1997 Natural Resources Inventory of North Carolina

This document is an inventory of North Carolina's natural resource base and a summary of current conservation issues. It provides quantifiable information that can be used as an initial reference in natural resources management and decisions. While it is not an exhaustive survey, additional references and contacts listed at the end of each resource area may offer a more in-depth and comprehensive view.

This inventory provides a statewide and regional overview of forestry, wetlands, water resources, wildlife, aquatic habitats and fisheries, and recreation resources. The quality and abundance of these resources are directly and inextricably linked to our state's population and its use of the resource base. Therefore, where possible, resource information is presented using state population trends as a backdrop to inform citizens and policy makers of the importance of natural resources to our state's economy and quality of life.

1. The State of North Carolina

Geography

North Carolina's extraordinary variety of natural resources is related to the diversity of its landscapes. North Carolina can be divided into three distinct geographical regions - the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Mountains. All three regions face the pressures of increased population and competition among potential resource users.

The relatively flat Coastal Plain extends inland from the Atlantic Ocean an average of 125 miles and comprises almost two-fifths of the area of the state. This region has only moderate hills, and the land slopes very gently upward from the coast at an average of about 1 foot per mile.

The Piedmont, or central portion of the state, is separated from the Coastal Plain by a distinct landscape change called the "fall line", which may have been the location of the shoreline thousands of years ago. The Piedmont is a plateau of rolling hills with a range in elevation of 150 to 1,000 feet. This region includes about two-fifths of the area of the state.

The Mountain area contains two principal mountain ranges, the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains. This section, which makes up about one-fifth of the area of the state, is marked by numerous peaks, valleys, and cross chains of mountains. Forty-three of the peaks have elevations of 6,000 feet or more, and 80 peaks have elevations of at least 5,000 feet.

Urbanization and Development

According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service's 1992 Natural Resources Inventory, 84% of North Carolina is privately owned, resulting in diverse opinions about landscape management. Numerous local governments across the state add to the diversity of opinions. Furthermore, North Carolina is changing from a predominantly rural state to a state with large urban interests. Although a majority of North Carolina's 33 million acres is still classified as rural, more than half the population lives in the 10% of the state that is urbanized.

Urbanization and development affect North Carolina's natural resources most intensively. As of July 1995, the North Carolina Office of State Planning estimated that 7.1 million people resided in our state. In 1990, the U.S. census bureau counted 6.6 million residents, an increase of 750,000 people since 1980. Since 1950, the state's population has increased by 63% (Fig. 1). By the end of the century, 405,000 more will call North Carolina home. Because high population densities correspond with high resource use, it is important to understand where North Carolinians live (see Analysis, The Interstate 85 and Interstate 40 Corridor, p. 26).


Figure 1. North Carolina Population Trends: 1950-1990.
Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census.

North Carolina is characterized by fewer large cities and relatively more mid-sized cities and small towns than most other states. Only five cities (Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem) have populations over 100,000. Nine other cities (Asheville, Cary, Fayetteville, Gastonia, Greenville, High Point, Jacksonville, Rocky Mount, and Wilmington) have between 50,000 and 100,000 residents. Nine cities have between 25,000 and 50,000 residents. An additional 29 cities have populations between 10,000 and 25,000. However, 67% of North Carolina's municipalities have fewer than 2,500 residents.

Many of these smaller cities are adjacent to larger urban areas, resulting in population concentrations in larger metropolitan areas. In 1995, the North Carolina Office of State Planning estimated that 65% of North Carolina's population (4.7 million) lived in 34 counties defined as metropolitan. By 2000, this figure is expected to increase another 2%. The urban areas of the Piedmont are expected to witness the fastest growth, whereas the Mountains and the Coastal Plain will experience most of their growth in non-metropolitan areas.

Urbanization and development are a mixed blessing. From an economic perspective, development means more jobs, enhanced business opportunities, and an expanded tax base. Urban areas serve as centers for commerce, industry, education, communication, culture, and government. Urban residents have an increasingly important voice in policies and politics affecting rural areas.

However, development increases pressures on the state's natural resources. Resource depletion, pollution, and use-conflicts increase with population density. Many industrial and commercial activities are concentrated in urban areas. These activities combine with residential pressures to increase the strain on our natural resources. Urbanization and development have become permanent features of North Carolina's social and natural systems.

Because much development is irreversible, planning is very important. Long-term planning is one way to minimize the short-term exploitation of the resource base that results from "quick fixes" to localized problems and from competition for resources. Planning at the local, regional, and state levels provides individual municipalities with a rational system for guiding development with respect to the distribution and value of natural resources.

References

North Carolina Office of State Planning. "Provisional Population Estimates
for N.C. Metropolitan Areas: July 1, 1995."
http://www.ospl.state.nc.us/OSPL/ (June 6, 1996).

North Carolina Office of State Planning. "Provisional Estimates of the
Population of N.C. Counties: July 1, 1995."
http://www.ospl.state.nc.us/OSPL/ (June 6, 1996).

North Carolina Office of State Planning. "Projected Annual County
Population Totals 1995-2005." http://www.ospl.state.nc.us/OSPL/ (June 6,
1996).

United States Bureau of the Census. 1992. 1990 Census of Population. General
Population Characteristics, North Carolina.

United States Bureau of the Census. 1982. 1980 Census of Population.
Characteristics of the Population, North Carolina.

United States Bureau of the Census. 1972. 1970 Census of Population. Detailed
Characteristics, North Carolina.

United States Bureau of the Census. 1962. U.S. Census of Population: 1960.
Detailed Characteristics, North Carolina.

United States Bureau of the Census. 1952. 1950 Census of Population.
Characteristics of the Population, North Carolina.

Additional Resources

North Carolina Office of State Planning
116 West Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27603-8003
(919) 733-4131
http://www.ospl.state.nc.us/OSPL/

2. Resource Base

Forestry

Of the 33.6 million acres in North Carolina, 19.3 million acres (58%) are forested (Fig. 2). The majority of the forestland (18.7 million acres) is classified as timberland. The remainder is classified as reserved timberland or woodland (i.e., forested parks, wilderness areas, scenic areas, and historic sites).


Figure 2. Surface Area Classifications in North Carolina.
Source: Brown (1993).

Nearly half of North Carolina's timberland and 62% of all softwood timberland are found in the Coastal Plain. The Mountain region is the most heavily forested of the three regions because of its rugged terrain and large public holdings. Hardwood species are dominant in the Mountains. The Piedmont contains the remaining 30% of the forestland in the state, even though only 55% of the land area in the Piedmont is wooded. Urbanization, agriculture, and small public holdings make it the least forested region in the state.

Almost 76% (14.3 million acres) of North Carolina's timberland is owned by individuals, corporations, and farmers - collectively known as nonindustrial private forestland (NIPF) owners. The forest industry owns about 13% (2.4 million acres); the remainder is in public holdings (Fig. 3).


Figure 3. Area of North Carolina Timberland by Ownership Class (million acres).
Source: Brown (1993).

North Carolina forests consist of more than 180 tree species, of which one third have commercial value. These forests are divided into five general management types: upland hardwood, lowland hardwood, pine-hardwood, natural pine, and plantation. Upland hardwood is dominant in the Mountain region, making up 39% of the state's total forest cover and consisting primarily of various oak species. The lowland hardwood type composes 14% of all forestland, and is most commonly found in the Coastal Plain. Sycamore, tupelo gum, sweetgum, and cypress are some of the species found in this category. Pine-hardwood forests consist of a mixture of pines and oaks. This type of forest is found most often in the Coastal Plain and constitutes 14% of the state's forestland. The natural pine management type also is found in the Coastal Plain and accounts for 22% of North Carolina's forestland. Plantation is the final management type. Plantations consist primarily of loblolly and longleaf pine plus a few other softwood types. They are found mostly in the Coastal Plain, and account for 11% of forested areas in our state.

North Carolina forests have economic, ecological, recreational, and aesthetic value. Standing timber in North Carolina is worth an estimated $19 billion. In 1995, the forest products industry paid an estimated $450 million dollars to North Carolina landowners for wood to make products ranging from lumber to paper to furniture. Furthermore, according to 1994 statistics, the forestry industry employed 144,100 workers statewide and paid out $3.25 billion in wages. The manufacturing process added another $7.2 billion, and the value of finished forest products totaled $16.4 billion. Wood products represent the state's largest export commodity in terms of tonnage. In terms of employment figures and the wealth added to the state, the forest industry ranks second among major industries. Additional forest products include a Christmas tree industry worth an annual wholesale value of $90 million to $100 million and a pinestraw industry worth an annual $50 million to $60 million.

