the animal. Then we measure his length and look for any parasites, injuries, or abnormalities. We determine if the animal is male or female, then check it with a device to see if it is one we’ve captured and tagged before. If not, then we’ll insert a pit tag and write down the number associated with it.

This whole process is done as quickly as possible, keeping the animal shaded with cloths and wet the entire time. One of the team members has identified the rock where the animal was found with a buoy affixed to a brick, and the runner will carry the hellbender back to that rock and let it go where the entry hole is and the critter will slide back under to his safe spot.

These ancient creatures have been around since the time of dinosaurs, but some estimate that their population may have decreased by as much as half. Like other salamanders, they breathe through their skin and are heavily impacted by pollution of our rivers and waterways. The New River is on the borderline of being cold enough for them to exist anyway, as they need really cool and clean water. The eastern hellbender is a species of special concern, and a subspecies called the Ozark hellbender found in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas is federally listed as endangered.

Although some locals consider them a bad omen, their presence is really a great indicator of good water quality. Much of the New River is designated as National Wild and Scenic River, as well as being an outstanding resource water, which is the highest water quality designation the state of NC gives waterways. New River State Park has acquired a number of tracts along the river and works with local land conservancies to acquire additional parcels when they become available. Continuing to protect this important stretch of river is good not just for the hellbenders, but for all the critters that use this resource, and good for the people who rely upon it as well.

The last day we went back and finished up a couple stretches we weren’t able to complete due to storms and other factors, and we caught two more hellbenders before 1pm that day. The last one we caught escaped from those who were searching for him under his rock, and it took about 10 minutes for someone else to come up with him. They usually stick pretty close to their rock even when disturbed, so it is rare for one to get away from us entirely.

I enjoyed my week of hellbender searching and hope to go back again next year. Learning more about this species is one of the best ways to hope to keep them around for future generations to enjoy spotting them as well. Most of these creatures go their whole lives without ever being seen by humans, so if you do find a hellbender while kayaking or fishing, consider yourself fortunate and leave them in their aquatic home. They are a unique critter and an important part of the riverine ecosystem.

Fruits and Festivals

A few weekends ago, I went to the pimento cheese festival in Cary. Although not a fan of pimento cheese myself, I have family members who are, and I’m always up for a festival of any sort, so we piled in the car and drove up there. It was an interesting event and they had everything from pimento cheese waffles to a woman carving a block of cheese into the town of Cary logo. I heard one promotion naming pimento cheese the “caviar of the south.” Although not my cup of tea, it started me thinking about other items that are celebrated that we have that are distinctly southern this time of year.

The peach festival in Candor is coming up on July 19-20, and it’s another local festival that my family likes to attend. There’s a parade with candy thrown out by the floats to the kids, and lots of peaches and peach-flavored goodies to purchase and enjoy. I like to get some homemade peach ice cream, to help beat the heat this time of year. Peach orchards dot the back roads in the Candor area and are a great local fruit to purchase at roadside stands or farmers markets this time of year.

Two other fruits in season right now are blueberries and figs. I purchased a fig bush last year that barely survived our sultry summer but thankfully now looks to be flourishing. It had one single fig last year but this year I’m hoping for a few more. I love to add figs and blueberries to my morning oatmeal with a little honey and some walnuts. If you’re looking for somewhere to purchase some blueberries, consider Mountain Creek Farms in Albemarle – owners Richard Almond and wife Mitzie Almond grow blueberries on their farm, protected by conservation easement with Three Rivers Land Trust last year.

Another fruit staple this time of year that you might stumble upon in your woods rambles are blackberries. I remember as a child picking blackberries from vines on an old fence across the road from my grandparent’s house, and making pies and jams. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories. I’ve even seen people picking blackberries on the side of the interstate (which I wouldn’t recommend), but I love a chance encounter with a vine of ripe blackberries when I’m out on a property – they make a great field snack. Almond Farms in Stanly County, owned by six siblings, are known for their Christmas trees, but they also have a blackberry orchard. This farm was also protected by a conservation easement with Three Rivers Land Trust in 2014.

Although I didn’t get to attend either this year, there’s also a North Carolina blueberry festival and a North Carolina blackberry festival, the former in Burgaw in June and the latter in Lenoir in early July. That may be something to check out next year. I did get to pick cherries at a local orchard near Mount Airy back on Memorial Day, and that was a fun and delicious adventure. There are so many tasty fruits available locally this time of year, but they won’t be around for long, so stop by and get some while you can.

Summertime Paddles

This time of year is a perfect time for a summer paddle trip. It’s really too hot to hike, unless you go early in the morning or late in the evening, and so getting out on the water in your canoe or kayak is a great alternative. Last week, I was fortunate enough to get to paddle three times in three different locations.

The first place I paddled was Sunday morning at Lake Lucas. This is a beautiful small lake located not far from Asheboro. The weather was perfect with it being around 70 degrees and there was a beautiful misty cloud cover. A friend and myself paddled basically around the whole lake in about 3 hours. We saw a lot of great blue herons, a bald eagle, several kingfishers, two great egrets, and when we paddled up into the headwaters where it becomes creek-like we watched two fauns for several minutes. It was a lovely way to spend a morning.

