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GOLDSBORO – N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler today announced the federal designation of 33 counties as the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape, and the development of voluntary programs of incentives for landowners and local governments that desire to participate. He was joined for the announcement at the Cherry Research Farm by leaders of North Carolina’s military installations, county managers, representatives of conservation and environmental groups, and many other public and private partners. [For more information about the federal designation, go to http://sentinellandscapes.org.]

The designation is part of a joint federal partnership between the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Interior and Defense that aims to strengthen farms, ranches and forests while conserving habitat and natural resources and protecting vital training grounds for military installations.

“This is an exciting designation and one that should help a lot of farm families in Eastern North Carolina remain on their land and continue farming,” Troxler said. “At the same time, it will help protect the beautiful and ecologically diverse natural resources along the coast and in the Sandhills, maintain forestlands and help maintain our state’s commitment to being one of the most military-friendly states in the country.

“The best part is that it is a voluntary program that will provide opportunities for landowners and local governments at many different levels,” Troxler added. “Working and natural lands are standing guard over our military installations to allow them to do their jobs to protect our freedoms.”

Conservation programs will be announced in the coming months, and expected sources of funding include the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, federal programs in the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Interior, the N.C. Working Lands Trust, and Food and Fuel for the Forces.

The federal partners announced the North Carolina designation earlier today, along with designations for military installations in Florida and Texas. North Carolina is the first state to have multiple military branches, military installations and counties named as part of the designation.

The counties included in the N.C. Sentinel Landscape are: Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Moore, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Richmond, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.

In addition to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, a number of public and private agencies and organizations have worked together for several years as the N.C. Sentinel Landscape partnership to gain this designation, including Marine Corps Installations East, N.C. Farm Bureau Federation, N.C. State University, Environmental Defense Fund, N.C. State Grange, N.C. Forestry Association, N.C. departments of Environmental Quality, Natural and Cultural Resources, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Commerce, the N.C. Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation, local soil and water conservation districts, Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and many others.

What our partners are saying

Brigadier General Thomas Weidley, U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune:

North Carolina supports a large military presence, including Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point.

Likewise, all branches of the military need compatible land around installations and ranges, as well as unobstructed and dark airspace, to practice and train.  The landscape, especially in the eastern half of North Carolina, is dominated by agriculture, forestry, and conservation land use and has traditionally been home to a good number of military test and training areas.  However, as the state urbanizes, our ability to train becomes more challenging, necessitating this critical partnership among several entities within North Carolina.  Private lands enable essential military training opportunities that are important in protecting the military’s mission.  Partnerships like these facilitate agreements with private landowners that may allow mutually beneficial and compatible uses, thus further enabling our ability to conduct realistic training in preparation to go into harm’s way – and win.  Marine Corps Installations East is proud and honored to be a part of programs that synchronize federal, state, and local interests, conservation, and our training requirements.

Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

These Sentinel Landscape Partnerships are a crucial part of our conservation work that help us take advantage of opportunities to simultaneously strengthen military readiness, conservation of valuable lands that support wildlife and the economic health of communities where these partnerships exist.

The good news is that we have similar partnerships across the Southeast that are helping us define what the region’s conservation lands will look like heading towards 2060 recognizing that pressure on land use is projected to grow significantly.  Collectively, we think we can successfully address these challenges and Sentinel landscape partnerships are an important piece.

John D. Chaffee, President & CEO of the NCEast Alliance:

The Sentinel Landscapes project is a highly valued extension of our multi-year commitment to serving the interests of our military and agricultural communities – two of the most important contributors to the regional economy of eastern North Carolina.

It is vitally important that we protect military aircraft training routes while developing new agricultural products and processing activities that will create jobs for the people of our region.

Mary C. Watzin, Dean, N.C. State University College of Natural Resources:

This Sentinel Landscapes designation supports our military and underscores our state’s commitment to protecting working lands, critical natural resources and abundant wildlife. NC State University is proud to be a partner working with the Department of Defense and other federal and state agencies to demonstrate how thriving rural economies, healthy natural habitats, and a strong military provide benefits for all.

Bill Holman, N.C. State Director, The Conservation Fund:

The Department of Defense’s designation of the Sentinel Landscape in North Carolina builds on years of a successful partnership between the military, the State and conservation organizations. Over the last 20 years our partnership has maintained military readiness, protected installations from encroachment, protected military training routes, conserved thousands of acres of private working lands and public lands, and helped sustain the military, agricultural and forestry economies in Eastern North Carolina. More needs to be done. The NC Sentinel Landscape will keep us moving forward.

Jimmy Gentry, President, N.C. State Grange:

It is always gratifying to see a variety of groups to join together in working toward a common goal and finding success.  The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership has been a great effort supported by many who are interested in the welfare of the military while conserving working lands and forests.  The designation for North Carolina in the Sentinel Landscapes program will further enhance our ability to maintain open spaces which will be good for both agriculture and the military. The North Carolina State Grange is proud to be one of the organizations involved in this partnership, and we look forward to continuing our efforts with Sentinel Landscapes.

Larry B. Wooten, President, North Carolina Farm Bureau:

North Carolina Farm Bureau is proud to have been a partner in the development of the Sentinel Landscapes designation. This landmark effort is a win-win for the two largest engines in North Carolina’s economy – Agriculture and the Military.

This 33-county designation is an excellent example of cooperation and partnership. It sets a pathway for federal, state and local agencies to voluntarily work with private landowners on projects of mutual benefit.

Secretary Cornell Wilson, N.C. Division of Veterans Affairs:

Today’s announcement will help North Carolina expand on its achievements in sustaining working lands while preserving military training routes and natural resources. This new federal designation will contribute to existing Sentinel Landscapes partnerships by offering 33 counties the opportunity to participate in voluntary programs that help private land owners and farmers work collaboratively with military installations on compatible land use.  This program will enhance our state’s military and agricultural value well into the future, strengthening the two largest industries in North Carolina.

Gordon Myers, Executive Director, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission:

The Sentinel Landscapes designation reflects comprehensive and coordinated efforts among diverse partners. Together, individual and collective missions of each partner organization can be realized across the 33-county Sentinel Landscape.  In addition to supporting military readiness and protecting North Carolina’s working lands, this designation will increase opportunities for conservation partnerships that will accrue significant landscape-level benefits for North Carolina’s wildlife and their habitats.

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