I’m writing to encourage people to write to their county commissioners in support of increasing funds in the county budget for land conservation to $750,000 per year. This is +/- 0.2% of the whole county budget, and funds would be primarily used to leverage landowner charitable gifts and state, private and federal dollars to pay for conservation easements. Buncombe County has been contributing funds to land conservation since the early 2000s and has set a fantastic track record of leveraging $10 of private, state and federal dollars for every $1 contributed by Buncombe County.
On Feb. 16, [Commissioner] Terri Wells provided a well-rounded briefing that links the recently developed Buncombe County Strategic Plan to the need for a financial commitment from the county toward land conservation. It’s always good to be reminded of the multiple leveraged impacts of land conservation (the gift that keeps on giving), which include productive farmland and pristine forests and steams, air quality, scenic beauty, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat — all things that contribute to our overall quality of life.
Terri’s presentation is well balanced with the need to recognize that we are also a growing county, and people will need places to live. Thus this effort to preserve the best of what’s left when it comes to soil, water and ecological benefits, will of course be relatable to the need for affordable housing, free market choices that also drive development and all the infrastructure that goes along with it. The county and its landowners are going to want and need those things, too, which is unavoidable, but Terri was able to balance that thought with the reasonable statement of our need to balance our growing and thriving county with all the benefits that come from the natural world as well.
Offering up this information for a county-level initiative is one thing, but putting it in perspective nationally and globally is something Terri did that was really helpful and inspiring. Terri brought up the 30-by-30 campaign that Biden’s administration has adopted for the U.S. to conserve 30% of its land and water resources by the year 2030. 30×30 is a worldwide international campaign that we can be part of on our local level by asking Buncombe County commissioners to lead the way locally by committing financially to putting conservation dollars on the ground.
Knowing that we are part of something much bigger than just what we are working on in Buncombe County is vital to our ability to keep each other inspired and for our ability to educate our leaders and citizens alike. Taking some time to get familiar with the global 30-by-30 effort is worth doing. There has never been what seemed like such a crucial time for understanding how we can continue to feed, clothe and sustain ourselves without crushing the natural world to death. Jennifer Harrison, Buncombe County Soil & Water Conservation District director, also attended and mentioned that our Soil and Water Conservation District staff is currently going through training with a carbon farming pilot project that will be rolled out as we get more familiar with all that it involves.
If this resonates with you, please go to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ webpage, where you can email your commissioners directly from there.
Thank you for your consideration of the proposed funding that Commissioner Wells has brought forward.
— William Hamilton Jr.
Vice Chair, Buncombe County Soil and Water District