The streams of the Upper Tar River Basin contain an incredible wealth of biological diversity, including rare and endangered species, such that over 400 miles of streams are designated by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program as “nationally significant aquatic habitat.” During the late 1990s, representatives from local, state, federal governmental agencies and nonprofit groups began convening meetings to discuss how to preserve the Upper Tar’s important habitat. The idea of using land conservation to achieve this goal emerged from the collaborative meetings. One impediment was quickly identified, however – the absence of a local land trust serving the Upper Tar Basin.
During the fall of 1997, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT) stepped forth to help meet this need. NCCLT considered whether to expand its service area to include the Upper Tar Basin or to help form a new land trust that would focus on the Upper Tar region. At the same time, landowners in the Upper Tar began asking NCCLT and other conservation groups to help them protect their land using conservation easements. After consideration, NCCLT representatives decided to serve as a “business incubator” to establish a new land trust, initially accepting conservation easements from Upper Tar landowners that would be transferred once a new land trust was launched. The new land trust, the Northeast Tarheel Conservancy, was incorporated in September 2000. The mission of the new land trust was to protect land across an eight-county region – Person, Granville, Franklin, Vance, Warren, Halifax, Edgecombe, and Nash Counties. The name of the new land trust was changed to Tar River Land Conservancy in 2001. Originally based in Nashville, NC, the office of Tar River Land Conservancy (TRLC) moved to Louisburg in 2002 where the organization’s office is still located.
Since its founding, TRLC has worked to protect a broad range of conservation values across its service area, including farmland, forestland, wildlife habitat, drinking water and open space. The model was simple – work with willing landowners of important tracts to protect these conservation values through conservation easements and fee-simple land acquisitions. TRLC’s planning and outreach has focused primarily on tracts on the Tar River and its major tributaries where land conservation projects provide the best opportunities to preserve intact habitat, protect important blocks of farmland and forest from development, and restore stream buffers and floodplain through reforestation. As a result, many of the properties protected by TRLC since 2000 adjoin the Tar River or one of its major tributaries, but not all. Since portions of the eight counties served by TRLC lie within the Roanoke and Neuse River Basins, TRLC has also worked with many landowners in these river basins to help them achieve their land conservation objectives.
The result of TRLC’s work since September 2000 has been the permanent protection of 18,172 acres of land through perpetual conservation easements and fee-simple acquisitions of land permanently held for conservation by TRLC or a partner conservation agency.