On Tuesday of last week I paddled at my favorite place to go, Falls Lake. This area is also known as the Narrows or Narrows Reservoir and it’s a small lake located between Lake Tillery and Badin Lake. There are huge rock outcrops and a nice waterfall here. I prefer to paddle here during the week so as to avoid larger boats out on the lake on the weekend. The eastern side of this lake is Uwharrie National Forest and the western side is Alcoa land that is slated to go to Morrow Mountain State Park very soon, so this whole lake will soon be protected.

Although the forecast did not call for any storms, we did hear a rumble or two of thunder, but nothing transpired from it. It was pretty windy though and the lake was choppy on the way upstream, but by the time we got to the waterfall area it had calmed down and was calm the whole way back to the put-in on Falls Road. This is a gorgeous spot for a paddle.

On Saturday morning, I paddled a lesser-known section of Little River, parking at a community access and paddling upstream for about 2 miles. I paddled here once about 8 years ago but hadn’t been back since. Two friends and myself went for this paddle, and we saw a bald eagle shortly after entering the river. There are some large rock outcrops along this stretch of river, and we paddled as far as we could before coming to a rocky, shallow area. We got out here and waded around and cooled off. On the way back to the put-in, we encountered our eagle friend again who perched atop a branch long enough for us to get a good look before he soared back downstream.

I’m always looking for new places to kayak, so let me know where is your favorite place to paddle in the Uwharries or nearby area ( Now that Three Rivers Land Trust, the organization I work with, is merging with the Sandhills Area Land Trust, I’ll be looking for more locations to paddle in this southeastern area as well. I’ve never paddled the Deep River or Cape Fear River, but I look forward to exploring those areas and more soon.

Natural Heritage Program Rare Plant and Natural Communities Workshop

Last week, I was fortunate to get to attend a Natural Heritage Program Rare Plant and Natural Communities Workshop in Hendersonville, North Carolina. This workshop was put on by the North Carolina Association of Environmental Professionals in partnership with NC NHP. The purpose of this workshop was to help participants learn how to identify natural communities and rare plants in the field.

A natural community is defined as “a distinct and reoccurring assemblage of populations of plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi naturally associated with each other and their physical environment” (taken from the Classification of Natural Communities of North Carolina Third Approximation by Mike Schafale, 1990). Mike Schafale is an expert in describing and identifying natural communities and was one of our leaders for this trip.

The first natural community we stopped to see was a Swamp Forest Bog Complex in DuPont State Recreational Forest. Here we saw Swamp Pink, a federally protected plant, although it was past bloom, we still were able to see the spent bloom and the vegetation. We also found climbing fern and pink lady slipper at this site. Bogs are fed by ground water seeps and therefore differ from many other wetland communities.

The second place we stopped was also in DuPont State Forest and it was a Rocky Bar and Shore community. This is an area where the river floods periodically to disturb the environment such that no big trees are found here. One form of this community is the twisted sedge variety, of which we saw some here. We also saw mountain hydrangea, species radiata, which is uncommon in our state, along the shore.

We then went to Triple Falls, a beautiful large waterfall, to see an example of a Spray Cliff Community. Here we found a variety of unique plants that are adapted to this community. One of these was a species known as Brook saxifrage or Allegheny brookfoam. It is at high risk as a result of sedimentation and other pollutants. Mike pointed out that because these spray cliff communities have flowing water year round, the water keeps the temperature steady, they don’t freeze in the winter or get too hot in the summer, and as a result some species of tropical mosses and ferns can be found there. Mike also said that not every waterfall has a good Spray Cliff community.

The next place we visited was Kanuga bog, an example of a French Broad Valley Bog. This bog is owned by Kanuga, a nonprofit conference, retreat and camp center. Kanuga has joined in partnership with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to safeguard this environmentally sensitive area for future generations. This partnership has allowed for the restoration and protection of the Kanuga bog under the “Partners for Fish and Wildlife” program from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This site is open to the public. This is a place where mountain sweet pitcher plant, another federally protected plant, grows. These bogs have a number of species that are more often found in the coastal plain. We spotted poison sumac, which is classically found in the Sandhills. So these bogs have an interesting biogeography.

Mike also pointed out that many of the rare species in these bogs are in danger of being shaded in by surrounding vegetation. Given that many of these species are 10,000 plus years old, many people posit why these bogs are growing in and vegetation overshadowing them in the last 20 years? One theory is that there is a lack of disturbance now. Mike doesn’t go for that theory because one of the ways there would be disturbance would be a beaver pond, and when those drain they don’t typically create these bog habitats. Another theory is that these rare species aren’t competing as well anymore. There are lots of stressors, including acid rain and invasive species, that threaten the species now that would not have a few years ago. Also flash flooding from nearby streams brings in additional nutrients that allow other species to grow in these usually harsh environments.

