Natural & Working Lands

Natural and Working Lands Action Plan: Building North Carolina's Green Infrastructure

The natural systems upon which we depend are essential to communities, economies, and ecosystems. North Carolina's natural and working lands offer opportunities to build ecosystem resilience and sequester carbon while continuing to deliver economic growth. DEQ called upon expert stakeholders, including land management experts, non-profit organizations, and key stakeholders representing universities, federal, state, and local agencies working in conservation, forestry, agriculture, and coastal and urban planning to develop the Natural and Working Lands Action Plan. The plans builds on a wide range of actions and measures that protect, restore, and enhance the land and coastal areas that provide vital health, social, economic, and environmental benefits. The stakeholder recommendations prioritize short-term, cost-effective, and pragmatic solutions as well as identify longer-term actions that require more effort, funding, and agency or legislative support. 

The NWL Stakeholder Group will identify opportunities for natural and working lands, develop pathways for public and private lands to implement these opportunities, and identify policy, financial mechanisms and incentives needed to execute the various pathways. Listed below are the shared goals for this effort: 

  • Enhance the ability of land to sequester carbon and mitigate GHGs 
  • Build resilience in ecosystems and communities
  • Provide public health and ecosystem co-benefits 
  • Create economic opportunities for agri-business, recreation, and tourism
  • Ensure implementation of any action is a socially equitable process

Land management experts, non-profit organizations, and key stakeholders representing universities, federal, state, and local agencies working in conservation, forestry agriculture and coastal planning are supporting this initiative. Stakeholders were divided into 6 Land Sector Subcommittees for the development of this report: 

  • Forestry
  • Floodplains & Wetlands
  • Pocosins
  • Coastal Habitats
  • Agriculture
  • Urbans Lands 
North Carolina Natural and Working Lands Action Plan

(Click image to download full report)


Executive Summary

Summary of Recommendations

NWL Data and Methods Guide

NWL Story map 



Implementation of nature-based solutions across North Carolina requires a focused commitment of financial and human capital. Some solutions begin working in a short time frame, such as improved crop practices to re-wetting draining pocosins, where the carbon and soil benefits are realized quickly. Others, such as reforestation, may take decades to fully realize the carbon and ecosystem co-benefits. Due to the time required to have functional green infrastructure that mitigates the impacts of climate change and sequesters carbon, implementation must start now. 

Expert Stakeholders that participated in the development of the Action Plan are currently working toward implementing these recommendations. NWL leads will continue to coordinate implementation efforts by state agencies and other stakeholders. 

For more information, contact:

Subcommittee Name/Email Organization
NWL Program Lead Misty Buchanan Dept. of Natural & Cultural Resources
Forestry Jessie Birckhead Wildelife Resources Commission
Coastal Jacob Boyd Dept. of Environmental Quality
Flood Plains & Wetlands Kim Matthews Research Triangle Institue
Pocosins Scott Pohlman Dept. of Natural & Cultural Resources
Urban Lands Emily Barrett Triangle J COG
Agriculture Joseph Hudyncia Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Past Meetings

Tab/Accordion Items

Over a two-day period in October of 2019, stakeholders prioritized the list of recommendations that would be included in the formal action plan. An evaluation criterion was set prior to the meeting that was created by the steering committee. Each recommendation was presented by a subcommittee representative and time was allotted for discussion and questions. Subcommittee members voted on all the recommendations. The recommendations that met the criteria and obtained a majority consensus as a priority are included in the plan.

December 12, 2018, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
Room 308 of State Archives Building
109 East Jones Street, Raleigh, NC

Agenda   Meeting Summary

October 22, 2018: Kick-off Meeting (Raleigh)

To get the stakeholder group started, DEQ staff laid out the vision, goals, and guiding principles for this collaborative stakeholder group.  While getting to know each other, meeting participants learned of each other’s expertise and started to identified key issues and topics to explore at future stakeholder meetings. Then, a variety of experts from various fields presented on topics including:

  • Summary of the U.S. Climate Alliance NWL Learning Lab on developing action matrices to implement priority pathways
  • Opportunities to sequester carbon in North Carolina identified by national experts
  • Action matrices for Reforestation and Avoided Conversion Pathways
  • Pocosins restoration project at Pocosins Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
  • The Division of Land and Water Stewardship resources and programs

After the presentations, the group discussed the topics in terms of pathways, or courses of action. Individual members also had the opportunity to complete a preliminary ranking of the presented pathways. By the end of the workshop, the group agreed to focus on opportunities that would overlap with recovery and resilience so that these activities may have access to funding and provide near-term benefits.  The group supports developing an action plan that focuses on recovery and resilience in areas with significant carbon and other co-benefits.