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Triangle Land Conservancy readies drive

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Triangle Land Conservancy has raised nearly $1 million in the quiet phase of a campaign to raise $5.5 million.

The Raleigh nonprofit, which protects 1,000 to 2,000 acres of land a year in six counties, also is working to expand its membership and annual support.

The campaign marks a departure from past drives, which focused on raising private funds to buy particular pieces of land, says Tracy Joseph, director of development.

In the late 1990s, for example, the conservancy raised roughly $600,000 privately, its biggest campaign ever, to buy what is now the 296-acre Johnston Mill Nature Preserve between Durham and Chapel Hill.

The conservancy also applies for grants from state and local conservation funds in North Carolina.

“What we can’t do with public money, we try to do with private money,” Joseph says. “It’s not a very efficient way to work because we’re always running to keep up.”

From funds raised in the current campaign, she says, the conservancy will place $4 million into a revolving loan fund it can use to buy an option on land or contribute a share of the acquisition cost, and then seek additional public funds to match those private dollars.

Another $1 million from the campaign will be used for a stewardship program for land preserves the conservancy owns and manages.

Co-chairing the campaign are Jonathan Howes, special assistant to the chancellor for local government relations at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Mary Mac Bradshaw, a community volunteer.

Honorary co-chairs are Jim Goodmon, president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Co. in Raleigh, and Bill Friday, retired president of the UNC System.

Formed in 1983, the conservancy has preserved 7,500 acres through easements and acquisition, and owns roughly half the land it has preserved.

Major projects include protecting land along the Little River in northern Durham and Orange counties, the Deep River between Chatham and Lee counties, Mark’s Creek in eastern Wake and western Johnston counties, and the Neuse River in Johnston County.

In addition to the Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, the conservancy owns four other nature preserves it maintains for public recreation.

Maintaining a preserve costs $8,000 to $10,000 a year, Joseph says.

And the conservancy wants to buy land for at least one more preserve, which then would cost another $100,000 to develop.

The remaining $500,000 the conservancy is raising would finance the campaign, which is being advised by Carol O’Brien & Associates in Durham.

The conservancy also is working to increase its membership, particularly corporate members.

While it retains 75 percent of its 2,000 individual, corporate and foundation members each year, the number of members has remained flat in recent years, says Joseph.

An event last May, for example, attracted nearly 50 corporate guests and resulted in 10 new members giving at least $1,000.

The conservancy also sponsored a hike and picnic for residents of neighborhoods near the Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, and then sent them a letter asking them to contribute. The effort resulted in 23 new members.

And this spring, the conservancy will launch a direct-mail appeal to residents of neighborhoods along New Hope Creek in Orange and Durham counties as part of its effort to assemble a 15-mile corridor along the creek.

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