In addition to the directly measurable value that forests give to the state, there are many additional benefits that cannot be quantified. Forests provide habitat for game and nongame species of wildlife, recycle nutrients, and contribute to the development of fertile soils through the decomposition of organic matter, and minimize soil erosion. Most importantly perhaps, forests provide clean air and water by filtering pollutants and other impurities from the environment.

While the total acreage of forestland in North Carolina has remained relatively unchanged over the last half century, there are some interesting trends. Recent changes in USDA Forest Service policy have severely reduced the volume of timber harvested from national forests, causing greater harvests from privately owned timberland. With nearly 90% of all timberland in North Carolina and the South in private ownership, annual harvests on private lands have increased dramatically to meet the growing demand from a burgeoning population. Softwood harvest rates are at an all-time high, as are hardwood harvest rates because many hardwood species are substituted in wood products as the softwood supply tightens (Fig. 4). To further complicate the supply picture, the USDA Forest Service recently conducted a random, nationwide survey which revealed that 62% of the NIPF owners questioned own forestland for reasons other than forestry. With the gap between growth and removal (also called drain) narrowing rapidly, the benefits of better management by NIPF owners will increase dramatically.


Figure 4. Sawtimber Removal and Population Trends: 1943-1995.
Source: Sawtimber removal data for 1943 through 1989 came from the USDA Forest Service. Sawtimber removal data for 1995 came from the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources.

Types of landowners and tract sizes are also changing. Since 1955, the amount of timberland owned by farmers has been on a steady decline from a high of 13.3 million acres to the present 5 million acres (Fig. 5). Tax levies, public policies, and urbanization have been factors in the loss of farmer-owned timberland. Transfer of timberland from farmers to other NIPF owners has increased the number of forestland owners and reduced tract size.


Figure 5. Farmer-owned Timberland: 1945-1990.
Source: Bechtold (1984), Brown (1990), Knight and McClure (1966, 1974), Larson (1955), Slocum and Ross (1945).

There are about 300,000 NIPF owners in North Carolina. Of those, 77% manage less than 20 acres each and 96% manage less than 100 acres each (Table 1). These small ownerships are restricted in management opportunities, cost more per unit area to manage, and cost the state more to provide technical assistance and protection. However, they do provide a growing opportunity for forest education programs.

Table 1. Forest Ownership by Size (1995).
Forest Size (Acres)
Percent of Forest Acreage 
Percent of Owners
1 to 19
16
77 
20 to 99
42
19 
100 to 499
28
500 or more
14

Source: Report of the Governor's Task Force on Forest Sustainability (1996).

Forest fragmentation is increasing. Wildlife species dependent on interior forest habitats will decline. Furthermore, soil erosion and water pollution may increase in North Carolina's watersheds as forest fragmentation becomes more prevalent, depending on how land conversions and land-disturbing activities are conducted. It is also economically more difficult to produce and harvest timber on fragmented lands using current forestry practices and techniques.

References

Bechtold, W. A. 1984. Forest Statistics for North Carolina, 1984. USDA For. Serv., SE For. Exp. St., Resource Bulletin SE-78.

Brown, M. J. 1990. North Carolina's Forests, 1990. USDA For. Serv., SE For. Exp. St., Resource Bulletin SE-142.

Knight, H. A., and J. P. McClure. 1966. North Carolina's Timber, 1966. USDA For. Serv., SE For. Exp. St., Resource Bulletin SE-5.

Knight, H. A., and J. P. McClure. 1974. North Carolina's Timber, 1966. USDA For. Serv., SE For. Exp. St., Resource Bulletin SE-33.

Larson, R. W. 1955. North Carolina's Timber Supply, 1955. USDA For. Serv., SE For. Exp. St., Forest Survey Release No. 49.

Report of the Governor's Task Force on Forest Sustainability. 1996.

Slocum, G. K., and C. R. Ross. 1945. Forest Resource Appraisal of North Carolina, 1945. N.C. Dept. Cons. Dev. Bulletin No. 53.

Additional Resources

North Carolina Division of Forest Resources
P.O. Box 29581
Raleigh, NC 27626
(919) 733-2162
http://www.ehnr.state.nc.us/EHNR/DFR/

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State University
Extension Forestry
Box 8003
Raleigh, NC 27695-8003
(919) 515-5636
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/nreos/forest/forestext.html

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service
P.O. Box 2750
Asheville, NC 28802
(704) 257-4200
http://www.fs.fed.us/

Wetlands

Few environmental issues are as contentious or confusing as wetlands. Some of the confusion comes from attempting to accurately define and delineate a wetland. A number of definitions are used to describe wetlands, one of which defines wetlands generally as areas of transition between upland and aquatic systems. A second, technical definition used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for regulatory purposes states that wetlands are "those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency or duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted to life in saturated soil conditions." In more basic terms, the 1987 Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual requires that a wetland have 1) wetland hydrology - standing water part or all of the year; 2) hydric soils - soils that are saturated with water or flooded; and 3) hydrophytic vegetation - vegetation that is adapted to survive in saturated or seasonally flooded conditions.

There are 15 major types of wetlands in North Carolina that can be classified according to their predominant water sources. These water sources can be rainfall-driven, groundwater-driven, groundwater-surface-water-driven, surface-water driven, or tidal-driven systems (Table 2).

Table 2. Major Wetland Types in North Carolina According to Their Predominant Water Sources.
Rainfall Driven Systems

Pine Savannas

 Wet Flats

 Pocosins

 Ephemeral Wetlands 

Groundwater Driven Systems

Mountain Bogs and Fens

 Seeps 

Surface Water Driven Systems

Bottomland Hardwood Forests

 Swamp Forests 

Groundwater-Surface Water Driven Systems

Bog Forests

 Headwater Wetlands

 Freshwater Marshes 

Tidal Driven Systems

Maritime Wetland Forests

 Brackish Marshes

 Salt Shrub Wetlands

 Salt Marshes 


Source: Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1992-1993 305(b) Report.

Not all wetland types provide functions to the same degree or have the same potential uses. Wetlands constitute some of the most biologically productive and ecologically sensitive areas in the state. Collectively, they support hundreds of plant species, provide habitat for a variety of waterfowl and wildlife as well as rare or endangered species, have value for fish spawning, and have value for fish and shellfish habitat in fresh, brackish, and saltwaters. Some wetlands have potential for agriculture and forestry development and some, particularly along shorelines, have potential for residential and recreational development.

Wetlands also are important to water quality because many of them occupy riparian areas along streams, rivers and estuaries and provide buffer areas which retard flow, allowing deposition of sediment and filtration and/or decomposition of other potential pollutants (nutrients, pesticides, etc.) before they reach environmentally sensitive waters. In addition, wetlands provide areas for water storage which aids in flood control and may assist in groundwater recharge or discharge.

Rather than simply measuring the surface-area loss of wetlands, scientists and environmental managers find it more meaningful to measure functional loss. Therefore, it is more useful to determine whether wetlands support, partially support, or are nonsupporting of their original functions. Supporting wetlands are those areas which have had little disturbance and continue to have intact hydrology, soils, and vegetation. Thus, they generally support their original functions. Partially supporting wetlands are those areas which have had their natural hydrology and vegetation altered. However, partially supporting wetlands continue to retain their wetland status and provide a majority of their functions, even though they are impaired compared to their original condition. Nonsupporting wetlands are those areas where the impact on the wetland has been so severe that all or some of the original functions have been completely removed.

The number of acres of wetlands now or historically in North Carolina is difficult to determine. Several different state and federal agencies currently have or have had some degree of regulatory authority over wetlands, with each agency having a different definition for wetlands based on whether its mission and objectives were related to water, soil, vegetation, or wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed mapping wetland types and acreages in North Carolina as depicted in their National Wetland Inventory maps. Concurrently, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality and the North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis are preparing a statewide wetland map which should be completed in late 1997.

