Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape

  • North Carolina

  • Established 2016


The Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape spans nearly 11 million acres across a 33-county region in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain and Sandhills. The sentinel landscape is home to five key military installations and ranges: Fort Bragg, Dare County Bombing Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Stations Cherry Point and New River, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Behind agriculture, military-related activity is the second largest economic driver in the state. For years, Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape partners have worked together to support endangered species recovery, while simultaneously strengthening the military mission and energizing local agricultural economies.

Interactive Landscape Map

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Total Funding by Partner

Partner Funding Through Fiscal Year 2019 In Millions
USDA $6.70M $7.60M $9.30M $7.40M $11.00M
DoD $7.90M $6.60M $19.60M $4.90M $4.20M
DOI $1.10M $0.10M $1.10M $0.60M $1.00M
State $2.40M $5.90M $4.90M $5.20M $3.20M
Private $2.40M $2.50M $4.80M $4.70M $6.90M

Total Acres Protected and Enrolled

Acres Protected138633.13
Acres Enrolled770137.48

Partnership Highlights

The Intersection of Conservation and National Defense

In 2019, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust used funds from the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program to acquire Salters Creek Landing, a 5,400-acre parcel adjacent to MCAS Cherry Point’s Piney Island Bombing Range.  This project supports national security by reducing the risk of incompatible development around MCAS Cherry Point that would compromise the installation’s electronic and special warfare training mission.  According to Col. Todd Ferry, Commanding Officer at MCAS Cherry Point, "Through [the U.S. Marine Corp’s] partnership with the Coastal Land Trust and the State of North Carolina, we have shared the burden of protecting this strategic property which will help us sustain training capabilities at Piney Island for future generations.”  This project also has significant ecological benefits.  Located along the North Carolina coast, Salters Creek Landing is a crown jewel for conservationists.  The tract is covered in estuarine marsh, tidal creeks, pocosin wetlands, and maritime forest.  Year-round, the property teems with wildlife, prompting the National Audubon Society to recognize Salters Creek as an Important Bird Area and the State of North Carolina to list it as a Natural Heritage Area.  Specifically, Salters Creek provides habitat to 23 rare plant and animal species, including the black rail, a candidate for the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The parcel also shares a boundary with the 15,000-acre Cedar Island National Refuge, contributing to a landscape-scale conservation corridor in one of the country’s fastest-growing regions.  Moving forward, part of Salters Creek Landing will be managed as a wildlife refuge, while the remaining portion will be opened to the public for recreation.

Sentinel Landscape Partners Improve Efficiency for Land Protection

The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership unites disparate stakeholders around common goals, which often leads to innovation.  In 2018, the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape partners set out to simplify the process of securing a conservation easement.  Conservation easements maintain the private ownership of a property while permanently prohibiting certain types of development.  In recent years, government programs have begun to split the cost of purchasing easements on properties that benefit multiple federal and state agencies.  While this trend is something to be celebrated, the process can be cumbersome for private landowners.  Despite sharing the cost of acquisition, government agencies typically record their easement restrictions separately, which means that property owners must consult multiple legal documents to understand their land management responsibilities.  To remedy this, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) collaborated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop an Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape common easement template.  This model consolidates agency requirements into a single deed, thus creating a more efficient process for landowners.  Finalizing a conservation easement typically takes anywhere from three to four years.  The NCDA&CS template is projected to cut that time in half.  In 2019, NCDA&CS, the U.S. Air Force, and USDA NRCS piloted this new model by acquiring easements on five high priority parcels located beneath a flight path between Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and Dare County Bombing Range.  According to Steve Troxler, North Carolina’s Agriculture Commissioner, “This project represents a new level of coordination...agriculture is North Carolina’s biggest industry followed by the military, and it is more important than ever that we work to protect the farmland that produces our food and fiber and maintains our military readiness.”

