Impact – Lumber River Conservancy

[MUSIC] Good day and welcome to Impact, a
community affairs discussion program from the College of Arts
and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke
I’m Jeff Frederick. Right in the middle of southeast
North Carolina a 115 mile black water resource of unimaginable
beauty wanders through five counties, creating habitat for
flora and fauna and the admiration of countless. Part of
the greater Pee Dee River system. The Lumber whose head waters are
called Drowning Creek eventually makes its way into
South Carolina, where it meets up with the Little Pee Dee and
then the Great Pee Dee which flows with the Lytch’s and Waccamaw rivers before hitting Winyah Bay and
the Atlantic Ocean in Georgetown. As a black water
River, the water appears dirty. But in fact, it’s about as free
of pollutants and human activity related issues as possible. The tea-colored water comes in large
part from the dissolution of tannic acid or tannins found in
leaves and plant materials and the like. As a wild and scenic
River the Lumber carries federal and state protection. As wide as 80 feet or so in
places and as deep as 15 feet the Lumber is a story to itself and
a central character in the unfolding history of Native,
African American, and white folks up and down its banks. Fortunately, this precious jewel
of natural beauty has protectors like the Lumber River
Conservancy, a group, which works to protect access and keep
the River habitat and Wildlife safe and out of harm’s way. Full
disclosure: I am a member of the board of Trustees of the Lumber
River Conservancy. Joining me today to talk about the River,
its meaning and why it’s so important to watch over this
precious resource are Dickson McLean of the Lumber River
Conservancy, Lane Garner, Superintendent of the Lumber
River State Park. Doctor Joseph White from the UNC
Pembroke Biology Department and the executive director of the
Lumber River Conservancy. Welcome gentlemen. Thanks for having us.
so let’s start at the beginning. Talk about how you got
interested in the River, why it’s so important, and what your own
some of what your own experiences with it. Well, I grew up in Lumberton and
grew up canoeing the River fishing hunting and just
enjoying swimming occasionally in the summertime just enjoying
the River and it’s sort of a natural part of what I did when
I was growing up and I have a good childhood memories from it. Yeah, well I work
with North Carolina State Park System, an as you know, Lumber
River State Park is part of the system also and I worked at
several other parks, and opportunity had come up in here
at Lumber River State Park and I thought it would be a great
opportunity to come and join the team and get to learn about the history
and the natural significance of the Lumber River itself and I’ve since been here and have been enjoying it. So my history with the River is
a little different from Lane and Dickson’s and that is I’m an
import. I’ve only lived in the southeastern part of North
Carolina now for about 2 years. and obviously I’m very involved
with the Lumber River Conservancy and protecting the
River but my interest in. Streams and rivers and wetlands
goes back for as far as I can remember in the western part of
the state where I grew up from hunting for Crawdads as a kid
all the way through my doctoral research was on studying these
systems and sort of benefits, they provide humans. So each of you have had a chance
to interact with a bunch of different people who have
different stories. Why does the River mean so much to so many
people? What is it about it? Well, I think it’s been the
Lumber River from its source up near Hwy 15/501 towards Southern
Pines. All the way down to where it meets the Little Pee Dee
River in Nichols, South Carolina or near Nichols, South Carolina.
It flows is sort of a central theme of the area that it goes
through Scotland County, Robeson, Hoke, Columbus and. It just has been over the years
a focal point for people to enjoy the River as a source of
water, source of recreation and I think it’s sort of uniting theme
through that area and the natural natural protection area.
