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TNRC Minutes 12-6-2017 Natural Heritage Areas Committee

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Minutes of the Natural Heritage Area Subcommittee meeting on December 6
Present: Dan Hodges, David Whitmire, Kent Wilcox Absent: Torry Nergart, Mark Tooley
Members of the NHA subcommittee met with Wesley Knapp (Western Regional Ecologist/Botanist for the
NC Natural Heritage Program) at 1:00 p.m. on December 6 to discuss the current status and future
plans of the Natural Heritage Program, especially with regard to Transylvania County. Below is a
summary of questions asked by the subcommittee and the response of Wes Knapp.

1. The Natural Heritage Program conducted its inventory of natural areas in Transylvania County ten
years ago. Does the Natural Heritage Program (NHP) have a schedule to revisit each county and
conduct a new inventory?

Knapp: The current focus of the NHP is to complete an inventory of all NC counties. Due to
limited resources, there are two counties which have not yet been inventoried. These inventories
will be conducted when resources become available. There is no schedule to conduct a second round
of inventories. Inventories of Wake and Orange Counties were conducted 30 years ago, so the 2008
survey for Transylvania County is considered recent. In the past ten years, it is probable that
little change has occurred in 95% of the natural heritage areas in Transylvania County.

2. Can a county conduct a natural heritage area inventory using its own funds and a third party
contractor rather than a representative from the NC NHP?

Knapp: Yes. For example, the inventory of Polk County was conducted by the NC NHP in 1994. Last
year Polk County hired a third party contractor to conduct a new survey. One concern with this
approach is that the private contractor may not use the same metrics or methods for data
collection, in which case the information collected may not be compatible with the NHP database.

3. Are there areas in Transylvania County that were deemed potentially important by the NC NHP but
were not surveyed in 2008?

Knapp: The NC NHP requested access to 196 privately-owned properties in Transylvania County and
were granted access by 78 owners. The other owners either said no (24) or did not respond (94).

4. Should there be a process to approach owners of the 118 properties that were identified but not
surveyed in 2008?

Knapp: Yes, consideration should be given to implementing a non-threatening method to approach
reluctant land owners and request permission to evaluate the ecological significance of their
property. Keep in mind that at this time the NC NHP does not have the resources to conduct
additional surveys in counties that have already been surveyed. Rather than rushing to get boots
on the ground, it might be more beneficial to educate landowners

about the natural heritage program and dispel myths that discourage landowners from
cooperating with NHP representatives.

5. What is the most effective way to educate private landowners and/or the general public about the
natural heritage program?

This question resulted in a general discussion by all and resulted in the following ideas:

a. If the Transylvania Natural Resources Council is going to spearhead any initiative regarding
natural heritage areas, then a presentation by Wes Knapp to the Transylvania Natural Resources
Council is a prerequisite before the TNRC takes further action.

b. Wes Knapp supported a proposal that the NC NHP produce a brochure that explains what is meant by
a natural heritage area and what, if any, regulations apply that might restrict activities by
private landowners. Wes made it quite clear that the NC NHP has no regulatory authority with
regard to activities on private properties, but this fact is probably misunderstood by most
residents in Transylvania County. The brochure would be a general approach that could be
distributed to residents in all North Carolina counties.

c. Dan Hodges suggested presentations at local Community Centers, possibly given by a panel from
the TNRC. The NC NHP lacks the personnel to give multiple presentations in the county, but could
provide a PowerPoint slide show and training for TNRC reps.

d. David Whitmire suggested holding a public workshop. This might be appropriate for a later stage
in the process, especially if we are soliciting support from commissioners and others.

e. Other suggestions included presentations to garden clubs; residents in communities such as
Connestee Falls, Sherwood Forest, or Lake Toxaway; Rotary Club; Chamber of Commerce; Transylvania
Economic Alliance; Transylvania Tourism Development Authority; and of course, County Commissioners.

f. Representatives from Transylvania County could partner with the NC NHP, local land trusts such
as Conserving Carolina, and conservation organizations such as MountainTrue to help private
landowners recognize why natural heritage areas that have been preserved for generations should
continue to be protected by future generations.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:15 p.m.
Submitted by Kent Wilcox