Tag Archives: Carolina Wetlands Association

Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program Completes Four Days of Successful Wetland Monitoring

The volunteers and project team for the Pilot Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program enjoyed our second round of data collection activities on four consecutive days in early June. Since we were concerned that trying to fit all of the planned monitoring activities would be difficult to complete in a timeframe that would work for volunteers and the VWMP team, we split this monitoring series into four days. The weather cooperated and we had four straight days of warm temperatures and mostly clear skies. 

Our schedule included collecting well and water sampling data on the week days of June 2nd and 3rd and a combination of amphibian observations, site visit surveys and vegetation surveys on the weekend of June 4th and 5th.  

Water Monitoring

Dr. Mike Burchell (NC State Dept of Bio&Ag Engineering) led our group of volunteers in taking water level and water quality samples to analyze and compare to previous sampling data.

Even with the need to do water monitoring on the weekdays, volunteer turnout was good and all of the volunteers were able to get great hands-on experience. We’re looking forward to getting our first glimpses of the results of this sampling as it compares to the sampling done in February. 

Dr. Burchell discusses the water level with Paul

Amphibian Survey

Following the expertise of Thomas Reed (Wake County) we did an amphibian survey at all three wetland locations and the results are available to view on iNaturalist in our project page. Highlights of our survey were observations of a few Green Frogs, an American Water Frog and a Northern Cricket Frog. We also encountered a Spotted Salamander, a Northern Dusky Salamander and a Southern Two Lined Salamander. 

An American Water Frog (Genus Lithobates) sits along the edge of the marsh at Mason Farm Biological Reserve

This time out in the field, we reduced our amphibian survey time since it was deemed a potential habitat disturbance by having too much time and too many people doing the amphibian surveys. We also learned from our previous site visits to take our time and make sure the iNaturalist observations are completed immediately while in the study site and paid particular attention to recording water data when an amphibian was observed in water. 

Wildlife Observations

Other wildlife observations (not included in our monitoring data) including our encounter with a Ring Necked Snake can also been seen in our VWMP project page on iNaturalist.

A Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis Punctatus) in Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Vegetation Surveys

Fetterbush (Eubotrys Racemosa) Recorded at Robertson Millpond Preserve
Project Manager, Amanda, works with volunteers on surveying a vegetation plot

Amanda Johnson (VWMP Project Manager) and Rick Savage (Carolina Wetlands Association Executive Director) led us in completing vegetation surveys for 10 x 10 trees & shrubs vegetation plots and 5 x 5 herbaceous vegetation plots.

This survey activity resulted in 159 total vegetation observations that can be accessed through our iNaturalist project.

On our project page, you will be able to view all of the photos and recorded information on each species in our study area vegetation plots. 

Planning and Logistics

Overall, things went pretty smoothly with cold water and snacks helping us to power through our monitoring days. All of our meeting locations worked out great except for one day at Mason Farm where the designated lot was full of attendees at a nearby sporting event. We will again adjust the meeting location for future monitoring visits at Mason Farm and will now meet inside the farm at the grassy area near our site area 1 (this may require us to limit the number of volunteers we can have out at Mason Farm at a time).  

We still feel the need to figure out a way to not feel so rushed to complete all of our monitoring in the time given so will continue to reevaluate the schedule for future site visits. 

Make A Difference Week

Finally, as part of this round of monitoring visits, we represented Carolina Wetlands Association as participants in the Society for Ecological Restoration’s Make a Difference Week project.

We conducted litter sweeps at all three of our wetland sites in the VWMP.

Participating in the Society for Ecological Restoration’s Make a Difference Week

Next Steps

Our next field work days are planned for September of 2022.

A post monitoring site visit survey will be sent to all volunteers to gather information about their feelings toward the various elements of this phase of the pilot project and this will help inform decisions on upcoming site visits and other program activities and events. 

Stay up to date on the Pilot Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program Website and feel free to reach out to the volunteer coordinator at patty.cervenka@carolinawetlands.org with any questions. 

We want to thank our contacts at each of the wetlands in our program: Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Mason Farm Biological Reserve and Robertson Millpond Preserve. 

Photo Gallery:

Introducing New Board Member: Becky Ryon

Becky Ryon was voted to the Board of Directors at our May meeting to replace the seat vacated by our current Executive Director, Rick Savage.

Becky grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida and was fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty. Unfortunately, like South Carolina, the diverse wildlife and habitats were constantly threatened by unrestrained development. Her childhood in Florida, young adulthood in North Carolina, and previous environmental advocacy work in Richmond with the Virginia League of Conservation Voters have instilled a limitless appreciation for the wild wonders of the Southeast and a desire to preserve them for future generations. She is working with the Coastal Conservation League to build a more resilient South Carolina through the protection of wetlands, smarter growth, expanding renewable energy, and supporting the efforts of frontline communities.

