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Land conservation in NC: the era of the land trusts

April 6, 2015

North Carolina had a remarkable period of land conservation between the late 1980s and the early 2000s.  For a nation that gets portrayed typically as single-mindedly obsessed with economic growth and (sadly, often tawdry) development, it’s worth reflecting on the accomplishments of those who have worked hard to keep unique natural places in the State protected.  In particular, I want to single out the state’s land trusts, their funders and the private landowners they work with for their successes in the late twentieth century and beyond.  In the year 2000, in the last administration of Gov. Jim Hunt, the State even committed to protection of an additional one million acres of permanently protected land by the year 2010–the so-called “Million Acres Initiative.”

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Local government and the environment: the Constitutional starting point

March 2, 2015

Environmental law and constitutional law have shaped each other in profound ways.

This is not surprising, given environmental law’s intimate connection with the regulation of private property rights. It not surprising for another reason: a major part of environmental law, especially public environmental law, can be thought of as a species of administrative law. As such, environmental law problems often directly touch and concern fundamental issues such as the structure of government, the respective powers and duties of the major branches of government, and the powers and limits on governmental agencies.

In North Carolina, there is an even more direct connection: the state Constitution itself provides support for environmental protection, as a result of an amendment that passed overwhelmingly in 1972.  But the exact scope and meaning of the N.C. Constitution’s statement of environmental rights remains unclear, over forty years after it was passed as a constitutional amendment.

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