Wilson County included in state conservation zone

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Wilson County and its eastern North Carolina neighbors have been designated the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape, a zone where voluntary federal incentive programs will be available for landowners and local governments.

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced the sentinel landscape’s formation and the inclusion of 33 of North Carolina’s 100 counties during a Tuesday ceremony at the Cherry Research Firm in Goldsboro.

The designation is part of 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, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“This is an exciting designation and one that should help a lot of farm families in eastern North Carolina remain on their land and continue farming,” Troxler said. “At the same time, it will help protect the beautiful and ecologically diverse natural resources along the coast and in the Sandhills, maintain forestlands and help maintain our state’s commitment to being one of the most military-friendly states in the country.”

Conservation programs will be announced in the coming months, and expected sources of funding include the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, federal programs in the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Interior, the N.C. Working Lands Trust, and Food and Fuel for the Forces.

“The best part is that it is a voluntary program that will provide opportunities for landowners and local governments at many different levels,” Troxler added. “Working and natural lands are standing guard over our military installations to allow them to do their jobs to protect our freedoms.”

Partners announced the North Carolina designation along with designations for military installations in Florida and Texas. North Carolina is the first state to have multiple military branches, military installations and counties named as part of the designation.

Counties included in the N.C. Sentinel Landscape are Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Moore, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Richmond, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.