Conservation Easement Secured for 339 Acres in Union County to Offset Harm from Monroe Bypass

MARSHVILLE, NC-  The Yadkin Riverkeeper, a nonprofit conservation group represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, in partnership with Catawba Lands Conservancy, today announced the purchase of a conservation easement for a 339-acre property near Marshville, NC.  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, a nearly billion-dollar, 20-mile toll highway 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 Union County’s beautiful natural spaces and working landscapes.  Part of the settlement funds will be used to purchase the new easement.

"The conservation of farmland in Union County is intended to offset the negative environmental impacts of the Monroe Bypass. The results of the litigation and settlement are emblematic of the essential collaboration between environmentally focused organizations who are resolute in their mission to protect water quality” said Yadkin Riverkeeper board member Joe Morris. “Yadkin Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the efforts to conserve the Old Still Farm and its watershed to Salem Creek, the Rocky River and Yadkin- Pee Dee. We commend the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Catawba Lands Conservancy for helping our organization meet a core objective. We are also grateful to the land owners, the Howie family, for their conservation ethic and willingness to protect, forever, this important watershed.”

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.

“We are thrilled that the Catawba Lands Conservancy has identified such a wonderful piece of property to purchase with a portion of the settlement funds” said senior attorney Kym Hunter of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “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. With this easement, we can now rest assured that Old Still Farm will remain protected and unspoiled for generations to come.”  

For nearly a decade, the Southern Environmental Law Center, 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 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.

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The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of a 70 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.  WEB: www.SouthernEnvironment.org

 Yadkin Riverkeeper’s mission is to respect, protect and improve the Yadkin Pee Dee River Basin through education, advocacy and action. It is aimed at creating a clean and healthy river that sustains life and is cherished by its people. To achieve this vision, it seeks to accomplish the following objectives: sustain a RIVERKEEPER® program, measurably improve water quality, reestablish native bio-diversity, preserve and enhance the forest canopy, bring legal action to enforce state and federal environmental laws, and teach and practice a “river ethic” of ecological respect to all ages.  WEB: www.YadkinRiverkeeper.org

Catawba Lands Conservancy (CLC) is a local, nonprofit land trust dedicated to saving land and connecting lives to nature in the Southern Piedmont of North Carolina. CLC protects more than 15,000 acres of land and serves Catawba, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg and Union counties. CLC is committed to improving the quality of life in the communities it serves by protecting clean water, wildlife habitats, farmland and natural open spaces for public benefit. CLC is also the lead agency for the Carolina Thread Trail, a regional network of trails, greenways and blueways focused on linking more than two million citizens through 15 counties in North and South Carolina.
For more information, go to: catawbalands.org

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