The next three sites we visited were Ochlawaha Bog, East Flat Rock Bog, and Bat Fork Bog. All of these sites are home to a federally protected plant known as bunched arrowhead. The Ochlawaha Bog and the Bat Fork Bog are owned by the state Plant Conservation Program. Plant Conservation Preserves and are not open to the public except through work days organized by the Friends of Plant Conservation ( East Flat Rock Bog is owned by Conserving Carolina, a mountain land trust. Bat Fork Bog is home to a variety of other neat plants, including bog jack-in-the-pulpit, bog manna grass, and littleleaf meadow-rue. Unfortunately, this bog also has an invasive species, reed canary grass, that is prevalent in the field adjacent the bog. PCP leads ongoing efforts to rid the area of this invasive plant.

Needless to say, this was a very enjoyable and informative workshop and I’m glad I attended it. Hopefully they will take my suggestion on the evaluation form and host a similar workshop in the Uwharries in coming years. There are many unique and diverse natural communities and rare species right here in our own backyards.

Three Rivers Land Trust Protects 250 acres on Poison Fork Creek

Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to announce the recent conservation of 250 acres in Randolph County, North Carolina. This property boasts a mature hardwood forest and several rare species of plant and animal life. This property’s permanent conservation helps to build upon and maintain an important wildlife corridor, thanks to its close proximity to the Uwharrie National Forest. “This property also possesses over a half-mile of frontage on Poison Fork Creek, considered an outstanding resource water. This is the highest water quality designation the State of North Carolina bestows,” states Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation, Three Rivers Land Trust.

Fred and Alice Stanback, the Open Space Institute (OSI), and Three Rivers Land Trust members provided funding for this conservation easement. 

“We are so grateful to all of our funding partners for helping Three Rivers Land Trust continue our mission to conserve these important properties,” states Travis Morehead, Executive Director, Three Rivers Land Trust.

OSI partners with conservation organizations in the Southeast to assemble networks of protected lands to preserve plant and animal diversity in a changing climate. Their Southeast Resilient Landscapes Fund, capitalized with a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, provides capital grants and loans to qualified non-profits for the acquisition of land or conservation easements on climate-resilient lands.

“OSI is proud to have supported the protection of this outstanding project, which provides a critical buffer to Uwharrie National Forest and demonstrates the importance of protecting land for wildlife facing an uncertain future,” said Peter Howell, Executive Vice President at OSI. “We applaud Three Rivers Land Trust for their work on this project and for their continued commitment to protection across this landscape.”

Three Rivers Land Trust has completed other conservation projects in this area of Randolph County, including expanding the Uwharrie National Recreational Trail by a length of eight additional miles, adding two new trailheads, and expanding access on gamelands for hiking and hunting.

”We have also applied to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund for the protection of 250 additional acres adjoining this tract and will find out about that funding in September of this year,” states Crystal Cockman. A special thank you to the conservation-minded landowner of this tract, who wishes to remain anonymous.

To learn more about how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust or how to conserve property in our region, contact Crystal Cockman at 704-647-0302 or

Three Rivers Land Trust Officially Merged with the Sandhills Area Land Trust

Three Rivers Land Trust (TRLT) is excited to announce that it has officially merged with the Sandhills Area Land Trust (SALT), effective July 1. As a result, TRLT’s previous 10-county footprint now includes five new counties, bringing the Piedmont-based organization into the Sandhills and Coastal Plain. TRLT and SALT board members worked on this merger for several years, and are proud to see the two organizations officially become one.

Founded in 1991, SALT has protected an estimated 15,000 acres in the Sandhills through conservation efforts in Moore, Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland, Richmond and Harnett counties, as well as longleaf pine ecosystem areas in Lee and Robeson counties.

TRLT, formerly the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, was established in 1995. The organization has protected over 26,000 acres through projects in Anson, Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan and Stanly counties.

“Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to have a conservation presence in the Sandhills,” states Travis Morehead, Executive Director of TRLT. “Having been stationed at Fort Bragg, and working as a planner for The Town of Angier, the Sandhills are an important place to me, personally. I appreciate all of the new conservation opportunities and partnerships our organization will be afforded working in this unique part of the state.”

Two other current TRLT staff members also have a connection to the expanded footprint. Associate Director Michael “Mikey” Nye Fulk is originally from nearby Robeson County, and Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation grew up in Robbins in Northern Moore County. “The Sandhills and Coastal Plain counties provide new and diverse habitats for TRLT staff to work to protect,” states Crystal Cockman. “These areas are near and dear to SALT’s supporters, and TRLT looks forward to championing these special areas as conservation priorities.”

TRLT will remain headquartered in Salisbury, but will retain the Southern Pines field office to provide a presence in the eastern part of the region. Seven of SALT’s eight current board members will now join the existing TRLT Board of Directors.

One of TRLT’s strongest programs is the county chapter program, which enables the Land Trust to expand its’ conservation mission into the region. “Volunteer and member based support is the driving force behind local conservation,” states Mikey Fulk. “Currently, our organization provides volunteer opportunities through local chapters and we are excited to expand these programs to the Sandhills and Coastal regions.”

To learn more about how you can support TRLT or how to volunteer with the organization, contact Michael Fulk at 704-647-0302 or



(704) 647-0302


204 East Innes Street, Suite 280
Salisbury, NC 28144