Becky is a firm believer in the science-based education and advocacy mission of the Carolina Wetlands Association and she is eager to help address the many challenges facing the wetlands, wildlife, and people of the Carolinas. She looks forward to learning new tools and strategies from volunteers, staff, and fellow board members and offering her own experience in outreach and advocacy efforts.

Becky studied Anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill, loves to travel, and can often be found paddling on a river, walking on a beach, or exploring a heritage preserve in her spare time.

June Message from Executive Director

Greeting Wetland Supporters!

I hope everyone was able to get out to explore a wetland during American Wetland Month.  We had a fantastic tour of our Wetland Treasure, the West Branch Nature Preserve near Charlotte on May 7.  It not too late to sign up for the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge boat tour on June 7.  Our other two 2022 Wetland Treasures tours are being scheduled (or rescheduled in the case of the Little Pee Dee Heritage Preserve), so keep watch on Facebook for those dates, you will not want to miss them.

One of our organization’s goals is to support all of our Wetland Treasure sites and maintain good relationships with the site owner.  One such case involves Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve in Horry Co., South Carolina.  I recently spoke to the Horry County Council (10 minutes and 30 seconds in to the video) about Lewis Ocean Bay and a the potential for a hospital be build nearby.  I was asked by the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League to talk about the Carolina Wetlands Association, our Wetland Treasures Program, and why we designated Lewis Ocean Bay as a Wetland Treasure.  Lewis Ocean Bay is largely a wet, longleaf-pine savannah and needs regular burning to maintain its habitat and biodiversity. If a hospital were to be built near the bay, the burning regime could be restricted and jeopardize the sensitive ecosystem of Lewis Ocean Bay.  The Horry County Council sincerely seemed to take our concerns into consideration.  This is the role that Carolina Wetlands Association can play in helping to protect our Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas. 

The Carolina Wetlands Association also hosted the first of many webinars on May 5, 2022 on the topic of with wetlands and climate change.  A white paper on this subject was produced by our Science Committee and the webinar was organized by Patty Cervenka. The webinar presentation was conducted by Heather Patti, the lead author on the white paper.  The webinar was a big success; we had a great discussion following the webinar and feel like people learned a lot.  We will have future webinars on other white papers produced by the Science Committee so watch our newsletter and other social media for announcements.

Talking about climate change, the budget proposed by NC Governor Cooper expands funding for natural and working lands conservation, restoration, management, and outreach – directly supporting many of the recommendations the 2020 Natural and Working Lands (NWL) Action Plan. Governor Cooper’s budget is a huge show of support for all of the work that was put into creating the NWL Action Plan which consisted of recommendations to restore and preserve wetlands and forest to sequester carbon.  Carolina Wetlands Association was a significant player in the development of the NWL Action Plan. Highlights include:

  • NC Land and Water Fund, for land conservation, restoration, and planning:
    • $6.8 million(M) recurring (bringing recurring funding up to $20 M)
    • $20M nonrecurring funding, totaling $40M for FY2022-2023
  • Parks and Recreation Trust Fund:
    • $3.7 M recurring (bringing the total annual funding up to $20 M)
    • $20 M nonrecurring funding, totaling $40M for FY2022-2023
  • Other Highlights:
    • $10 M to NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for peatland and pocosin conservation and inventory
    • $10 M for the NC Resilient Communities Program ($4 Million for Resilient Coastal Communities Program and $6M for the RISE program)
    • $2 M for NC Forest Service, Forest Development Program
    • $843,000 for NC Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Coastal Habitat Assessment Program (staff, mapping, species assessments, and wetland evaluation)
    • $250,000 to NC DEQ for Equitable Community Engagement grants
    • $700,000 NC State Parks Prescribed Fire Crew and equipment
    • $18 M to NC Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services for the Swine Floodplain Buyout Program

 You can read more about the budget at this link.

This is all very good news and supports the effort of other nonprofits, universities, and local, state, and federal agencies.  These opportunities truly open the door for future funding of Carolina Wetlands Association projects to help communities in need to mitigate their flooding issues and bring many co-benefits including improved water quality, recreation, human well-being, and economic benefits.

Contact me if you want to help in any other these efforts.