Lane, you talk to people all the time who come use it. Why does
the River mean so much to people? I believe it’s just for the
historical aspect of it. A lot of people that I come in contact with. They tell me a lot of
stories about how they grew up on the River how their mother
and father grew up on the River and so on, and so on, and I even
got some history, uh my parents actually has news articles where
my great grand father worked for Butter’s lumber company running a
steam engine when they used to float logs down the River so
like I said it’s just to survive people were hunting, fishing. You know transportation to get
from one area from River down to the next. I believe it’s you
know it’s it’s touched people’s lives in all different aspects
from living to recreational historical meanings also. So what are your students tell
you Joseph who grew up around here about their experience with
the River? well. Obviously, the River is sort of the lifeblood
of these communities and everyone’s got a story about
swimming or fishing or having picnics out along the River and
you know it’s very much been woven into the fabric of their
lives and so many major events seem to be around or in or
somehow associated with the River. Some of our viewers will
not have been on the River or not have been on the River
recently. Talk about some of the distinguishing features? What is
it that you will see and feel once you’re on the River. Well, at Lumber River State Park
with the Lumber River being designated as natural Wild
Scenic River. You get on the River. It’s like it was hundreds
of years ago, still in its natural setting you know a lot
of different recreational opportunities with paddling
being the most popular recreational opportunity. You
know, people can catch all kinds of variety of fish from bass to catfish too. Sunfish lot of
different fish varieties that sat there and also, if you want
to see other kind of critters. That’s out there from you
different birds, reptiles, amphibians, Lumber River’s got a
lot of it, so and also that Park itself. You know, we’re here in
a recreational business. People. paddling also picnicking hiking got
a lot of different things that it can see, there here at the
Lumber River State Park. And being a black water River,
the water is beautiful the waters cleaner than you might
think that it appears actually very clean. Thus the natural and
Scenic River designation that the Lumber River received in 1998. And there are a lot of
twists and turns in the rivers and in the River and just like
Lane said. It’s about the same as it’s been for many years and
it can be a challenging canoe trip. So what are what are some
of the wildlife specifically that you would see up and down
the River? What are some of the interesting ecological or
habitat features that you would see? Well as Lane mentioned
there’s lots of different types of fish in the River and. Targets for fishermen, but
there’s also there Ducks. There are lots of different wood
ducks as a native species and then we have migrating other
ducks like mallards and black ducks and that sort of thing
white tailed deer, Wild Turkey and then there are a lot of
other birds that are very interesting to see on the River
that are non game birds like pileated woodpeckers, Owls
Hawks and then there’s a warbler called the Profanitary
Warbler That’s a fairly unusual bird to see which is
you can see on the River occasionally. So the list goes on and on right
black bears and talking about fish in the water. You have a
lot of smaller fish that are really important for the
ecosystem for the food webs. Energy transfer of the
system, like chubs and darters and you got the red cockaded
woodpecker. In addition to things like the pileated
woodpecker and then when you start talking about plants.
You’ve got things. Obviously, at least, near the head waters. You
have long leaf. Pine and the Wiregrass ecosystems are really
important in within the basin. As you go further down you
start to get into things like sweetgum and bald cypress is really
important, and it has a number of “species of concern” we’d
call them. endangered or threatened either the state or
federal level. One of the ones that we’re really happy to be
helping conserve and protect is the Woody goldenrod, which is
really only found in a couple of places and including on
several of the properties that we protect. Lane, tell us a little bit
about the park itself. Where is it? How do people get to it?
What are the kinds of things people do in and around the park?
alright well, at Lumber River State Park is one of our
larger state parks found in North Carolina State Park
system. We got almost 14,000 acres and it’s actually stretched
through 4 different counties Commission for Columbus. Robeson, Scotland and Hoke County and we kind of describe a lot of the
other parts for just a large mass of land that’s right there, we consider Lumber
River State Park a linear park. So it’s stretched up and down to
115 miles of River. And like I say, we’re open every day
except Christmas Day. People can come out picnic hike. y’know view wildlife also we got 24
different access areas or put in spots up and down the River to
where people can actually paddle down the River or put in Jon
boats at some of them; got canoeing campsites. If you want
to several days excursions to where you can actually camp on
the River itself. We have some walk to sites at or different
access areas. At Chalk Banks which is located in Scotland
County and also Princess Anne, which is located down at the Robeson- Columbus County line.