Estimates of wetland acres in North Carolina before European settlement range from 5.9 million acres to 7.8 million acres, depending on the criteria used to delineate wetlands (Table 3). About 95% of the wetlands were located in the Coastal Plain, 2% in the Piedmont, and 3% in the Mountain area. By the 1950s, approximately 16% of North Carolina's wetlands had been designated partially supporting or nonsupporting. The North Carolina Division of Water Quality estimated that in the early 1980s, the most current data, about 34% of North Carolina's wetlands were either partially supporting or nonsupporting of their original uses. Dahl (1990) and Cashin et al. (1992) estimated that by the early 1980s about 51% of the wetlands in our state had become impaired to the point of either partially supporting or not supporting their original uses. Nonetheless, North Carolina maintains the second-largest estuarine system on the East Coast and the fifth-largest wetlands area in the nation.

Table 3. A Historical Look at Supporting Wetlands (acres) and the Population of North Carolina.
Time Period
Estimated Supporting Wetlands (million acres) 
Population
Pre-European
5.9 - 7.8
140,000
1950's
5.0 - 6.6
  4,100,000 
1980's
2.5 - 4.4
5,900,000 

Sources: Original Extent, Status and Trends of Wetlands in North Carolina (1991), Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1992-1993 305(b) Report, North Carolina Office of Archaeology (pers. comm.), U.S. Bureau of the Census (1950, 1980).

Between the 1950s and the early 1980s in the Coastal Plain, forestry (a partially supporting use) was responsible for an estimated 38-53% of wetlands conversions, agriculture (nonsupporting) was responsible for an estimated 42-52%, and urban development (nonsupporting) was responsible for 2-10%. Wetlands in the Piedmont have been affected mostly by conversion to agriculture and the creation of reservoirs to meet the water demands of the rapidly growing urban population. The Mountain wetlands have suffered from land-clearing for urban development and subsequent transportation corridors. The conversion of wetlands has probably been slowed by the Swampbuster section of the 1985 Farm Bill which penalizes farmers who clear and drain wetlands.

Currently, about 95% of the wetlands in North Carolina are in the Coastal Plain. Pine savanna and pocosin wetland types have been the most affected, being reduced from 3.6 million acres to 28,000 acres and 1.4 million acres to 655,000 acres, respectively. Seventy percent of all freshwater wetlands are located above the headwater point or are isolated from surface waters. Up to 3 acres of headwater and isolated wetlands are allowed to be filled with less permit review than wetlands adjacent to larger streams in accordance with Nationwide Permit 26 of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Considering this and the fact that only 32% of North Carolina's wetlands are publicly owned, the potential exists for a considerable percentage of the state's wetlands to be further affected, despite the Swampbuster section of the Farm Bill.

A recent emphasis in both regulatory and nonregulatory wetland programs has been wetland mitigation. Restoration (restoring a wetland to a site where it previously existed), creation (converting an upland area into a wetland), or enhancement (manipulating the hydrology or vegetation of an existing wetland to increase its functions) are the three main types of mitigation. Mitigation is an imperfect and developing science which has great potential to begin replacing some of the losses of critical wetlands in the past. In 1996, the North Carolina General Assembly established the Wetland Restoration Program to organize and accelerate wetland mitigation efforts in North Carolina.

References

Dahl, T. E. 1990. Wetland Losses in the United States 1780s to 1980s. U.S. Dept. of Int., Fish and Wildlife Serv. Washington, D.C.

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1996. A Field Guide to North Carolina Wetlands. Report No. 96-01.

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1995. The Report of the North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources Wetlands Task Force.

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1994. Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1992-1993 305(b) Report. Div. Env. Man., Water Qual. Sec. Report No. 94-07.

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1991. Original Extent and Trends of Wetlands in North Carolina: A Report to the N.C. Legislative Study Commission on Wetlands Protection. Report No. 91-01.

Additional Resources

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division
6508 Falls of the Neuse Road
Suite 120
Raleigh, NC 27615
(919) 876-8441

Environmental Protection Agency
86 T. W. Alexander Drive
RTP, NC 27711
(919) 541-2350
http://www.epa.gov

Natural Resources Conservation Service
4405 Bland Road
Raleigh, NC 27609
(919) 873-2100

Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources
Division of Water Quality
P.O. Box 29535
Raleigh, NC 27626-0535
(919) 733-5083
http://pluto.ehnr.state.nc.us/wqhome.html

Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources
Division of Water Resources
P.O. Box 27687
Archdale Building, 11th Floor
Raleigh, NC 27611
(919) 733-4064
http://www.dwr.ehnr.state.nc.us/home.htm

Water Resources

Water is a fundamental resource essential for all plant and animal life. There is no technological substitute for water. On average, rainfall provides about 50 inches of fresh water per year across North Carolina, but 65% of this returns to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Twenty-five to 30% of the rainfall ultimately returns to the ocean via surface streams and rivers. Only 1 to 2 inches of the rainwater recharge deep groundwater.

Water for agricultural, domestic, and industrial uses is obtained from either surface sources or groundwater. Groundwater supplies about 50% of the domestic water requirements for the state's residents. Ninety-five percent of rural residents and 75% of city residents in North Carolina depend on groundwater to supply domestic needs. However, 50% of the state's residents, including those in the larger cities, depend on surface water sources, and surface water withdrawals have increased with the state's population (Fig. 6).


Figure 6. Surface Water Withdrawals and Population Trends: 1950-1990.
Source: U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Bureau of the Census.

There are six major groundwater systems in our state from which North Carolina residents draw water, four of which are located in the Coastal Plain (Table 4). The Surficial aquifer supplies the Sandhills, Outer Banks, and extreme northeastern corner of the state. The Yorktown aquifer is in the northern Coastal Plain, and the Cretaceous aquifer serves the central and southern Coastal Plain. The most productive of the four is the Castle Hayne aquifer, located in southeastern North Carolina. Two aquifers serve the Piedmont and Mountain areas of the state. One is an unconfined system in the regolith (loose soils, sediment, and broken rock overlaying the Earth's solid rock) and the other is a confined system located throughout the fractures, faults, and joints of the bedrock.

Table 4. Aquifer Systems in the North Carolina Coastal Plain.
Aquifer
Depth Below Earth's Surface (feet) 
Yield (gallons/minute)
Surficial
40 - 65
25 - 200 
Yorktown
50 - 150
15 - 90 
Castle Hayne
200
200 - 500 
Cretaceous
100 - 600
200 - 400

Source: Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1988-1989 305(b) Report.

North Carolina began a groundwater classification system in 1983 and currently maintains three classifications - GA, GSA, and GC. GA waters are all groundwaters with chloride concentrations less than 250 mg/l and which are a suitable drinking water supply for humans. GSA waters are those that have chloride concentrations in excess of 250 mg/l. These waters are mostly limited to those sections of aquifers that abut the Atlantic Ocean and in the deeper, heavily mineralized Coastal Plain aquifers. GC waters are those that do not meet the standards for a higher classification and where it would not be technologically feasible or in the the public's best interest to restore the groundwater to a higher classification.

Although good-quality groundwater is available throughout most of the state, a number of areas are cause for concern. Foremost are leaking underground storage tanks, the leading cause of groundwater contamination in North Carolina. Between October 1991 and September 1993, there were 1,988 instances of reported groundwater contamination. Of those, 1,734 (87%) involved underground storage tanks. Of the 1,734 cases, 1,484 (86%) involved the release of gasoline. Diesel fuel and heating oil are also principal contaminants. Spills and surface leaks were a distant second, causing groundwater contamination in 6% of the cases. More than 40% of groundwater contamination incidents occurred in urban settings.

Due to the decreasing supply of and increasing demand for potable water (water for drinking), one area of water supply that is gaining attention is the reclamation and reuse of water. This entails recycling chemically treated wastewater for use in irrigation, manufacturing processes, and fire protection, among other uses. Reclaimed water is not suitable for drinking because it may contain trace amounts of fecal bacteria, but reclamation may be one solution to conserving potable water.

