Something North Carolinians can do

If I bummed you out with yesterday’s post, you may be interested in today’s suggestions for combatting what seems to be an exponential loss of species diversity in the southeastern United States, and especially in North Carolina, where the pace of “progress” has exacerbated the damage.

Southeastern gardeners and lovers of native flora and fauna haven’t been sitting idly by. A number of nonprofit groups are out in our wild and not-so-wild places, attempting to preserve and protect them, and to educate the public about their value.

A few NC conservation groups

Groups like the NC Audubon Society, and the North Carolina chapter of The Nature Conservancy are pretty well known. More regional conservation groups in North Carolina include the Triangle Land Conservancy, which is not only working to preserve the area’s shrinking number of high-quality natural areas, but is also using some of its properties to work with a local food bank to grow food that’s helping to feed the poor in the counties of the region.

The North Carolina Native Plant Society

The North Carolina Native Plant Society is another worthwhile nonprofit dedicated to “promoting enjoyment and conservation of North Carolina’s native plants and their habitats through education, protection, and propagation.” Their membership fees are quite low, they have great, fun field trips and picnics, they give scholarships to worthy students, and they even go on plant rescue missions, during which they dig up and relocate plants before the bulldozers erase them. Folks who participate in plant rescues can keep what they save to plant in their own gardens.

The North Carolina Botanical Garden

I’ve told you more than once why I think the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC is worth supporting. They are the only botanical garden in the region with the explicit mission “to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants in gardens and natural areas and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature.”

All of these nonprofits are doing important work in North Carolina, despite the extremely challenging financial climate we find ourselves in these days. Check out the links and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

North Carolina Friends of Plant Conservation

But I have one more nonprofit organization in North Carolina that I want to tell you about. It has only been around a few years, and it was created to support the NC government program called The North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. This program has always had one — and only one — full-time state-funded employee, and he has a mighty big mission in a state our size: “to conserve the native plant species of North Carolina in their natural habitats, now and for future generations.”

The challenges facing this lone state employee were obvious to anyone in NC paying attention to the threats to our native flora. In 2004, a nonprofit group — North Carolina Friends of Plant Conservation — was formed with this as its mission: “The Friends of Plant Conservation Foundation supports North Carolina Plant Conservation Program (NCPCP) efforts to conserve and protect North Carolina’s imperiled native plants in their habitats.”

Members of the NCPCP are volunteers trying to support the NC Plant Conservation Program with funding assistance and with a lot of “boots on the ground” help. State preserves that harbor rare and threatened species are scattered all across the state. The NCPCP is slowly recruiting preserve stewards for each of these special, unique places. Preserves with stewards are much more carefully monitored and protected, and already the attention of such dedicated volunteers has resulted in habitat and rare species improvement at several sites.

The NCPCP is very inexpensive to join. Student memberships are $5.00/year, individuals can join for $15.00/year, and families can join for $25.00/year. In addition to knowing you’re helping an important cause, members are invited to the annual meeting — a day-long event filled with knowledgeable speakers, who provide the latest status on preserves, species, and plans for the state. Volunteers also have the opportunity to help with conservation activities on the preserves, which provide opportunities to visit rare, special spots that most folks never see.

I hope you’ll visit the link I provided above and, if you’re a North Carolinian, give serious consideration to joining this important nonprofit group.  The next annual meeting will be November 2, 2011 at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. I hope to see you there. We’ve got work to do!


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