Protecting drinking water – Groups raising $20 million in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Trust for Public Land is joining with local conservation groups to raise $20 million to protect 80 percent of the underdeveloped shoreline and tributaries of Mountain Island Lake, The Charlotte Observer reports.

The lake supplies drinking water to 600,000 people in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties in North Carolina.

Will Rogers, president of the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land, told the newspaper that his staff had made the lake into a “poster child” for conserving a water resource.

So far, he says, the group helped win a $6.1 million state grant to buy nearly six miles of lake shoreline, later deeded to Gaston and Lincoln counties, and negotiated Gastonia’s $9.4 million purchase of a waterfront site proposed for a subdivision.

On the newest goal, the group is teaming up with the Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte, the Community Foundation of Gaston County and the Initiative for Mountain Island Lake-Catawba Lands Conservancy.

“One of the critical tools we’ve developed over the last seven to 10 years is helping harness the extraordinary commitment of communities, counties and states to land conservation,” Rogers told the Observer.

Rogers says that much of the land is under corporate ownership and many landowners want to derive maximum value from their lakefront property.

“The reality is that where you have landowners who for whatever reason have to get their value, we have to find ways to come up with that funding,” says Rogers, no relation to the late humorist by the same name.

The Observer reports that the group also hopes to raise funds to review urban creeks, including Little Sugar near uptown Charlotte.

Nationally, the Trust for Public Land has helped protect 1.2 million acres of parks, greenways, community gardens and watersheds since it was founded in 1972.

The organization opened a regional office in Charlotte in May, and Rogers says there are opportunities for conservation in every county.

“We’re here for the duration,” he says. “My guess is that our program will only increase in scope. It really is a Carolinas approach and will be regional.”

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