Approximately 8% (2.7 million acres) of North Carolina is under water. Surface waters include lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, streams, and sounds. The state has 17 major river basins, which contain an estimated 37,536 stream miles; 15 major naturally occurring lakes (all in the Coastal Plain), which total 86,214 acres; and numerous man-made lakes and reservoirs which total 225,006 acres. Approximately 281,700 acres of fresh surface water are found in rivers and streams at least one-eighth of a mile long and in lakes and reservoirs of 40 acres or more. There are also more than 100,000 small lakes and ponds of less than 40 acres scattered across the state (but concentrated in the Piedmont) which provide an additional 280,900 acres of surface waters. However, 80% (2.2 million acres) of the surface water is saline and found primarily in the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds and estuarine ecosystems.

Of the 37,556 miles of freshwater streams and rivers, 74% support their intended uses, 14% partially support their uses, and 3% are nonsupporting. Nine percent were not evaluated. Approximately 77% of all freshwater streams and rivers that are use-impaired (partially supporting or nonsupporting) - or 13% of the 37,556 miles - are impaired due to nonpoint source pollution. The primary nonpoint source is sedimentation from agricultural activities. Urban runoff and construction activities are the next largest contributors (Table 5). Point source pollution also is responsible for stream and river degradation, albeit to a lesser degree. Reservoir construction in the Piedmont and upper Coastal Plain is another contributor to river and stream degradation.

Table 5. Sources of Pollution in Rivers and Streams Not Meeting Designated Use.
Source 
Percent 
Point
14
Nonpoint
        Agriculture (mostly sedimentation)
53 
        Urban Runoff
16
        Construction
13
        Forestry
4
        Mining
2
Unknown
7
Major Causes
Percent 
Sediment
48
Fecal Coliform
7
Dissolved Oxygen
5
Metals
3
pH
3
Ammonia
1
Dioxin
2
Turbidity
3

Adapted from Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1994-1995 305(b).
Note: Because percentages are statewide estimated averages, they do not add up to 100.

One sector of the agricultural industry that has received extensive attention in the last few years is livestock, particularly hog, operations and the way that animal wastes are managed. There were 8.3 million hogs farmed in 1995, with most farms situated east of Interstate 95 in close proximity to waterways. In the Neuse River basin alone, livestock farms produce 2.5 billion gallons of swine and dairy waste, 493,000 tons of poultry waste, and 200 million pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous annually. Most of this waste is contained in holding lagoons and then sprayed across agricultural fields over time. Some of the sprayed waste seeps into waterways as nonpoint source pollution. Occasionally lagoons break, the most notable instance being in 1995 when a lagoon broke and spilled 125 million gallons of swine waste into nearby waters.

As for North Carolina lakes and reservoirs, 88% support their intended uses, about 12% partially support, and less than 1% are nonsupporting. Noxious aquatic plants are the primary cause of impairment, while metals are a secondary cause. For regulatory purposes, a distinction is not made between natural lakes and human-constructed reservoirs since both are viewed by the Division of Water Quality in terms of the health of the water body and its suitabilty for public use. Biologists, however, do distinguish between lakes and reservoirs since natural lakes are recognized as containing more intricate food chains, increased biological diversity, and a higher degree of endemism (containing native species). Furthermore, certain man-made reservoirs (for example, cooling reservoirs and flood-control reservoirs) have different function expectations than do natural lakes.

According to the 1996 Water Quality Progress in North Carolina Report, estuarine water quality is in relatively good condition. Overall, 86% of estuarine acreage supports designated uses, 8% is support-threatened, and 6% is partially supporting. About 85% of the impairment can be attributed to nonpoint source pollution, again primarily due to agricultural and urban runoff as well as leaking septic tanks (Table 6).

Table 6. Sources of Pollution in Selected Estuarine Waters.
Major Causes (Acres)
Major Sources (Acres)
River 

Basin
Acreage Affected (Percent) 
Fecal
Dissolved 

O2 
Chlorophyll 

A
Metals
Point 
Nonpoint
Source Descriptions 
Lumber
2,152 (45 %) 
2,152
 
 
 
 
2,152 
Agricultural runoff, urban runoff, septic tanks, marinas 
Cape Fear
10,434 (27 %) 
5,424
5,010 
 
 
2,408 
8,026
WWTP*, agricultural runoff, urban runoff, septic tanks, marinas, industry 
White Oak
19,115 (16 %) 
11,138
2,922 
1,827
15 
3,814
12,088 
WWTP*, agricultural runoff, urban runoff, septic tanks, marinas, state ports 
Neuse
47,090 (14 %) 
5,290
 
25,033
 
3,300
27,023 
WWTP*, agricultural runoff, urban runoff, septic tanks, marinas, boat ramps, ferry 
Tar Pamlico
99,558 (16 %) 
10,038
11,527 
32,793
 
8,208
46,150 
WWTP*, agricultural runoff, urban runoff, septic tanks, marinas 
Pasquotank
19,742 (2 %) 
5,602
1,010 
12,620
10 
4,967
14,275 
WWTP*, agricultural runoff, urban runoff, septic tanks, marinas, boat docks 

Adapted from Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1992-1993 305(b) Report.
* Wastewater Treatment Plant

The Mountain region of North Carolina has the highest percentage of supporting streams and rivers, whereas river basins in the Piedmont have the highest percentage of impaired (partially supporting or nonsupporting) waterways. The Piedmont is the most heavily populated and industrialized region in the state, placing the greatest demand on clean water for consumption, industrial uses, and recreation. The Piedmont also contributes the greatest pollution load to the state's waters, mostly through land-disturbing activities such as urban expansion and agriculture. Surface water resources in the Coastal Plain are generally in good shape, but localized degradation is occurring because coastal waters receive wastes from interior portions of North Carolina.

Nonpoint source pollution continues to be a problem that is difficult to assess and correct. Sediment, nutrients, pesticides, bacteria, metals, and thermal variations are the most common forms of nonpoint source pollution (Table 5). Industrial, commercial, and municipal discharges are the most common types of point source pollution (discharged through a pipe), which makes tracing its origin much easier than that of nonpoint source pollution.

Responsible zoning practices and best management practices (BMPs) are two of the most effective ways of dealing with nonpoint source pollution. Municipalities have often selected low-density developments as the preferred treatment strategy for urban stormwater. In other urban areas where low-density developments are not feasible, BMPs are used. Some examples include stormwater-retention and wet-detention ponds, vegetated or forested buffer strips along streams, and designated infiltration areas. Agriculture, construction, and mining activities rely mostly on the installation of BMPs and waste reduction/management systems in combating nonpoint pollution.

Like groundwater, surface water is classified by the state to define the best uses to be protected within classified waters. All North Carolina surface waters receive one of three primary classifications by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality: Class C, Class B, or Water Supply Classes I-V. All waters must at least meet the Class C classification of fishable/swimmable waters. Class B waters are used for primary recreation (swimming, skin diving, water skiing, etc.) as well as other uses suitable for Class C waters. Water Supply Classes I through V are waters suitable for drinking, culinary, or food processing purposes. In addition to these primary classifications, the Division of Water Quality maintains a number of supplemental classifications to provide further protection to waters with special uses or values. The supplemental classifications include nutrient-sensitive waters, future water supply, trout waters, swamp waters, high-quality waters (Fig. 7), and Outstanding Resource Waters (Fig. 7).


Figure 7. High Quality and Outstanding Resource Waters in North Carolina as of May 1996.
Sources: North Carolina Division of Water Quality and North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis.

The Division of Water Quality designates waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORW) based on the following requirements: 1) the waters must be of excellent quality (based on physical, chemical, and biological criteria) and 2) they must meet one of five additional designations. The additional designations include waters that: a) are outstanding fish habitats or support fisheries, b) support unusually high water-based recreation or have the potential to do so, c) have been designated as state or national Wild and Scenic Rivers, Native or Special Native Trout Waters, or are part of a wildlife refuge, and receive no water quality protection as a result of these designations, d) represent an important component of a state or national forest, or e) are of special ecological or scientific importance (support populations of rare or endangered species, or support ongoing research programs). At present, there are 33 waters that have been classified as Outstanding Resource Waters (Fig. 7). But as of September, 1994, the Broad, Chowan, Roanoke, and Savannah River Basins were the only basins not to have at least one Outstanding Resource Water.

References

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. "Surface Freshwater Classifications Used in North Carolina." http://pluto.ehnr.state.nc.us/hiqualty.html (Jan. 22, 1997).

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1995. North Carolina's 1996 303(d) List, Draft Copy.

