North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership logo

Reserve Design Working Group

The Sandhills Conservation Partnership was convened in response to landscape level changes that threaten both native biodiversity and training capacity on military installations. A number of working groups from a wide range of stakeholders were convened to address these threats and look for strategic conservation opportunities. The reserve design is a vision for conservation of Sandhills ecosystems, including important ecological processes, such as fire. One guiding principle for the Reserve Design Working Group was that it is most effective to conserve elements of the landscape, and ecosystems, where they currently exist. It is extremely difficult -- if not impossible -- and expensive to recreate or restore ecoystems.The goal of the Reserve Design Working group is to: Synthesize biological information and create a vision to guide long-term conservation of native Sandhills ecosystems. The Reserve Design Working Group identified four objectives for their work:

  • Identify the most important areas to conserve from a biological perspective
  • Identify buffers to adequately conserve the resources and ecological processes of protected areas
  • Identify connections between important areas that promote gene flow and wildlife movement
  • Provide this information to other working groups for implementation.

The focus area for the Sandhills Conservation Partnership is based on Sandhills soils. This focus area includes much of Hoke, Harnett, Cumberland, Scotland, Richmond counties, and a smaller proportion of Lee and Montgomery counties. The two large managed areas within this focus area are Sandhills Game Land and Fort Bragg. The focus area is without major rivers, (and the distance between waterways actually contributes to fire ecology), but some of the notable waterways include the Little River and Rockfish Creek, which flow into the Cape Fear River, and Drowning and Naked Creek - major tributaries to the Lumber River.

Five strategies were conceived to meet the objectives:

  • Identify biological targets for conservation, including species, natural communities, and animal habitats unique to the Sandhills
  • Map areas of known ecological significance
  • Identify areas of potential ecological significance
  • Identify functions of individual connectors and buffers; fill information gaps; map functional connectors and buffers
  • Periodically review new information and update reserve design