Enviva helps protect historic wetlands in North Carolina

By Enviva | February 28, 2022

A nearly 800-acre property in Bertie and Hertford Counties in North Carolina has been permanently conserved thanks to a purchase by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, with assistance from The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund.

Located in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system, which is congressionally designated as “an estuary of national significance”, it is recognized as a nationally important resource through its more recent listing as one of “America’s Great Waters.” The property provides critical habitat for fish, wildlife, and waterfowl and supports a $1 billion fishing and ecotourism industry that is dependent upon clean water and healthy, functional habitats. With 3 miles of frontage along the Chowan River and 7 miles of frontage along Keel Creek, the property is 85-90 percent cypress-tupelo forest (or approximately 650 acres) and the remaining 10-15 percent is bottomland hardwood forest (100-plus acres).

Locally known as the Cumtuck Tract, this project represents a vital conservation acquisition.  “We are very proud of the Coastal Land Trust’s recent purchase of land along the Chowan River as it has significant importance, not only in terms of acres protected, but also for the fact that it conserves almost all of Keel Creek from its mouth at the Chowan River in Bertie County to its headwaters in Hertford County,” said Janice Allen, director of land protection at the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. The forested wetlands on this property have many trees over 100 years old with countless thick buttressed cypress and swamp tupelo trees.

The property is located north of the Town of Colerain and features the heart of Cow Island Swamp, a site identified as “ecologically significant” by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program due to the age and expanse of its mature bald cypress and tupelo gum forest. This project contributes to conserving forested wetlands in the watershed, particularly bottomland hardwood and cypress-gum swamp, rare species, and natural communities, while also helping to protect water quality in the region.

“Wetlands, amongst the world’s most economically and environmentally valuable ecosystems and essential regulators of the global climate, are disappearing three times faster than forests,” said Alicia Cramer, senior vice president of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. “This acquisition will not only help with flood management and water quality efforts but will contribute to the region’s climate resiliency,” added Cramer.

The Chowan River has also been classified as a highly ecologically significant aquatic site due to the presence of several rare fish, mollusk, and crayfish species. The forested wetlands of the Cumtuck Tract provide essential nursery areas for anadromous fish, including Atlantic sturgeon, a federally endangered species, and provide habitat for listed freshwater mussel species and rare crayfish. Numerous bird species nest and/or overwinter in the Chowan River bottomlands, and the forested wetlands along the Chowan River from Colerain to Parkers Ferry have been identified as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.