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1996. Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1992-1993 305(b) Report. Div. Env. Man., Water Qual. Sec., Report No. 94-07.

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1990. Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1988-1989 305(b) Report. Div. Env. Man.

Terziotti, S., T. P. Schrader and M. W. Treece, Jr. 1994. Estimated Water Use, By County, in North Carolina, 1990. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 94-522.

Additional Resources

U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division
6508 Falls of the Neuse Road
Suite 120
Raleigh, NC 27615
(919) 876-8441

Environmental Protection Agency
86 T. W. Alexander Drive
RTP, NC 27711
(919) 541-2350
http://www.epa.gov

Natural Resources Conservation Service
4405 Bland Road
Raleigh, NC 27609
(919) 873-2100

Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources
Division of Water Quality
P.O. Box 29535
Raleigh, NC 27626-0535
(919) 733-5083
http://pluto.ehnr.state.nc.us/wqhome.html

Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources
Division of Water Resources
P.O. Box 27687
Archdale Building, 11th Floor
Raleigh, NC 27611
(919) 733-4064
http://www.dwr.ehnr.state.nc.us/home.htm

Wildlife Resources

North Carolina's wide variety of ecosystems support an abundance of wildlife and fish populations for the residents of the state to enjoy. North Carolina lands and waters are home to white-tailed deer, black bear, eastern wild turkey, ducks, geese, doves and quail, as well as other game and non-game wildlife species. In quantitative terms, North Carolina is home to 120 species of mammals, 200 species of resident and migrating breeding birds, 70 species of reptiles, 80 species of amphibians, 245 species of freshwater fish, and a large number of saltwater fish and invertebrate species.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) manages about 2 million acres of gameland in the state. This property is either owned by the NCWRC or leased to the NCWRC by government, corporate, or private entities for public use by hunters and anglers. The state also operates six fish hatcheries and stocks both trout and warm-water fishes to maintain recreational fish stocks in heavily fished lakes and streams.

With adequate wildlife and fish stocks available, hunting and fishing continue to be popular sports in the state. During the 1995-1996 hunting season the NCWRC reported that 123,446 deer (Fig. 8), 1,085 bear, 71 wild boar, and 2,650 wild turkeys were harvested. The big-game harvest in North Carolina has steadily increased for most species as management practices improved. The NCWRC estimates 1995 populations of deer at more than 850,000, wild turkey at 85,000, and black bear at 6,500 to 7,000. Thousands of small-game and waterfowl hunters and freshwater and saltwater anglers also enjoy our natural resources. Trapping operations for beaver, raccoon, muskrat, and other furbearers continue in North Carolina, although low fur prices have caused a decline in trapping in recent years.


Figure 8. White-Tailed Deer Harvest in North Carolina as Reported to Wildlife Cooperator Agents: 1976-1996.
Source: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Hunting, fishing, watching birds and other wildlife, and trapping add millions of dollars to our economy through license fees and sales of equipment and supplies. These revenues are directly dependent on our ability to maintain and enhance the natural resources of our state. According to the 1991 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation in North Carolina, 376,000 residents 16 years or older hunted in North Carolina in 1991. North Carolina residents spent $271 million in the United States during 1991: $83 million in trip-related expenses, $134 million on equipment, and $54 million on items such as magazines, membership dues, and licenses. In-state trip-related expenses amounted to $58 million during the 1991 season.

Many people also participate in non-consumptive wildlife activities such as bird watching and photographing wildlife. In 1991, 2.2 million North Carolinians 16 years or older took part in non-consumptive activities. During 1991, state residents spent a total of $262 million on these activities for trip-related expenses, equipment, and other items such as magazines.

Increased numbers of hunters, hikers, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts place a greater demand on public land resources and create potential conflicts in land-use patterns. Conflicts can arise, for example, between preservation of deer and waterfowl habitat and expansion of intense agriculture or development activities.

Destruction of natural habitats reduces wildlife and fish populations and increases the need for more intensive management. For years, wetlands such as hardwood bottomlands, wet flatwoods, and freshwater pocosin areas have been systematically altered by land "improvement" programs. As discussed in the Wetlands section of this publication, North Carolina has lost up to half of its wetland habitat over the past 40 years. As a result, waterfowl, wetland wildlife and furbearer habitat is shrinking as lands are cleared for agriculture and urbanization.

Habitat alterations (e.g., fragmentation, timber thinning, mowing) can have deleterious effects on certain species of wildlife, while simultaneously boosting other populations. For example, habitat fragmentation can seriously affect the black bear population since they need large, unbroken tracts of habitat to survive. Likewise, certain species of neotropical migrant songbirds require interior forest habitat to survive, and forest fragmentation is thought to be a contributing factor to the decline in certain neotropical populations. Other species, for example deer and wild turkey, require habitat diversity that is provided in the form of "edge" (where two or more habitat types meet, as in grass area and timber area) as habitat alteration occurs. Increased habitat diversity, or "edge" can positively affect species like deer and turkey as long as basic habitat requirements are sufficient.

Wildlife characteristic of grassland and shrub vegetation have declined in North Carolina over the past 30 years. Declining species include the bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbit, and at least 17 kinds of songbirds. In 1965, for example, 180,000 quail hunters harvested 2.8 million birds. In 1996, 28,047 bird hunters took 0.23 million quail - a reduction of 92%. Changing trends in agriculture and forestry have reduced the habitats these species need. On the better farmlands, farm size, field size, and intensity of crop management have increased, leaving less quality edge habitat available. On the less-productive lands, forests have replaced small agricultural fields, which also reduces early successional habitats (e.g., grasslands). In earlier years, quail and other farm wildlife were a by-product of agriculture. On modern farms, landowners who enjoy abundant farm wildlife will have to establish and maintain productive habitat on a landscape scale.

As the urban/rural interface shifts, some species of wildlife adapt to living within close proximity to humans. Deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and rabbits are species most commonly seen around urban and residential areas. Urban residents attract numerous bird species to feeders and wildlife-friendly landscaped yards. However, interactions between wildlife and humans are not always beneficial, as evidenced by the rapid rise in deer/auto collisions and rabies cases reported across the state.

Not all wildlife adapt to habitat modifications designed to meet human needs. North Carolina has lost critical habitat and consequently has 64 plant or animal species on the Federal Endangered and Threatened Species list. Select federally listed species shown in Table 7 are an example of the diversity of affected animals. In addition, the Non-game Program of the NCWRC has the legislative authority to list species in North Carolina that are endangered, threatened, or of special concern; the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program supplements the NCWRC's list with species that are significantly rare (Fig. 9).

Table 7. Select Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Species in North Carolina as of September, 1995.
Mammals

Red wolf

 Carolina northern flying squirrel 

Virginia big-eared bat

 Sperm whale

 West Indian manatee 

Birds

American peregrine falcon

 Bald eagle

 Bachman's warbler

 Wood stork

 Red-cockaded woodpecker 

Reptiles

American alligator

 Green sea turtle

 Hawksbill sea turtle

 Kemp's ridley sea turtle

 Leatherback sea turtle

 Loggerhead sea turtle 

Fish

Waccamaw silverside

 Cape Fear shiner

 Spotfin chub

 Shortnose sturgeon 

Mussels

Appalachian elktoe

 Carolina heelsplitter

 Dwarf-wedge mussel

 Little-wing pearlymussel

 Tar spinymussel 

 Insect

Saint Francis' satyr butterfly


Source: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1995).


Figure 9. Current and Historic Distribution of Rare Species and Significant Natural Communities in North Carolina.
Sources: North Carolina Natural Heritage Program and North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis.

The NCWRC considers a native or once-native species endangered if its continued existence as a viable component of the state's fauna is in jeopardy or is determined to be endangered according to the Endangered Species Act. The NCWRC considers any native or once-native species to be threatened if it is in jeopardy of becoming endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range or it is designated as threatened according to the Endangered Species Act. A species of special concern requires monitoring but may be taken, while significantly rare species are ones that do not fall into the above categories but are determined by the Natural Heritage Program to need monitoring due to their reduced numbers. Table 8 lists the numbers of animals in North Carolina that are endangered, threatened, of special concern, or significantly rare.