And also have some drive to sites to stay at also. Do you find people who canoe
both up the River and down the River? I do find that. I got a lot of
folks that–some of our beginner folks that might put in there at Princess Anne that might be a
little scared paddling on the River that section of River down
on the southern end is a little bit lot wider than what it is up
in Scotland County and we encourage a lot of folks to put
in you know you’re just getting used to it paddle upstream and
you float back down. To the boat ramp, but then
there’s also folks that will put in and travel downstream and
actually have people that will shuttle ’em to these different
locations that kind of has done it more than one time. So so tell
us a little bit about what’s different from the Lumber River
State Park versus some other ones where you’ve worked at and
what do park staff do? Well, with park staff we’re kind of a Jack
of all trades but master of none. One thing that draw me to
the State Park system is just a variety of stuff that we get to
do. Uh every day is kind of different we do a little bit
everything like I said, from– I’m certified law enforcement. So we
do have some law enforcement encounters that we have to come
to when we’re protecting the park. we’re also trained wildfire
fighters, we use One of our resource management. goals or tools that we use is
actually fire, where we actually bring prescribed fire back into the
ecosystem. ’cause we found out that it has been taken out of
the ecosystem throughout the years. We’re also trained medical
responders. So we’d have to respond to injured hikers
injured paddlers different things like that, but one of our
main things here at the park is actually educate the public
about what’s at the park. What’s natural about the park. What can you do? Recreational activities; we’ll
give guided canoe trips, giving nature hikes to different groups
that that request them. So yeah, that’s a little bit about what
we do here at the park and how it’s different than the parks that
I worked out in the past like I said the is considered a linear
park. So we do a lot of travelling travelling from one
side to the other, but like I said, just the different
communities and municipalities that this river has touched and
how it brings folks to those communities and just hearing
about the history along the River is pretty neat, whereas if
some of the other parts just kind of secluded area might not
be around any municipalites or different things like that,
but coming through Fair Bluff Lumberton, Pembroke, Wagram,
just speaking with a lot of those folks get learned a lot
about the history of the park. So speaking of
history, Dickson you’ve got an interesting family history of
getting connected to the River itself. And serving as a watchdog
and a protector of it. Talk about your dad and how you got
involved as well. OK well as I mentioned I grew up in Lumberton
and my brother and father and I would canoe and Fish and hunt on
the lumber River and swim in the summer time and my father was
also from Lumberton. He was a lawyer in Lumberton for all his
life and lived in Lumberton all his life and in 1989 The North Carolina Legislature
passed a law to create the Lumber River State Park. However, the State Park could
not take title to any real property until there was a
master pant plan approved for the State Park. So my father and
I incorporated the Lumber River Conservancy in 1991, and it was
organized as a 501C3 organization to receive charitable contributions. And we
actually received a donation from Carolina Power & Light at
that time –predecessor to Duke Power now–for $25,000 to pay
for the master plan for the North Carolina State Park and
once that was completed, we could uh the State Park could take
title to land. In the meantime, while that was happening, the
Lumber River Conservancy being a 501C3 organization received
donations of land that were destined for the park and we
were able to turn that land over to the State Park once a master
plan was approved. And since then we have also
received other donations of Land and conservation easements
and I think to date we’ve turned over a over 1000 acres of
land to the State Park. So the Conservancy exists to
make sure that the the park is well fed with pieces of property
that people can use for access and that can help protect some of
that wildlife and some of those other endangered species. Exactly.
and not only that, but we–our mission is also to protect the
entire riparian quarter of the River and its tributaries and
so land that we don’t turn over to the State Park we protect in perpetuity. We also have a
currently about 2400 acres of land that we own and we have
conservation easements over about 650 acres. In addition to
the land that was turned over to the State Park. So we really
work in tandem with the State Park and whatever meets their
needs that they determine to be in their mission. If we can
obtain it we’ll turn it over to them; otherwise we’ll protect it
ourselves. So for 30 years or so The Conservancy has existed and
has been an absolutely critical organization to protect and
preserve the river longterm. Absolutely and that’s It’s
continued for that period of time. We hope it will continue
for at least another 30 years. so how talk a little bit about
the process of how the Conservancy adds some of this
land under its protection or works with the State Park. If
someone had a tract somewhere along the River and they were
hoping to keep it protected, how does that whole process work?