Rick Savage 

2022 Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas

The Carolina Wetlands Association joins wetlands enthusiasts all over the country to raise public awareness about the beauty and importance of the nation’s wetlands during May – American Wetlands Month.  The designation of Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas indicates wetlands that are ecologically valuable, protected by conservation plans, and home to an abundance of plant and animal diversity.  All our Wetland Treasures provide many ecosystem services to the benefit of human wellbeing such as water quality, flood control, habitat, recreation, and a host of other services.

Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge

Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge

Location:  Bertie County, NC 
Wetland Type:  Protected forested wetlands consisting of bottomland hardwoods and swamps 
Site Owner: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Unique Feature: Home to over 200 species of birds, including 88 breeding resident species and a diversity of fish species, including the endangered Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), all connected to each other through the shallow water tables and refuge flooding frequency.

Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area

Location:  Carteret County, NC 
Wetland Type:  brackish salt marsh, freshwater pond, tidal flat  
Site Owner: North Carolina State Parks
Unique Feature: This 292-acre preserve is one of the few remaining tracts of old-growth maritime forests along the North Carolina coast. Its hiking trails feature views of Bogue Sound, maritime forest, salt marsh and an ancient dune ridge. 

Wambaw Swamp Wilderness

Location:  Charleston County, SC 
Wetland Type:  river-bottom land of hardwoods & sloughs   
Site Owner: U.S. Forest Service
Unique Feature: Thick with wild orchids, pickerel weed, sedges, carnivorous pitcher plants, and epiphytes. The wilderness is comprised of bottomland hardwood forest and is edged with small pine stands. Also, home to mature cypress and tupelo trees.

West Branch Nature Preserve

Location:  Mecklenburg County, NC 
Wetland Type:  river floodplain (due to beaver activity)   
Site Owner: Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation 
Unique Feature: Possibly the most ecologically important wetland in the county. Rich plant diversity with 114 species identified. Habitat to numerous species of salamanders, frogs, toads and turtles. Home to beavers, birds, as well as the eastern ribbon snake.  

May Message from the Executive Director

Greetings Wetland Supporters!

Well, it is American Wetlands Month and our Wetland Treasures have been announced.  They are beautiful sites providing many benefits to biodiversity and contributing to human well-being.  Some of the tour dates are still being determined so be sure to watch our web page and facebook page for those dates.  You will not want to miss these tours.

As I look over the years, I have dealt with the study of wetlands and how to best protect them. I was reflecting on how I got interested  in wetlands in the first place.  While I cannot put my finger on exactly when or how old I was, I just remember that during my exploration of the woods as a boy, wherever I came upon a bottomland or stepped into the soggy soil, I became fascinated about not only why there was the soil was soggy soil, but why was it even there and what was its significance.  In those days I did know anyone who could answer my  questions, so I continued to wonder.  

As I progressed through life’s journey, I learned about wetlands as an ecosystem through my general science classes.  The emphasis was on food webs and how organisms interact with their environment; all important and interesting information, but what is special about  wetland?  As my life journey progressed, I did learn that wetlands are really important, but still, there was a real lack of emphasis in the textbooks on ecology about wetlands. I was starting to get this impression that wetlands were considered by the “experts” as the “redheaded stepchild” of aquatic ecosystems.  Even when I was doing wetlands monitoring research for North Carolina, it seemed that my research colleagues and I were pretty much in a world of our own, stomping around in wetlands.  Even the USEPA, who paid us to do this research, had wetlands as the last ecosystem to be surveyed when they were doing their national assessment of the nation’s waters ( i.e., steams, rivers, lakes, estuaries all came first).

Along the way, I realized that people had a basic fear of wetlands that has  a lot to do with our language and history.  Wetlands (e.g., marshes, bogs, swamps) were always seen as dark, dangerous places that held unpleasant mysteries.  So, they were drained to reduce this fear, to improve transportation and to be used for agriculture.  And our everyday language does not help.  How many times have you said I am so “swamped” or I got “bogged” down, all negative connotations?  And what is really meant by the expression “drain the swamp”?   What about the “Swamp Thing” comic book and movie creature who lived in that horrible swamp?

I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.  Our language and cultural history have created this negative image of wetlands and it is something that we still must overcome, even within professional realms.  So, let’s be cognizant of this during American Wetlands Month and help us break these stereotypes and educate people about the importance of wetlands.

So go explore a Wetland Treasure!

