State funding denied for local nonprofit to acquire Eagles Island land for conservation, public access

N.C. Land and Water Fund Awards $70.3 Million to Protect Natural Areas, Waterways, Historic Sites and Military Buffers (Photo: NC Land and Water Fund)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The North Carolina Land and Water Fund Board of Directors voted on Tuesday to not award Unique Places to Save funding to support the purchase of roughly 82 acres of land on Eagles Island for conservation and public access.

Unique Places to Save, a local North Carolina nonprofit, is spearheading a fundraising effort to raise $16,000,000 by the end of 2022 to acquire 82 acres of land on Eagles Island across the Cape Fear River from Historic Downtown Wilmington. Once purchased, Unique Places to Save says they will work with other local partners to improve the site for outdoor recreation, education, and the conservation of natural resources.

As part of the fundraising effort, Unique Places to Save submitted a grant to the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (“NCLWF”) in early 2022 to help acquire the land on Eagles Island.

On Tuesday, NCLWF made their final grant funding decision. Unique Places to Save received $0 for their Save Eagles Island acquisition project, which ranked #2 out of 88 proposed projects based on NCLWF Acquisition Program Criteria.

The Eagles Island Project scored highly on the NCLWF criteria because it would have provided many benefits including, but not limited to:
● Helps to improve water quality of the Cape Fear River
● Contributes towards a local network of protected lands on Eagles Island
● Protects important wetland habitat and species of concern
● Preserves a significant historical site (Wilmington Shipwreck District)
● Will be publicly accessible

“Land and Water‘s decision to forgo any type of funding for the project – despite being the 2nd highest ranked project in the state – is heartbreaking,” Executive Director Clark Harris said. “In time sensitive situations like this, someone must take the lead in funding and our hope was that Land and Water would be our leader. This is not a project that can afford a traditional funding timeline.”

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