Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program Examples

Ward Creek Wetland Restoration Project

An area of the project before restoration. September 16, 2006.

Ward Creek Wetland Restoration Project: Carteret County

Restoring wetlands on the 6,000 acre North River Farms is the goal of the NC Coastal Federation who holds the title to this tract of land and is restoring it in phases. This non-profit organization works to conserve the natural beauty and productivity of the state's coast and hopes to do just that by improving the quality of the water that flows from this tract into important estuaries. Restoring these wetlands will provide a more natural filter for the runoff that currently flows through the ditched system from a seven square mile agricultural operation. Increased water quality will be of great benefit to the commercial shell-fish industry in the area which has suffered in recent past due to water quality degradation. The restored wetlands will also be of particular value to wildlife including migratory waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds.

Ward Creek Wetland Restoration Project

An excavated depression after restoration. January 15, 2008.

In this phased approach to restoration, Ward Creek Phase 1 will complete another 119 acres, bringing the total restoration accomplishments on North River Farms to its mid-point. Specific aspects of the Ward Creek project include recreating a meandering creek and floodplain, filling all drainage ditches, constructing a series of low berms, creating shallow wetland depressions, and planting wetland tree and grass species throughout the site. Partners for Fish & Wildlife is providing cost share for a portion of the labor expenses. Matching funds are being contributed by private donations and volunteer labor. Additional funds will be provided by a NAWCA grant and a grant from NOAA.

Located within the Onslow Bight Focus Area, the restoration of North River Farms is the single largest wetland restoration effort in the state's history. Its location, between the state's largest agricultural operation and important coastal habitats, provides it the opportunity to demonstrate the social, economic, and ecological benefits of wetland ecosystems. By restoring hydrology and native vegetative communities, this project should serve as an excellent example for other wetland restoration efforts nationwide.

Rocky River Protection Project

The Rocky River is home to the endangered Cape Fear Shiner. Feb 27, 2007.

Rocky River Protection Project: Chatham County, North Carolina

The objective of the Rocky River Protection Project is to provide improved habitat and water quality for the federally endangered Cape Fear Shiner as well as several other Federal and State listed aquatic and plant species while maintaining a working farm. Other benefits associated with the completion of this project include enhanced wildlife habitat, wildlife travel corridors, and wooded buffers which prevent nutrient loading to state waters.

This fourth generation family farm of over a century is recognized as a high priority area for the Cape Fear Shiner and other species designated as endangered or of special concern. The majority of this 130 acre tract sits atop a ridge overlooking the Rocky River. The natural ecosystem was degraded by 20-30 cattle that graze the 12 open acres of pastureland and its surrounding woodland, leaving opportunity for improvement. The tract's southern border is the Rocky River. Two intermittent tributaries flow south through the farm to the main stem of the Rocky River. A small spring-fed pond located near the southern end of the pasture was used by cattle for watering and cooling.

Rocky River Protection Project

Fencing now keeps cattle out of a natural spring in the Rocky River watershed. Feb 27, 2007.

The two Rocky River tributaries and the spring-fed pond were directly impacted by cattle hoof action and nutrient loading. The project excluded cattle from these waters and established a wooded buffer to protect these waters. The undisturbed buffer provides a corridor for wildlife that extends down the Rocky River to the confluence of the Deep River. Most of the area from which the cattle were excluded is comprised of mature hardwood trees. It is anticipated that with the removal of the cattle, a herbaceous, shrubby under story will naturally succeed. This will further compliment the riparian buffer's ability to filter sediments and nutrients and ultimately improve water quality and wildlife habitat.

Specifically, this project covered the cost to purchase and install the materials needed to implement the Best Management practices (BMPs) to exclude cattle from the Rocky River, two tributaries, and a small spring-fed pond. These BMPs included livestock exclusion fencing and an alternate water source for the cattle. The landowners provided cash contributions and will maintain the installed BMPs and enhanced buffers. There is no intent to revert back. The families worked directly with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Chatham Soil and Water Conservation District to design and implement the BMPs. The Friends of the Rocky River will be asked to assist with water quality monitoring before, during, and after the project is implemented.