Rick

Wetland Solutions = People Solutions

Greeting Wetlands Supporters:

We started our second funded project on January 26  with a virtual kickoff meeting of our Stony Run watershed project located in Harnett County, NC.  We have three excellent partners, Wetlands Solutions LLC, Skeo Solutions Inc, and Harnett County Soil and Water Conservation District, to help with this project which is being funded by the NC Land and Water Fund.  The purpose of this project is to develop a restoration plan for a 2-mile section of the Stony Run watershed after we conduct ecological and hydrological assessments.  Flooding has been a problem in this section of the watershed due to development, a fragile dam, and more frequent and intense rains.  The restoration plan will address the flooding concerns.  We are also going to involve the community to get their input regarding the plan as it is developed.  Other potential benefits include improved stream flow, enhanced habitat, improved water quality, and higher economic value for the community.  We are working on the development of a wetlands park and trail system that we hope will connect diverse communities.

This is the first of potentially several projects in NC and SC that will emphasize working with communities to help mitigate flooding by utilizing their wetland resources.  This led me to use the term “wetland solutions are people solutions” in a meeting recently and it rang loud with me.  I really felt this was such a true statement that I have used it several times.

So, what do I mean by “wetland solutions are people solutions”?  Clearly wetlands provide many ecosystem services that benefit people and wildlife.  Many of our wetlands are impaired and therefore are not providing these services to their full potential.  Many communities are experiencing more flooding due to the increased frequency of storms and intense rainfall.  Given that wetlands are often impaired and, in some cases, severely impacted, flood risks are increased.  The solutions to these impaired wetlands are restoration, enhancement, and in some cases, creation.  To look towards the future, wetland and floodplain preservation is critical.  

When we repair these wetlands with restoration/enhancement, we uplift wetlands’ functionality to provide the flood protection, flood mitigation, and often many other ecosystem services.  When we restore/enhance wetlands for the specific purpose of aiding a community, such as mitigating flooding, then the wetland solution is a human solution.  Therefore, when we implement wetland solutions they are often for human solutions, for the betterment of quality of life by uplifting ecosystem services.

So, remember this, “wetland solutions are human solutions” and share this knowledge with your friends and family.

Go out, explore a wetland, and think about how these ecosystems benefit communities.

Rick Savage

Annual Giving Campaign

November 15. The Carolina Wetlands Association’s annual Giving Campaign starts today!  This is the one time of year we ask for your donations to support our mission of promoting the understanding, protection, restoration, and enjoyment of North and South Carolina’s wetlands.

To show our gratitude for your support, you will receive a 2022 wall calendar featuring photos from our most recent Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas and includes a list of recreational opportunities at each site.  While supplies last, anyone who donates $25 or more will receive the calendar. 

We rely on your generosity to support our all-volunteer organization to provide resources to support our mission. We have been successful over the past few years in creating a Wetlands Treasures Program, giving presentations and workshops about wetlands, and sponsoring events to promote the benefit of natural and restored wetlands across North and South Carolina.

Your donations are critical to provide the operational funding we need to implement the Strategy Plan and administer our two grant-funded projects: Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program and Stoney Creek Watershed Assessment Project.

Our annual Giving Campaign is occurring now through December 15. We are asking you to reaffirm your commitment and support for wetlands through a donation to the Carolina Wetlands Association.

Donate today to support wetlands

  1. Online via PayPal Giving Fund
    All donations are tax deductible and can be made online through PayPal Giving Fund. Please make sure the include your name and mailing address so you can receive your calendar. Note: we will not use or sell you address for other purposes.
  2. Send a Check through the Mail
    Make your checks payable to: Carolina Wetlands Association

Mail donation to:
Carolina Wetlands Association
Attn: Giving Campaign
PO Box 33592
Raleigh, NC 27636

Become a Sponsor

We are offering a sponsorship for businesses and organizations who want to show their support our mission. Sponsors will be recognized on our website, newsletter, and at events. The minimum donation is $500. More information is available on our Sponsorship page.

CarWA a 501(c)3 organization. Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. EIN # 47-4312834

Message from the Executive Director

Hello Wetland Supporters,

On October 18, 2021, the Board of Directors of the Carolina Wetlands Association held a special meeting to discuss hiring an Executive Director for the Association.  Ultimately, the Board  unanimously approved to hire an Executive Director, effective November 15.  That position was given the me, Rick Savage, the former President of the Board.

I am truly honored to be the first Executive Director of the Carolina Wetlands Association and look forward to advancing its mission and making the Association more sustainable and stronger. I will always rely on the guidance of the Board and the Executive Committee and will keep all in step with the progress we make.

This is a critical next step for the Association as it gives us more credibility, a stronger standing with other organizations and potential funders.  It also allows me to work with our many volunteers.  I will hold regular staff meetings and make sure everyone is working on what they are interested in and that we have the overall mission and goals of the Association in mind as we progress.  

