Nature Preserves Strategic Action Plan for Wake County (Draft 10-19-07)

Problem Statement:
Growth in Wake County has encouraged the public acquisition of open space. While acquisition is clearly important, lands acquired (particularly the most valuable natural areas) need to be managed appropriately to protect their natural heritage and value for the long term. Currently, local governments own park and open space properties with high biological and ecological value. The absence of inventory, classification and management on these lands leaves them vulnerable to degradation and inappropriate development.

No county-wide inventory or classification exists to foster greater protection and management of these lands. Parks and Recreation Departments are the governmental entity responsible for high quality natural areas. These agencies are typically understaffed and/or do not have expertise to address stewardship and management planning and implementation practices. A need exists for County-wide technical assistance, coordination, and encouragement in this area.

Strategic Action Plan:
Create innovative and effective structures for coordinating and assisting action among all interested parties (governments, elected officials, local nature and wildlife agencies, non-profit organizations, universities, citizens, etc…) to foster protection and care for Wake County’s most valuable natural areas.

  1. Publicly owned open spaces and natural areas need to be inventoried to understand which lands are most important and what natural features exist and need to be protected.
  2. The highest quality natural areas need to be classified as Nature and Wildlife Preserves to focus attention on the most important resources and encourage protection through formal planning and policy channels.
  3. Good environmental stewardship requires managing our highest quality open space lands to maintain ecological function and avoid degradation over time.

Short term (3-6 months)
  • Draft Nature Preserves Action Plan (this document) and modify
  • Recruit full time Stewardship Coordinator (January start date?) to coordinate action plan.
  • Develop and refine criteria for classifying preserves and test results
  • Draft white paper to present concept, provide justification for criteria and selection of sites
  • Promote white paper to appropriate audiences/constituencies
  • Present at meeting with all Parks and Recreation Departments in Wake County to inform them of our efforts and as for assistance in shaping the future direction (January or February 2008)
  • Develop list of Wake County properties with prioritization for action
  • Create demonstration project to test/refine criteria, develop management plan, apply service learning concept and produce tangible results to show others
  • Recruit informal service learning projects for Spring 2008 semester on demonstration project site
  • Develop longer term organizational capacity for larger and more sustained effort

Medium term (6-12 months)
  • Recruit a graduate student for 10-20 hours a week to support Stewardship Coordinator. This student would be funded by Wake County Parks and Recreation/NCSU Engaged College and would begin August 2008 as a two year teaching/research assistantship.
  • Graduate student would be liaison to NCSU through the engaged classroom model. Student will need to organize/coordinate various instructors/students/classes to provide assistance in the development of inventories and management plans.
  • Leverage outside funding (Doris Duke Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NCWRC./Wildlife Action Plan, NC Natural Heritage Trust Fund) for this public, non-profit, university partnership.
  • Highlight and promote short term successes, including demonstration project
  • Organize special topics service learning courses to focus exclusively on nature preserves application
  • Advertise opportunities for master’s students to focus on master plan development as part of their master’s project (non-thesis option)
  • Revisit adequacy of longer term organizational capacity for larger and more sustained effort
  • Put together volunteer network (NCSU clubs, non-profit volunteers, etc..)
  • Begin inventorying with help from volunteer network

Long term (12-24 months)
  • Encourage institutionalization of an environmental management and stewardship culture in Wake County’s local parks departments
and governments
  • Provide financial or other incentives for local governments in Wake County to incorporate management and stewardship objectives in planning and implementation
  • Local government (County and municipalities) adoption of a consistent, County-wide planning classification for Nature and Wildlife Preserves that allow for passive recreation, including the highest value natural areas according to criteria developed
  • Raise political and public awareness of and base of support for nature preserves in Wake County
  • Highlight and promote medium term successes