JOHNSTON COUNTY (Oct. 15, 2019) — Triangle Land Conservancy helped save 1,120 acres just east of Smithfield on Tuesday with the purchase of Brogden Bottomlands, one of the largest unprotected natural heritage sites in TLC’s six-county region, with over two miles of frontage on the Neuse River along the future Mountains-to-Sea-Trail route. This property will provide valuable open space for wildlife, water quality and future recreational opportunities.
The site, just 35 miles south of downtown Raleigh in the heart of the Neuse Lowgrounds, was among the largest tracts of privately owned undeveloped land in the region. It is the largest property TLC has ever purchased.
Brogden Bottomlands is near the Howell Woods Conservation Area owned by Johnston County Community College and provides exceptional wildlife habitat for a variety of species, including migrating birds such as warblers and waterfowl as well as fox squirrels, black bears, coyotes, bobcats and other rare species.
The Neuse Lowgrounds lie southeast of Smithfield in Johnston County where the Neuse River spreads a four-mile floodplain full of wetlands, sloughs, levees and extensive mature cypress and bottomland hardwood forests. One of the most extraordinary wilderness areas in the Southeast, the undeveloped area can be seen from space.
“This property serves as one of the key habitat corridors in our region. It is a refuge for wildlife and serves as a reservoir for stormwater in a rapidly developing area of the state and is also a carbon sink, absorbing more carbon than it releases. As our population continues to grow, conservation of properties like this are essential for our region’s resiliency,” said Leigh Ann Hammerbacher, Senior Associate Director of Conservation.
The property protects prime farmland, upland forest areas and a unique brown water swamp, which includes rare oxbow lakes dotted by mature cypress as well as sloughs, streams and a massive 650-acre floodplain. The large floodplain helps maintain a resilient landscape and is one of the most important types of natural areas to protect to help control downstream flooding. The property is critical for filtering impurities from the Triangle’s urban stormwater runoff, as well as for absorbing stormwater and floodwaters, acting as one of the largest natural water pollution and flooding control systems on the Neuse River. In addition to over two miles of frontage on the Neuse River, another 13,000 feet of streams feed the river, including many vernal pools and wetlands.
TLC worked with the landowners to purchase the property for conservation purposes using a no-interest loan from private donors to acquire the land and prevent it from being developed, mined or clear cut. TLC will now secure funding from private and public resources and work with partners to develop the preserve for public use in the future. The site is not currently open to the public, but TLC will arrange guided hikes and tours in the future.
Triangle Land Conservancy, the local land trust serving the six-county Triangle area, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land and protecting water quality for a healthier and more vibrant community. This project coincidentally was finalized just in time for the National Land Trust Alliance’s Rally, the largest gathering of land trust representatives in the country, which comes to Raleigh for the first time this week. Over 2,000 conservationists and land trust employees will be coming together at the Raleigh Convention Center.
“Last year, we set a goal to double the pace of conservation in the Triangle by protecting 1,000 acres per year until 2025. With the protection of this property and the support of the community, we are confident we will protect 25,000 acres by 2025. We cannot think of a better way to celebrate conservation with our colleagues from around the country than by saving an additional 1,120 acres just downstream of the conference,” said Sandy Sweitzer, TLC’s Executive Director.