Community-Driven Landowner Engagement

Embedded in the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape is an expansive network of farms, ranches, and working forests.  In total, cropland and forestland make up 72 percent of land cover across the landscape.  This composition is indicative of the industry’s wider impact on the state.  Agriculture and agribusiness contribute $92 billion annually to North Carolina’s GDP and employ 17 percent of the state’s workforce.  Farms, ranches, and working forests also support the state’s national defense mission by reducing the risk of incompatible development around military installations and ranges.  As a result, promoting sustainable management practices on North Carolina’s working lands is a top priority for Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape partners.  In 2019, the NC Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation piloted a series of landowner engagement events and community leadership roundtables in five counties across the landscape.  The goal of the series was to increase awareness among landowners on the government benefits available to them, educate local decision-makers on the value of the sentinel landscapes model, and seek input regarding future program development from local stakeholders.  The Foundation coupled these events with a door-to-door outreach effort, which resulted in 41 letters of interest and 17 Options to Buy Contracts from private landowners.  

Species Recovery Efforts Strengthen Military Readiness

In 2015, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to establish the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) Recovery and Sustainment Program Partnership (RASP).  The partnership’s objective is to enhance training flexibility at MCB Camp Lejeune by alleviating environmental restrictions that were triggered when the RCW was listed under the ESA.  To that end, the partners are helping the installation reach and maintain its recovery goal of 173 RCW clusters, as mandated by USFWS.  In support of this goal, partners carry out innovative off-base restoration efforts using DoD funds that count towards the U.S. Marine Corps’ recovery obligation.   Through FY 2019, RASP has protected 130 RCW clusters. .  To achieve its final goal, RASP will target its resources towards preserving an additional 60 RCW clusters across two protected properties in the coastal North Carolina region—the 13,000-acre Bear Garden tract and the 3,000-acre Stones Creek Game land.  RASP is representative of the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership’s mission because it increases the amount of land devoted to endangered species recovery, while simultaneously strengthening the military’s mission.

Our Partners

In The News

  • Partnering for Success with Sentinel Landscapes

    Federal, state and local partners, including the NC State College of Natural Resources and NC State Extension Forestry, have joined efforts to protect North Carolina’s working farmland and forests, military training grounds, and natural resources and habitat. In 2016, 33 eastern and Sandhills counties in North Carolina were designated as the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape.

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  • Troxler Announces Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscapes Designation

    N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announces the federal designation of 33 counties as the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape, and the development of voluntary programs as incentives for landowners and local governments that desire to participate. Troxler was joined for the announcement at the Cherry Research Farm by leaders of North Carolina’s military installations, county managers, academic institutions, representatives of conservation and environmental groups, and many other public and private partners.

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  • North Carolina Sentinel Landscapes—Building Capacity While Promoting Conservation and National Defense

    Dewitt Hardee, the Farmland Preservation Director for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services manages the NC Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Dewitt introduces the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape, a land preservation program focused on conserving working and rural lands and promoting national defense.

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  • 33 North Carolina Counties Designated as the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape

    The latest designation from 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.

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  • Marines and Woodpeckers Share the High Ground

    At Camp Lejeune, an endangered species thrives amidst simulated battles. Above the distant din of 50-caliber machine gun fire and Cobra attack helicopters, John Hammond, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hears the unmistakable sound of a red-cockaded woodpecker as he approaches Combat Town, where U.S. Marines routinely assault a mock Iraqi village at Camp Lejeune.

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  • 2020 Sentinel Landscapes Accomplishments Report

  • Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Fact Sheet 2020

  • 2019 Sentinel Landscapes Accomplishments Report

  • Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Fact Sheet 2019

  • Conserving Working Lands: A Land Legacy Workbook with Tools and Resources to Guide Your Conservation Planning

  • Establishing a Partnership for Sentinel Landscapes: The North Carolina Experience, a Dissemination Guide for Other States

Meet the Coordinator

Dr. Mary Lou Addor


Lou currently serves as the Eastern North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Coordinator and as adjunct professor with NC State's College of Education. With considerable experience in program, partnership, and leadership development including facilitation of multi-stakeholder environmental decision-making since 1995, Lou assists partnerships, communities and organizations with integrative problem solving and professional development. Lou serves/has served on several national committees and initiatives including the Association of Conflict Resolution Environmental and Public Policy Leadership Council; U.S. Institute of Environmental Conflict Resolution National Roster of Environmental Conflict Resolution Practitioners; University Network for Collaborative Governance Steering Committee and Network member; and serves on the Public Deliberation Community of Practice of eXtension.

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

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