Kuenzler Wildlife Habitat Preserve

Restoration in progress. Excavation formed cresent-shaped low areas along the field in 2001.

Kuenzler Wildlife Habitat Preserve: Orange County, North Carolina

Ed and Jutta Kuenzler bought a 154 acre property in Orange County in 1965, shortly after they moved to Chapel Hill. The couple fell in love with the property immediately and it has been their home ever since. They built a house, raised their son and daughter on the land, and kept small herds of beef cattle. The mosaic of hayfields, pastures, and forests also served as an outdoor classroom for Ed s students. Ed was an environmental sciences and engineering professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and would often bring classes out to his homestead.

Like other farm families in North Carolina, the Kuenzlers value their rural lifestyle and love their land. As a biologist, Ed Kuenzler enjoyed studying his property s plants and animals. He identified more than 400 species on the farm before his death in 2001.

When the Kuenzler family began to consider the future of their land, they knew they wanted to preserve their farm for future generations to enjoy and love. They did not want it to be subdivided and converted into residential lots. Instead, they wanted their home to remain as farm and forest land.

Kuenzler Wildlife Habitat Preserve

The Kuenzler's dream is realized in 2002. This shallow pool is one component of the restored wetland.

The family also wanted to protect and enhance wildlife habitat on their property. For years, they dreamed of restoring a small degraded wetland near Collins Creek. The area had long ago been ditched and drained for agricultural use. The family envisioned a wetland wildlife refuge for migratory birds, amphibians, reptiles, and local flora.

The Kuenzlers negotiated with the Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC), a local non-profit land trust, to put the whole farm into a conservation easement. The easement specifies that future owners will be able to use the existing hayfields and pastures for agriculture, but will not be able to subdivide the property or build additional homes. The agreement encapsulates the Kuenzler's vision for the property and legally ensures their farm will be protected after they are gone.

The family donated the conservation easement to TLC. As a result, they are eligible for federal and state tax credits. The land also qualifies for lower property taxes.

To achieve their dream of a restored wetland, the Kuenzlers solicited the help of several government agencies: Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). These agencies work together to help families across North Carolina protect and restore wildlife habitat.

The project began with a planning process, as the Kuenzlers, the agencies, and TLC considered different ways to bring water and wetland dependent life back to 17 acres of the property. There were no records of how the land had looked before its conversion to farmland, so the team had to be creative. In particular, the Kuenzlers wanted a maintenance free system that would sustain wetland wildlife without the need for active management.

The team decided to slow the water flowing from an existing ditch and redirect a portion of this water into a set of shallow pools and wet areas. The concept was to create a diverse set of forested wetland types: semi-permanent pools, ephemeral pools, saturated soil, and moist uplands.

The project consisted of five components:

  • plugging the existing ditch to close the drainage outlet
  • sculpting crescent-shaped low areas along one field edge
  • excavating three shallow pools with very gentle slopes
  • creating a diversion to spread water over the floodplain through the pools
  • restoring native vegetation.
Kuenzler Wildlife Habitat Preserve

In one year, native plants sucessfully colonized the low area shown above.

To restore a diverse set of native vegetation, the team partnered with Niche Gardens, a local native plants nursery. The nursery provided native shrub and tree seedlings. They also helped collect wildflower seeds from the site prior to the excavation work. These seeds were later used to replant the area. In addition, many native plants re-colonized once the weather warmed.

A variety of mechanisms funded the wetland restoration project. First, USFWS Partner s for Fish and Wildlife program provided $4,000 in seed money to begin the restoration work. Second, NRCS enrolled the wetlands in a permanent Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement. Since the Kuenzlers agreed to a permanent wetland easement, NRCS provided the family a land payment and covered the remaining restoration costs. The total cost of restoration was approximately $13,000.

The WRP easement became effective at the same time as the TLC conservation easement in December 2001. The two conservation easements overlap one another and provide comprehensive protection for the habitat.

