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Open Space Institute Grant Expands Western North Carolina Natural Area to Protect Habitat in an Era of Climate Change

MORGANTON, NC—A new 1,500-acre state natural area in western North Carolina has been established thanks to a grant from the Open Space Institute (OSI). The project secures important lands for water quality and wildlife habitat protection.

The new Bobs Creek State Natural Area was established in part by support from OSI’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative — made possible with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. OSI granted $240,438 to the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and North Carolina State Parks to acquire key “climate-resilient” lands, meaning places that will continue to provide a habitat for sensitive plants and animals even as the climate changes.

The acquisition protects 13 miles of stream buffer along Bobs Creek and its tributaries, as well as several important plants including the sweet white trillium, roundleaf serviceberry, the spring coralroot, and the Appalachian golden-bar.

“The Bobs Creek property is now part of a mosaic of thousands of acres of protected land that will be a natural stronghold for wildlife in an uncertain future,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president of Open Space Institute. “OSI is proud to have supported the protection of Bobs Creek, whose unique landscape will provide recreational opportunities for people and critical habitat for wildlife. We praise Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina’s commitment to this important landscape, which will benefit humans and wildlife forever.”

Over the course of several years, an anonymous conservation enthusiast purchased 6,000 acres of land in McDowell County with the intention of permanently protecting the land and allowing public access. Through a bargain sale to Foothills Conservancy and North Carolina State Parks, the first 1,500 acres are now permanently conserved.

Located just over three miles from the Town of Marion, the new state natural area will eventually be open for public hiking and other passive recreation uses. North Carolina State Parks will own and manage the land.

Across North Carolina, OSI has conserved 11,000 acres of climate-resilient lands. Across the greater Southeast, OSI has conserved more than 27,000 acres of these lands.

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