Table 8.  Status of Animal Taxa on the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program's Rare Animal List as of March, 1995.
Group
Endangered 
Threatened
Special Concern 
Significantly Rare
Mammals
7
11
7
Birds
9
14
28
Reptiles
3
8
6
Amphibians
1
13
4
Fishes
9
11 
30
12
Mollusks
14
22 
34
10
Crustaceans
0
0
19
Dragonflies
0
0
39
Moths
0
0
65
Butterflies
0
0
42
Other Invertebrate
0
0
0
52
Total
43
43 
110
284

Source: Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Animal Species of North Carolina

A number of listed species exist in a unique area of our state known as the Sandhills, an area in the south-central portion of North Carolina ocuppying part or all of Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Moore, Richmond, and Scotland counties. The Sandhills is recognized as one of the last remaining pockets of longleaf pine in the United States, once the dominant tree species in the southeast. The red-cockaded woodpecker, the St. Francis' satyr butterfly and three plant species (American chaffseed, rough-leaved loosestrife and Michaux's sumac) are federally listed species that inhabit this area. About a dozen more species are candidates for future federal listing.

References

LeGrand, H. E., Jr., and S. P. Hall. 1995. Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Animal Species of North Carolina. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Div. of Parks and Recreation, N.C. Dept. of Environment, Health and Natural Resources.

North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development. 1989. North Carolina State of the Environment Report.

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 1996. 1996-97 North Carolina Inland, Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping Regulations Digest.

United States Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. 1993. 1991 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, North Carolina. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.

Additional Resources

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
512 N. Salisbury Street
Archdale Building
Raleigh, NC 27611
(919) 733-3391
http://www.state.nc.us/Wildlife/

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State University
Extension Wildlife
Box 7646
Raleigh, NC 27695-7646
(919) 515-7587
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/nreos/wil/wildlife.html

North Carolina Natural Heritage Program
Division of Parks and Recreation
P.O. Box 27687
Raleigh, NC 27611
(919) 733-4181
http://www.abi.org/nhp/us/nc/welcome.html

United States Fish and Wildlife Service
551 Pylon Drive
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 856-4520
http://www.fws.gov

Aquatic Habitats and Fisheries

North Carolina's aquatic habitats are home to hundreds of fresh and saltwater fish species, as well as a large diversity of amphibians, invertebrates and other aquatic species. Our state's fisheries offer recreational opportunities and commercial harvests that are important to North Carolina's economy. However, as discussed in the Water Resources section of this publication, aquatic habitats and the species dependent on those areas are sensitive to our actions on land and are an indicator of the environment's health.

There are more than 220 known freshwater species of fish in North Carolina. A variety of these species are highly sought-after gamefish, including largemouth bass and crappie, the state's two most popular sport fishes (Table 9). The state's three species of trout have always been a favorite of mountain anglers. North Carolina's 25 westernmost counties have approximately 4,000 miles of trout streams that support brook, rainbow, and brown trout - more than any other southeastern state. About 2,100 miles of these streams are managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) as designated public mountain trout waters and support a valuable recreational fishery. Populations of brook trout, the only trout species native to North Carolina, have declined substantially due to changing land-use patterns, overfishing, and competition with non-native rainbow and brown trout.

Table 9. Frequency (%) of Freshwater Fish Species Fished For Most Often by Respondents Statewide to the 1990 North Carolina Angler Opinion Survey.
Species
Frequency (%) 
Largemouth Bass
70
Crappie
61
Sunfish
42
Catfish
36
Mountain Trout
18
Smallmouth Bass
17
Striped Bass
16
Striped Bass Hybrids
4
Walleye
3
Other Species
3

Source: Finke and Van Horn (1993).

The 1991 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation in North Carolina revealed that 990,000 resident anglers 16 years or older fished a total of 14.1 million days during 1991. During 1991, North Carolina residents spent $241 million dollars on trip-related expenses for fishing activities in our state. In addition, approximately 491,000 nonresidents fished North Carolina waters in 1991, contributing $136 million to the state's economy in trip-related expenses.

In the 1990 North Carolina Angler Opinion Survey conducted by the NCWRC, respondents from the Mountain region cited overfishing of trout streams as one of the main factors limiting the quality of fishing. Respondents from the Piedmont and Coastal regions listed pollution as the single-largest factor limiting quality fishing. Statewide, respondents listed pollution as the greatest limiting factor, followed closely by overfishing, commercial and residential development, and fluctuating water levels in reservoirs. These issues, in addition to the rising number of anglers and very limited potential to create new fishing opportunities, pose increasing management challenges.

Mountain reservoirs often support trout populations in their deeper, cold water, and at the same time offer excellent fishing for coolwater and warmwater species such as walleye, northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and crappie near the surface.

In Piedmont reservoirs, crappie and largemouth bass are the fishes of choice, along with striped bass and hybrid striped bass. The NCWRC's five state fish hatcheries annually produce fish for stocking in these waters. In 1996, the NCWRC hatcheries stocked 1.1 million warmwater fish of various species; 96,000 assorted species of coolwater fish; 566,000 catchable brook, brown, and rainbow trout; and 70,000 brook, brown, and rainbow trout fingerlings.

Often overlooked, but perhaps our most important warmwater fishery resource, are the nearly 100,000 farm ponds scattered across North Carolina. These productive ponds support thriving populations of largemouth bass, sunfish, and channel catfish, frequently producing bigger fish and a higher catch rate than larger reservoirs.

In addition to supporting this wide array of freshwater fishes, North Carolina's freshwater habitats support a large diversity of mollusks and other bivalve species. Because these species are relatively sedentary and filter food from their environment, they are extremely vulnerable to waters contaminated by urban runoff, sedimentation, and pollution. As a result, 14 species of mollusk are endangered in North Carolina, 22 are threatened, 34 are of special concern, and 10 species are significantly rare, according to the NCWRC and the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. Furthermore, nearly half of all animal species in North Carolina that are endangered, threatened, or of special concern are aquatic species.

North Carolina's 4,000-mile coastline supports another spectrum of fisheries and aquatic resources. Its 2.3 million acres of estuarine habitat and associated coastal wetlands provide valuable spawning areas for more than 90% of the commercial fish and shellfish species that are important to our state's marine fisheries. Because North Carolina is at the transition zone between the biological communities of the Mid- and South-Atlantic, an extraordinary diversity of species can be found in our waters.

There are about 70 commercial marine species of finfish found in and around the coastal waters of North Carolina. In 1995, fishermen harvested 118,564,966 pounds of finfish, valued at $45,546,241. The species with the highest total harvest values in 1995 were flounder, Atlantic menhaden, yellowfin tuna, sharks, weakfish, Atlantic croaker, mullets, king mackerel, bluefish, and spot, respectively (Table 10). In addition to finfish, 12 species of shellfish are harvested in North Carolina waters. During the 1995 season, 59,172,686 pounds of shrimp, crabs, oysters, and other shellfish were harvested, adding $66,726,063 to the state's economy (Table 10).

Table 10. 1995 North Carolina Commercial Landings (Ten Largest Grossing Finfish and Shellfish Species).
Finfish
Shellfish
Species
Pounds
Value ($)
Species 
Pounds
Value ($)
Flounder
8,767,000
15,834,000 
Blue Crabs (hard)
46,701,000 
34,508,000
Atl. Menhaden
58,354,000
3,543,000
Shrimp
8,668,000 
20,315,000
Yellowfin Tuna
1,691,000
2,713,000
Clams (meat)
902,000 
5,880,000
Sharks
12,085,000
2,699,000 
Blue Crabs (soft)
686,000
2,133,000
Weakfish
4,113,000
2,165,000 
Blue Crabs (peeler)
854,000 
1,239,000
Atlantic Croaker
6,021,000
2,002,000
Sea Scallops
211,000 
1,038,000
Mullets
2,298,000
1,944,000 
Oyster
232,000
856,000 
King Mackerel
1,013,000
1,590,000
Bay Scallops
207,000 
411,000
Bluefish
3,010,000
1,079,000 
Squid
608,000
224,000 
Spot
3,008,000
932,000 
Whelks/ 
Conchs
44,000 
29,000
Total 
100,360,000
34,501,000
59,113,000 
66,633,000

Source: Division of Marine Fisheries Trip Ticket Program

The cumulative effects of land-use decisions in the Mountain and Piedmont regions are felt on the coast, resulting in the degradation of marine habitats due to sedimentation, nutrient loading, toxic substances, and bacterial and viral contaminants. Moreover, habitat loss, coastal pollution, and overfishing have placed a strain on or threaten the long-term viability of many marine fishery stocks (Table 11). Scientists believe that the functional loss of many coastal wetlands has had a negative effect on some populations of marine species because habitat loss directly affects spawning populations and replacement stocks. Furthermore, on many occasions both in the past and currently, polluted waters have resulted in fish kills ranging from a few hundred to millions of fish. In addition to pollution causing fish kills, naturally occurring populations of microorganisms (red tide and dermo) occasionally increase in numbers, which then stress and kill fish. A recently discovered type of toxic algae, Pfiesteria, has caused numerous fish kills in coastal waters in recent years, including a major kill of 3 to 5 million fish in a single event in the Neuse River during the summer of 1995.

