The Yadkin Riverkeeper, a nonprofit conservation group represented by SELC, in partnership with Catawba Lands Conservancy, today announced the purchase of a conservation easement for a 339-acre property near Marshville, N.C. The purchase is the result of a million-dollar settlement with the North Carolina Departments of Transportation and Environmental Quality finalized in 2016 to conserve land and protect water quality in areas harmed by the Monroe Bypass. The highway is a nearly billion-dollar, 20-mile tolled project that will cut through rural Union County outside of Charlotte.
Catawba Lands Conservancy worked with the landowner to design a conservation easement that restricts future development and limits the type of agricultural uses allowed on the property to preserve a parcel of green space in the rapidly growing county. In addition to the land use restriction, the conservation easement protects 9,400 feet of stream frontage on Salem Creek and Jack’s Branch with strict stream buffers. This unique partnership ensures this property and its streams will remain protected in perpetuity.
Under the 2016 settlement, the state agencies agreed to deposit $1 million with Catawba Lands Conservancy for the purchase of land in Union County to protect a portion of the county’s beautiful natural spaces and working landscapes. Part of the settlement funds will be used to purchase the new easement.
“One of our biggest concerns about the Monroe Bypass is that it will lead to sprawling unplanned growth across Union County—destroying the natural areas and farmland that makes the area special,” said Senior Attorney Kym Hunter. “With this easement, we can now rest assured that Old Still Farm will remain protected and unspoiled for generations to come.”
The settlement arose after the Yadkin Riverkeeper, a conservation group focused on water quality, challenged the legal sufficiency of the Clean Water Act permit for the bypass in 2015. The Conservancy was not a party to the litigation, but is acting as a neutral third party to locate and acquire suitable land.
For nearly a decade, SELC, alongside clients the Yadkin Riverkeeper, Clean Air Carolina, and the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, as well as local community groups, fought the construction of the destructive Monroe Bypass, which will cost taxpayers over one billion dollars, destroy family-owned farmland, and worsen suburban sprawl in the growing region.
Although the bypass is ultimately moving forward, the settlement announced today will help protect special corners of Union County from the sprawling development that conservation groups fear will follow the new mega-highway.