well if someone has some land that they’re interested in
donating to the Lumber Conservancy either outright or
in the form of a conservation easement. Which is a protective
easement on someone’s property they still own it and have the
right to use it but there are certain uses that are restricted
and prohibited in the future like subdivision and that sort
of thing it in either case, they can contact the Lumber River
Conservancy through our web page and we can discuss a possible
donation by them of their property outright or as a
conservation easement and there are income tax deductions that are available. For people who
make contributions to our organization, which is I said as
a 501C3 organization. Joseph, talk a little bit about your
role because you have a teaching and research role with the
University and you’re also heavily involved with the Conservancy
kind of a long tradition that dates back to Dr. Ash and
Dr. Sellers and others. Right. so doctor Andy Ash who recently
retired worked with the small group at the very beginning in
the early 90s to start writing grants and identify land that was valuable. And needed to be
protected, he was able to talk to administration. I think into
this agreement where an employee of the University would also
split their time and serve as executive director and the first
person who took that role was doctor Trish Sellers and she
from all accounts–I was never privileged enough to meet her.
But that was the motor running and driving the Conservancy for a
decade basically. and she had to step away due to health reasons.
And so I was hired in this position. It really splits my
time as you mentioned. So about 75% of my duties are
teaching mentoring students serving on committees overseeing
student organizations and about 25% of my time is spent as
executive director, where I’m really basically the primary
point person. So I run the website and try to do some of
the social media, field incoming calls and direct them to whoever
they need to be put in contact with– probably more than he likes
it’s often Dickson– so just trying to to keep the ball rolling and
build a little bit on the foundation that I walked into. With your biologist hat on what
are some of the interesting research opportunities or even
classroom opportunities? Is seeing the River as a lab that
would set up for on going study? right so the River is an
excellent essentially outdoor field station. If you want to
think of it. That way that provides lots of opportunities,
both to the faculty, but also to students. The fact that it is a
mile down the road from the University makes it really logistically. Easy for them to
get out there and do things and they are taking advantage of
that opportunity. Part of the agreement between UNC pian. The
Conservancy not only is sort of the creation of my split
position here, but it also guarantees faculty here the
access to tracts that we own along the River and so we have
faculty and students who are out nearly every day during the
academic year at least. out sampling plants and water and
taking soil samples, so they’re really taking advantage of that–both from the classroom sort of Field
Trip opportunities to outdoor labs, to student independent
research, all the way up through Advanced Research that the
faculty are doing sort of their professional research. So I want
to talk to you about a particular thing that the
University and the Conservancy partnered on for some research.
But before I do that, from a biologist’s perspective, how
different is this River from some of the rivers where you’ve
studied in the western part of the state? so it’s very different so. While this River from my
understanding has more of an elevational gradient from its
headwaters to the mouth and a lot of the coastal plain rivers
do, it’s still nothing compared to what we see in the foothills
where I grew up. So a lot of the rivers in that area are coming
out of the mountains. So they’re seeing significant drops, which
means they are moving faster. They are typically wider because
that increased velocity helps some carve out wider channel
bank, they’re typically uh more sedimen–sedimented? So they
are cloudier and kind of muddy looking which for those of us
who grew up in that area, we love that as much as the people
here, love that sort of black water. But so this River is very
different in a lot of ways, the higher water quality. Obviously
being a black Water River. The slow meandering nature. All of
the swamps and wetlands in the Carolina bays that are associated
with it hydrologically. It’s very different sort of system.