The restoration work was completed in the fall of 2001. As of 2002, the wetland is providing habitat for diverse native riparian and aquatic plants, aquatic insects, clams, amphibians, and reptiles. In addition, deer, small mammals, migratory birds, and wading birds such as herons and egrets are already using the site. It is now a flourishing wetland

The Kuenzler Wildlife Habitat Preserve is a wonderful example of how one North Carolina family is successfully using assistance of private conservation organizations and public programs to make sure their land will always stay the way they have come to know and love it.

Mountain Bog Restoration

Fencing installed will enable managers to seasonally graze the site to manage for invasive woody species, and will allow for the conservation of rare species in the bog. December 12, 2007.

Mountain Bog Restoration: Ashe County, North Carolina

This Partners for Fish and Wildlife Project will provide funding to facilitate the restoration and enhancement of degraded Southern Appalachian wetlands/bogs in western North Carolina. Project objectives include the restoration of wetland hydrology where possible and appropriate, the setting back of succession within bog habitats that are altered by the encroachment of woody vegetation, and the removal of exotic and invasive species.

Southern Appalachian bogs support a wealth of endemic rare and unique life forms. In North Carolina alone, bogs are habitat to over 90 rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and animals.

Projects were completed on two sites in Ashe County, North Carolina, using these funds. Treatments at the sites included fencing the bogs to protect rare species from livestock grazing during specific times of the year and invasive woody species management.

Specifically, this project covered the cost to purchase and install the materials needed to implement the Best Management practices (BMPs) to exclude cattle from the Rocky River, two tributaries, and a small spring-fed pond. These BMPs included livestock exclusion fencing and an alternate water source for the cattle. The landowners provided cash contributions and will maintain the installed BMPs and enhanced buffers. There is no intent to revert back. The families worked directly with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Chatham Soil and Water Conservation District to design and implement the BMPs. The Friends of the Rocky River will be asked to assist with water quality monitoring before, during, and after the project is implemented.

Long Point Preserve: Surry County, North Carolina

The Piedmont Land Conservancy (PLC) acquired the 82 acre Long Point Preserve in January 2004 from the a family located east of S. R. 1301, adjacent to the Mitchell and South Fork Mitchell Rivers, southwest of Zephyr, in Surry County, North Carolina. The North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund provided funding to purchase the property. The PLC granted a permanent conservation easement to the State of North Carolina to protect the riparian buffers on the property on these rivers. This easement allows for enhancement and maintenance of the existing pastures for early successional habitat. The upland area of this property has been utilized as pastureland and hay land, vegetated in fescue and other undesirable species including: lespedeza, horse apple, rag weed and pig weed. PLC would like to convert these fescue pastures (approximately 13 acres, including 1 mile of riparian habitat) to native warm season grasses and wildflower prairie.

The objectives of this project are two-fold. First, improve early successional wildlife habitat on the property for species including migratory songbirds, Northern bobwhite, rabbit, and wild turkey. Second, provide a demonstration site to educate area landowners on the benefits and process of prairie restoration while creating a new NC native seed source (local ecotypes) for other projects within the area in the future.

Johnson Longleaf Pine Restoration

Johnson property before longleaf pine restoration. July 15, 2006.

Johnson Longleaf Pine Restoration: Hoke County, North Carolina

The purpose of this agreement was to restore 234 acres of longleaf pine/ wiregrass forest type to provide suitable nesting and foraging habitat for the federally listed red-cockaded woodpecker. Habitat restoration on this tract will help to sustain the demographic integrity of the NC Sandhills primary recovery population. Other native species of other Sandhills uplands such as Bachman's sparrow and Northern Pine snake, both federal species of concern, will also benefit from restoration of the longleaf pine stands on the property. Project work included controlling encroaching mid story hardwoods with herbicides and managing the understory with prescribed fire. This project is part of the larger landscape scale effort by the NC Sandhills Conservation Partnership to improve habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers.

Last Updated: August 6, 2015