Currently, we have two grants and I feel that these grants are just the first of many that will open doors to more opportunities to volunteer and work for Carolina Wetlands Association.  I will be focusing on the successful implementation on these projects and working to build relationships that will lead to other funding opportunities. 

This is an exciting time for the Association, and I hope you all look forward to these times as I do.  We need to grow the organization and groom our new leaders so that the Association will be in good hands for years to come.

If you are not currently volunteering or want to do more, please let me or Rachel Massa (our Volunteer Coordinator) know and we will work with you.

SO much thanks to you all- go explore a wetland and consider nominating a wetland to be one of our next Wetland Treasures for 2022.

Rick Savage
Executive Director
rick.savage@carolinawetlands.org

Pellet Industry Threatens Wetland Forests and Climate

Written by Heather Hillaker, a Staff Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center

We are in the midst of a global climate and biodiversity crisis, and the wood pellet and biomass industries, which claim to be a solution, are threats to both. Cutting down and burning growing forests for electricity actually emits more carbon dioxide than burning coal. These actions will increase atmospheric carbon for at least the next several decades—the exact time when we need to be drastically reducing emissions— while also degrading our native forests.

Wood pellets are made mostly from living trees, which are taken to pellet mills, ground into chips, dried, and formed into pellets. Enviva, the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer, currently operates nine pellet mills throughout the southeast—six of which source a large amount of wood from North and South Carolina. Enviva acknowledges that 83% of its wood comes directly from forests, including forests within these two states (see map).

Wood Pellet Plants Exporting to Europe
Map of operating (yellow circle), proposed (red circle), and prospective (pink circle) wood pellet plants in the southeast. Source: Southern Environmental Law Center

Impacts to Wetlands

Over the last decade, independent, on-the-ground investigations have uncovered that Enviva’s northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia mills often relied on mature trees taken from forested wetlands. Most of this harvesting is happening within the Coastal Plain, an area that was designated in 2016 as a global biodiversity hotspot because of its high species richness and endemism. Less than a third of this area’s native vegetation remains. Harvesting for pellet mills is exacerbating existing pressures on these forests and contributing to the degradation of these valuable ecosystems, including iconic wetland forests.

The wetland forests that dot the Carolina coasts are some of North America’s most valuable ecosystems. They improve water quality, protect against floods, and provide critical wildlife habitats— especially for migratory songbirds that are appreciated by even the most casual nature-lovers. But despite these immense benefits, most of these incredible forests have already been lost, and what remains now are subjected to clearcutting to produce wood pellets that are shipped overseas to be burned for electricity.

Remaining tree stumps after a clear-cut forested wetlands.
Photograph of a clearcut wetland forest in North Carolina. Logs harvested from this site were documented entering Enviva’s pellet mill. Source: Dogwood Alliance

Impacts to Communities

The biomass and wood pellet industries aren’t just bad for forests, they hurt the climate and nearby communities too. Even though it is touted as “clean energy”, burning wood pellets from forests for electricity increases the amount of carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere for 40-100 years, worsening climate change. Moreover, the pellet mills located throughout the southeast, including Enviva’s pellet mills in North and South Carolina, release harmful pollutants and dust negatively impacting the health of those living nearby. These mills are built primarily in low-wealth communities of color, where people are already overburdened by an unfair share of pollution.

Let’s be clear, the wood pellet and biomass industries are not clean energy, and as the U.S. moves towards real climate action, we must make sure that our policies promote genuine low-carbon renewable energy sources. We cannot afford to make the same mistakes as European countries that offer billions of dollars in government subsidies to these harmful industries. Our climate, forests, and communities depend on the U.S. making the right choice by excluding forest biomass from any clean energy policy.

Call to Action

You can help by signing this petition to tell President Biden that biomass is not a part of our clean energy future.


Sign the Petition

About the Author

Heather Hillaker is a Staff Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who specializes in issues surrounding the use of forest-derived biomass for energy. Heather is actively involved in SELC’s UK, US, and state-level work on the issue, including efforts to strengthen protections for communities living near wood pellet plants.

Wetland Tour: Richardson-Taylor Preserve

Please join us for a walking tour to learn about the wetlands at Richardson-Taylor Preserve. This Carolina Wetlands Association Wetland Treasure site is located in the upper watershed of Jordan Lake water supply which makes these wetlands especially important for water quality protection and water supply for hundreds of thousands of community members. The tour will be led by Tristan Bailey, Marketing and Special Events Coordinator and will be 1 ½ to 2 hours long, and is limited to 10 participants.