And what about this research project, that the University and some of its professors and students
have partnered with the Conservancy to gather some funds
from Duke to do some studies. Where’s that at right now? so
the project you’re talking about is one that was really
it’s a collaborative research project between several of our
faculty in the Department, including a freshwater biologist,
plant ecologist, and a geneticist, who are really
interested in the microbial diversity of the soils and water
up the River. And ideally it in their Project they’re
establishing some kind of baseline so that we know how any
changes in Hydrology or events like storms. Hurricanes sort of
push us off that baseline and if the River is able to recover. so
that was funded with a significant grant from the Duke
Energy Foundation, which essentially the Conservancy cosponsored. We got that grant
that allowed those researchers to buy some very sort of Top of
the line advanced equipment, so students here are getting a
very Advanced Research experience akin to what they would
get at any other major institution in the southeast and
really that’s in the preliminary stages. It took a
little while to get that equipment here and to get it
setup so really it started in earnest sort of over the summer,
but the preliminary sort of data they’re getting suggests that the
River is very healthy; that contrary to some of the Um. community perspectives or
thoughts. It’s actually still has extremely high water quality
even along some of the more urban areas like Lumberton that it
runs through and so we’re just in the stage is sort of building
our understanding of that portion. We know a decent amount
about the Fish and amphibians and the mammals, but not a lot
about the microbes, which biologists are learning are more and
more important both sort of in the human body, but also in the ecosystem outdoors. And, Lane, from
your perspective what has the storms like Matthew and Florence,
which were particularly felt in this part of the state in both 2016
and 2018– What has that done to what you’ve seen first hand on
the River. well. When I first came to the park that was in March
of 2018. We were still in the process of removing fallen
trees. That was in the Lumber River. This effects a lot of
recreational opportunities that people want to do on the
River. Also I know some of our infrastructure. Some of our
roads and stuff that’s in our acreage of land got washed
out, we’re still in the process of trying to repair those roads.
Right now we’re just finishing up a project that would be
extended Ridge large area of road got washed out and we’re in
the process working with different agencies of actually
removing some of these trees that’s in the River to allow the
water to flow. More easily or and also to allow
recreational opportunities for folks can actually paddle from
going into the River down to the other end. Are there restrictions
because of the designation that the River has that dates back to
the Conservancy’s involvement with it? Are there restrictions
to what can and can’t be done in the River.?There are
restrictions that’s on it. as far as nobody is allowed to
actually go and cut trees from off the River. There has to be a
process that has to go through. We go through the Corps of
Engineers, get through the process and there’s different
requirements on you know when a tree is cut. It has to be tied off or wedged
in between some other trees to where it won’t flow down the River. Float down the River
anymore. Also trees that’s that’s being in the River for a
long time. Those cannot be disturbed ’cause it is–it’s got some
kind of habitat that’s already set up for different aquatic
organisms, plants, animals and different things like that. So
yeah, quite a lot of requirements such required. As
our program comes to an end for today, let me just throw out a
quick “lightning round” question. Give me a couple of primary
reasons why somebody should go see the River. Oh, the Lumber River is a
beautiful River, it’s it’s winding meandering. A quiet
place that someone can go, not far from an urban area in this
in this region, which can get you away from some of the noise
and rush and hush of the day. Yeah, I I will second pretty
much everything Dickson just said there is a great place to get
away very isolated in many areas. So you kind of feel like
you’ve found this little slice of Paradise, but River corridors
are also biological hotspot. So there’s lots of diversity you can
get out and see all kinds of critters that you are not going
to have a chance to see in your yard or on campus. Yeah, like I
say, Come to the park; good place to recreate you know burn
some calories especially after the Holidays. We all need that!
yeah, and also like said uh. Quiet place to go you know a lot
of people got a lot of things going on in their lives. It’s a good
way to just get rid of the technology hustle and bustle and
take it easy, and enjoy. Enjoy nature. Well thank you
one and all for a great program to talk about the
River and The Conservancy. And its historic role. Join us
again next time when we tackle another interesting
subject right here on Impact. [MUSIC]

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