Table 11. Stock Status of Important Coastal Fisheries in North Carolina, 1995.
Species and Stock 
Viable
Stressed 
Depressed
Unknown 
Atlantic Croaker
 
X 
Atlantic Menhaden
X 
Black Seabass (north of Hatteras)
X
Black Seabass (south of Hatteras)
X 
Bluefish
X
Catfishes
X
Southern Flounder
X 
Summer Flounder
X 
Kingfishes
X
King Mackerel
X
Spanish Mackerel
X 
Mullet
X
Red Drum (Pamlico Sound)
X
Red Drum 

(other areas)

X 
Reef Fish
X 
River Herring (Albemarle Sound area)
X
River Herring (other systems)
X 
Scup
X
American Shad
X 
Hickory Shad
X 
Sharks
X 
Dogfish Sharks
X
Spot
X 
Spotted Seatrout
X 
Striped Bass (Albemarle-Roanoke)
X
Striped Bass (Atlantic Ocean)
X 
Striped Bass 

(other systems)

X 
Weakfish
X
White Perch
X

Source: North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries

In some cases, the degradation to aquatic habitats is so extreme that fishing areas are closed for public health reasons. The closing of shellfish beds is a case in point because shellfish waters offer an indication of overall water quality. Although the number of total acres of shellfish beds that have been closed since 1976 has decreased, the number of acres closed due to water contamination from urban development and agricultural runoff has increased. The cause of closure for most areas is a combination of urban development, agricultural runoff, and wastewater treatment plants.

Prompted by concerns about declines in some of North Carolina's marine fisheries and an influx of commercial fishermen from other states where major restrictions on commercial fishing have been imposed, the North Carolina General Assembly legislated a moratorium on the selling of new commercial fishing licenses effective July 1, 1994 through June 30, 1997. During the moratorium, a specially appointed committee conducted an intensive review of fisheries management issues in North Carolina and developed recommendations concerning commercial and recreational fishing licenses, fisheries management plans, habitat protection, enforcement of regulations, and the organizational structure of the Marine Fisheries Commission and the Division of Marine Fisheries. The special committee's recommendations are being considered by the North Carolina legislature during the 1997 session.

Commercial fishery production in our state includes more than that harvested from wild stocks. North Carolina played a vital role in pioneering hybrid striped bass aquaculture. Since the first pond-grown hybrid striped bass was harvested in 1987, striped bass aquaculture has been a growth industry. Currently, 18 operations produce 1 million pounds of farm-raised hybrid striped bass worth an estimated $2.5 million. North Carolina trout farmers rank third in production in the nation. One hundred fifty-six trout farms, 62 of which are commercial operations producing at least 25,000 to 30,000 pounds annually, are located in 18 counties in the western part of our state. They produced 5.5 million pounds of trout last year worth an estimated $7.1 million (Fig. 10). Catfish, tilapia, crawfish, and a variety of other freshwater species are also grown in North Carolina. In addition, culture of marine species is also on the rise, with shellfish culture and crabshedding operations becoming more common along the coast. Because world-wide fisheries harvests have leveled off in recent years, aquaculture production of fish and shellfish is likely to become more important in the future.


Figure 10. Annual Sales of Commercial Trout Farms in North Carolina: 1990-1996.
Source: North Carolina Department of Agriculture's Office of Statistics.

References

Finke, J. R., and S. Van Horn. 1993. 1990 North Carolina Angler Opinion Survey. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Div. Boating and Inland Fisheries. Statewide Fisheries Investigations Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Project F-23-17.

North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development. 1989. North Carolina State of the Environment Report.

North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development. 1987. North Carolina State of the Environment Report.

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. "North Carolina Commercial Landings, 1995." http://www.ehnr.state.nc.us/EHNR/DMF/statistics/htmlc/yerl995.htm (Oct. 24, 1996).

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. "North Carolina Fisheries License Moratorium." http://www.ehnr.state.nc.us/EHNR/DMF/dmfhpl.htm (Oct. 24, 1996).

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 1994. Trout Fishing Information for North Carolina.

U.S. Dept of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. 1993. 1991 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, North Carolina. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.

Additional Resources

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
512 N. Salisbury Street
Archdale Building
Raleigh, NC 27604-1188
(919) 733-3391

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
3441 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC 28557
(919) 726-7021
(800) 682-2632
http://www.ehnr.state.nc.us/EHNR/DMF/

North Carolina Department of Agriculture Aquaculture and Natural Resources Division
2 West Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 733-7125
http://www.agr.state.nc.us/aquacult/

Recreation Resources

North Carolina parks encompass a wide variety of the state's most beautiful lands and interesting natural features. The park system provides a spectrum of recreational opportunities, from family picnic areas and developed campsites to primitive backpacking trails and rugged mountain-climbing challenges. North Carolina's state park system consists of 29 state parks, 10 state natural areas, 7 state lakes, 4 state recreation areas, 4 state rivers, and 4 state trails, totaling approximately 135,000 acres of land and water (Fig. 11). There are 3 state aquariums located along the coast, in addition to the 1,448-acre North Carolina Zoological Park located in the central part of the state. Furthermore, there are 6 state educational forests managed by the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources that occupy a cumulative 2,172 acres; nearly 2 million acres of gamelands managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission; and 12,000 acres of barrier islands, salt marshes, and tidal waters enrolled in the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve.


Figure 11. North Carolina State Parks System.
Source: North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Plan 1995-2000, North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources.

Federal agencies also manage recreational areas throughout North Carolina. The National Park Service administers 10 national parks, from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Mountains to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the Coastal Plain. These areas amount to over 380,000 acres. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains 10 refuges in the state comprising about 375,000 acres. These areas are oriented toward the public's enjoyment of unique wildlife species and corresponding habitats. Finally, the U.S. Forest Service is responsible for 4 national forests which comprise approximately 1.2 million acres.

Out-of-state visitors brought $9.2 billion to North Carolina in 1995. The state park system alone was visited 11.9 million times in 1995 (Fig. 12). An additional 22.5 million people visited the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1992, with the majority (13.7 million) being in-state Parkway visitors. In 1991, nearly 25% of the 8.7 million out-of-state visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains Park entered from the North Carolina side. Approximately 1.6 million people visited the state aquariums in 1992, and 569,000 visited the zoo. Hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-based recreation generated an estimated $591 million within North Carolina, according to the 1991 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation in North Carolina. In addition, forest-based recreational benefits are in the millions annually.


Figure 12. State Park System Attendance and Population Trends: 1980-1995.
Source: North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation and North Carolina Office of State Planning.

Commercial providers of recreational experiences also cash in on the public's outdoor sense of adventure. Nearly 185,000 people enjoyed whitewater rafting western North Carolina's rivers during the 1994 season. During the winter months, the Mountain region entertains between 450,000 and 735,000 snow skiers annually on any of the 9 major ski areas in the state. More than 300 privately owned campgrounds offer 15,000 campsites throughout the state, and another 4,000 public campsites help meet the demand for camping, one of the fastest growing outdoor activities.

The growing popularity in outdoor recreation is a double-edged sword. The public's appreciation and awareness of the state of our natural resources is heightened as more people get outside and "commune with nature." However, population growth, urbanization, and heavy use of recreation areas have placed intense pressure on public lands and waters, diminishing the quality of recreational opportunities.

