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Three Rivers Land Trust recognized as Land Conservationist of the Year

SALISBURY — Three Rivers Land Trust has been named Land Conservationist of the Year in North Carolina, an honor that came as a surprise to Executive Director Travis Morehead, who credited community’s support.

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation on Monday announced the winners of the 56th annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards. It noted that Salisbury-based Three Rivers has preserved properties across 15 counties and also connected people to the land.

“As a reputable and dynamic land conservation organization, Three Rivers Land Trust has conserved thousands of acres of land for the benefit of wildlife, habitat protection, water quality, cultural significance and the public,” the federation’s news release stated.

Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, noted that Three Rivers Land Trust doesn’t lock up the land. Instead, it gives youths the opportunity to get off their cellphones and into the woods.

Morehead said Three Rivers focuses on all demographics, including hikers, campers, farmers and hunters, which sets the organization apart.

The Wildlife Federation noted Three Rivers’ Sportsman Access Program, which allows sportsmen who are members to access Three Rivers-owned properties on specific dates to hunt dove, deer, feral hogs, waterfowl and turkey. The federation said Three Rivers Land Trust “values and implements unique ways to connect the public with natural resources.”

Morehead said the award will likely bring more attention to Three Rivers, and he hopes it will bring more donors and volunteers, too. He said membership in the land trust comes in different forms, whether it is being the eyes and ears of land conservation through involvement in a local chapter, tagging along on a stewardship project such as planting trees or doing clerical work in the office.

Three Rivers Land Trust was nominated by residents of North Carolina and selected by a committee of scientists, environmental educators and conservation activists. T. Edward Nickens, the Wildlife Federation awards committee chairman, said the award comes with clout.

“This awards program brings together a remarkably diverse group of conservationists to highlight the good news about wildlife conservation in North Carolina,” Nickens said in a statement. “Our primary focus is to applaud and honor these people who work so hard for wildlife and the air, water and land that they and all of us depend on.”

Morehead said the award means something to each member of the staff and board, and they are committed to continuing the legacy that the award represents.

“We’ll try to live up to the name and do our very best,” Morehead said.

Based out of the Gateway Building on East Innes Street, Three Rivers Land Trust has expanded through a merger with Sandhills Area Land Trust this month, which added five counties to its coverage area. Three Rivers focuses on preserving rural land in Anson, Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan and Stanly counties. It now serves Moore, Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland, Richmond and Harnett counties.

Three Rivers Land Trust and other award recipients will be honored at a banquet Sept. 7 in Cary. Other winners include agency professionals, elected officials, volunteers and organizations.

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