Protection secured for Alcoa lands at Tuckertown

Published 3:42 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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In the Piedmont of North Carolina lies Tuckertown Reservoir, an impoundment of the Yadkin River known for its recreational opportunities and as a vital water resource for North Carolinians. Adjacent to Tuckertown are the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Alcoa Game Lands. Nearly 80 percent of North Carolina’s population reside within 100 miles of these game lands.

The Wildlife Commission, Three Rivers Land Trust and The Conservation Fund have worked with many conservation partners to permanently conserve these game lands for future generations. Last week, the Wildlife Commission announced its purchase of 2,424 acres, including 31 miles of shoreline along the eastern shore of the Tuckertown Reservoir in Davidson and Montgomery counties. With the completion of this acquisition, the Wildlife Commission also announced the formal name change of these lands to the Yadkin River Game Land, to reflect the vicinity of the game land to the Yadkin River.

The water that flows into and out of the Tuckertown Reservoir is a part of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River. The Yadkin-Pee Dee River, one of North Carolina’s longest rivers, provides 1.7 million people water every day.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment and we are thankful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Restoration Program, the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, Three Rivers Land Trust, The Conservation Fund and all of our funding partners who realized the importance of this acquisition and worked so diligently to make it happen. These lands have over a 30-year history of providing the public opportunities for hunting, fishing, and wildlife-associated recreation in the Piedmont,” said Cameron Ingram, executive director of the Wildlife Commission. “Conserving these lands for public access, water quality and wildlife habitat perfectly aligns with our agency’s mission to protect our state’s natural resources.”

This announcement comes nearly a year after the transfer of nearly 1,000 acres further downstream to Morrow Mountain State Park as part of the same Relicensing Settlement Agreement. Together, these lands total nearly 3,500 acres of newly protected land.

“The chance to protect water quality and provide outdoor recreation opportunities at this scale does not come along often,” said Jeff Michael, deputy secretary for Natural Resources at the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which includes the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (NCLWF). “This represents an extraordinary chapter in the history of conservation in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River basin. I applaud our partners for their bold vision, and on behalf of the NCLWF board and staff, we are proud to provide funding to help make this happen.”

The clock began ticking in 2019 to raise the $8.5 million needed to acquire the property for perpetual conservation. Three Rivers Land Trust and The Conservation Fund worked with the Wildlife Commission to lead the private fundraising effort to ensure these lands remained protected and publicly accessible. This collaborative project brought federal, state, nonprofit, family foundation partners and general private donors together.

“The entire 2,400-acre Tuckertown land purchase is a very important addition to our state game lands,” said Mike Leonard, representative at The Conservation Fund. “We were particularly interested in the Bald Mountain portion of the property, a hardwood covered Piedmont monadnock mountain steeply rising 300 feet above the reservoir and Yadkin River. We’re already working with the state on a plan to build a two-mile hiking trail to the top of Bald Mountain where hikers can walk through the large hardwoods and see stunning views of the lake and the Uwharrie Mountains.”

“Completing this project was a monumental goal of Three Rivers Land Trust since our inception in 1995,” said Travis Morehead, executive director of Three Rivers Land Trust. “We are incredibly proud to have worked with the Wildlife Commission and all of our funding partners to ensure the permanent conservation of these lands and the public’s ability to utilize them. One of our main tenants within our strategic plan is to connect people to the outdoors and we are proud to say that North Carolinians will have access to these lands for generations to come.”

This purchase took place pursuant to the 2007 Yadkin River Relicensing Settlement Agreement in which Alcoa offered the State of North Carolina and/or Three Rivers Land Trust (formerly The Land Trust for Central North Carolina) the opportunity to purchase these lands for conservation purposes. In September 2019, Phase I of the Alcoa Lands Project was completed. Phase I conserved 2,463 acres and 45 miles of shoreline along High Rock Lake. Now with the closure of Phase II Tuckertown, this project has conserved more than 4,800 acres and 76 miles of shoreline along the Yadkin-Pee Dee.