Heavy visitor use, pollution, and activities of adjacent landowners threaten the unique, rare, and valuable resources that exist within the confines of the state park system. A more pressing concern, however, is the natural ecosystems and sensitive resources that are found outside state-park boundaries and therefore receive limited protection. The State Parks Systemwide Plan revealed that a majority of the state's biological, geological, recreational, archaeological, and scenic resources are inadequately protected in the current park system, and an additional 35,000 acres would be needed to include these resources within park confines.

An additional problem is North Carolina's population shift to more urbanized areas and the increased demand for recreational opportunities nearby. Despite greenways and trail systems, development is limiting the amount of land available for recreation. Escalating land prices, limited funding, and a lack of planning are contributors to the lack of open space in urban areas.

In 1994, the North Carolina General Assembly established the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to fund capital improvements, repairs, renovations, and land acquisition. The state's share of the real estate deed transfer tax provides the basis for the Fund, and both state parks and local governments are eligible to use the money. An estimated $15 million annually will be generated by the transfer tax and should go a long way toward helping the state park system deal with some of its current problems.

References

Division of Parks and Recreation, N.C. Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources. 1995. North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Plan: 1995-2000.

North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. 1994. Systemwide Plan for the North Carolina State Parks System.

U.S. Dept of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. 1993. 1991 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, North Carolina. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.

Additional Resources

North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation
P.O. Box 27687
Raleigh, NC 27611
(919) 733-4181
http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/ncparks.html

Recreation Resources Services
College of Forest Resources, NCSU
Box 8004
Raleigh, NC 27695-8004
(919) 515-7118
http://www2.ncsu.edu/ncsu/forest_resources/rrs.html

Summary

This report covers a wide range of natural resource management issues. Such issues are complicated not only by the diversity of our resources, but perhaps more importantly, by the fact that many resources are finite. Demand for them, however, especially with the burgeoning population in North Carolina, continues to grow. The political process, therefore, becomes critical in the management and conservation of our limited natural resource base.

Because natural resources can face multiple pressures, wise stewardship is complicated. Many decisions made in our society have either direct or indirect effects on our natural resources, but the full consequences of these decisions are seldom recognized in advance. Increased use for one purpose may preclude or diminish other potential uses or benefits. For example, declining air quality is believed to be damaging our forests. This, in turn, could increase soil erosion, impair water quality, and reduce animal populations in streams. Conversely, an improvement in one resource can multiply into improvements in other resources.

While ever-increasing pressure is being placed on our state's natural reources, resource managers have more tools at their disposal now than ever before. Computer software such as geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing allow managers to view the landscape on a multi-spatial scale. Computer modeling can provide managers with a theorized understanding of dynamic natural systems. In addition, resource professionals are looking at the environment and natural resource base in a different way. The focus has shifted to looking at entire ecosystems and watersheds and the processes occurring within these areas. As the population of North Carolina grows, humans will play an increasing role in those processes.

The Interstate 85 and Interstate 40 Corridor

One of the fastest growing areas of our state - commonly called "the Urban Piedmont Crescent" - is found in 11 Piedmont counties between Charlotte and Greensboro (connected by Interstate 85) and between Winston-Salem and Raleigh (connected by Interstate 40) (Fig. 1, Table 1). These cities are the center of the state's commerce, industry, education, communication, culture, and government, and as such, attract a large portion of the state's inhabitants. According to the 1990 Census, of the 6,632,448 North Carolina residents, 36 percent resided in these 11 counties.


Figure 1. The Interstate 85 and 40 Corridor through the Piedmont or the "Urban Piedmont Crescent."
Note: Size of dot indicates relative size of city.

Table 1. Percent Change in Population in 11 Piedmont Counties Intersected By Interstates 85 and 40 Compared to the Statewide Population Change: 1940-1990.
 

Time Period
Statewide Population Change (%) 
11 County Population Change (%)
1940-1950
9.7
21.9 
1950-1960
5.6
21.9 
1960-1970
11.6
20.4 
1970-1980
15.7
16.8 
1980-1990
12.8
17.5 

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1952, 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992).

With population growth comes increased urbanization and development and consequently, increased air and water pollution. Carbon monoxide (CO) is the most abundant air pollutant in our state, and motor vehicles are suspected to be responsible for more than 80 percent of CO emissions. Wake, Durham, and Forsyth counties exceeded CO Ambient Air Quality Standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1988, 1989, and 1990. These three counties contain three of the five largest cities in North Carolina. Excessive CO concentrations most often occur in larger cities where there are many vehicles and congested city streets. Five additional counties (Mecklenburg, Davidson, Randolph, Guilford, and Orange) are expected to have CO control strategies in place in the future.

Ozone, a major component of smog, forms when chemicals such as hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides combine in the presence of sunlight. The most abundant source of chemicals that combine to form ozone is motor vehicle emissions. Petroleum use, factories, businesses, and households are additional sources. In 1988, 1989, and 1990, Wake, Durham, Guilford, Forsyth, and Mecklenburg counties, which contain the five largest cities in North Carolina, exceeded ambient ozone standards. Cabarrus, Davidson, Randolph, and Orange counties are expected to implement ozone control strategies in the future.

Certain counties in the 11 county area have also witnessed polluted waters as a result of the concentrated population. The waters of the Cape Fear River basin where Guilford, Alamance, and parts of Orange and Durham counties are located are nutrient sensitive, meaning excessive growths of microscopic or macroscopic vegetation is occurring in downstream reservoirs due to nutrient overloads from nitrogen or phosphorous. Excessive growth is considered that which substantially impairs the use of the water for its best usage as determined by the state's water classification system. The most polluted basin in North Carolina, however, is the Neuse River basin, where Wake, Orange, and Durham counties are located. Urban stormwater, and agricultural and construction activities all contribute to the problem in the form of nonpoint source pollutants. Point sources from industry and wastewater treatment plants also contribute. This has resulted in the entire Neuse basin being declared nutrient sensitive.

One indication of changing land use patterns in these 11 counties may be tracked by examining the number of acres of land in farms, which includes agricultural land used for crops, pasture, or grazing. In addition, woodland or wasteland not actually under cultivation or used for pasture or grazing is also included. Since 1950, the total acreage of land in farms in these 11 counties has decreased dramatically (Fig. 2). The loss of farm acreage to development results in decreased open space and habitat for wildlife and increased fragmentation of the landscape.


Figure 2. Land Acreage in Farms vs. Population in 11 Piedmont Counties Intersected by Interstates 85 and 40.
Source: North Carolina Department of Agriculture and U.S. Bureau of the Census.

References

North Carolina Department of Agriculture. 1954, 1964, 1972, 1984, 1994. North Carolina Agricultural Census.

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1994. Water Quality Progress in North Carolina 1992-1993 305(b) Report. Div. Env. Man., Water Qual. Sec., Report No. 94-07.

North Carolina Department of Health, Environment, and Natural Resources. 1995. 1990 Ambient Air Quality Report.

Prepared by:

David Drake, Extension Forestry Associate
Department of Forestry, College of Forest Resources

and

Peter T. Bromley, Department Extension Leader
Department of Zoology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the following reviewers for their comments and suggestions:

John Alderman, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Brian Bledsoe, North Carolina Division of Environmental Management, Water Quality Planning
John Dorney, North Carolina Division of Water Quality
James Easley, Agricultural and Resource Economics Department, North Carolina State University
Rick Hamilton, Extension Forestry Department, North Carolina State University
Kim Huband, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation
Greg Jennings, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department, North Carolina State University
Ed Jones, Associate State Leader, NR/CRD, North Carolina State University
Carol Metz, North Carolina Division of Environmental Management, Water Quality Planning
Patricia Murphey, North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
Rich Noble, Zoology and Forestry Department, North Carolina State University
Wib Owen, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
James Pearce, County Director, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Edgecombe County
Linda Pearsall, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program
Jim Rice, Extension Fisheries Department, North Carolina State University
Terry Sharpe, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Chad Thomas, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Mike Thompson, North Carolina Division of Forest Resources

The authors thank the following agencies for providing data and information for this document:

North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina Department of Agriculture
North Carolina Division of Air Quality
North Carolina Division of Forest Resources
North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation
North Carolina Division of Water Quality
North Carolina Division of Water Resources
North Carolina Office of State Planning
North Carolina Natural Heritage Program
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
United States Army Corps of Engineers
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service
United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service
United States Environmental Protection Agency
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
United States Geological Survey