We have some exciting news to share with you about the Hemlock Restoration Initiative.
As you may recall, Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, launched the HRI program with available funds from the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2014. Managed as a program of WNC Communities and with the help of our broad range of partners and volunteers, HRI has made great strides in improving the health of our forest lands by establishing hemlock conservation areas across the western half of our state and implementing management activities to slow the trend of HWA-induced decline in those hemlock-driven ecosystems, including the treatment of over 85,500 trees in the past five years.
The program’s success can be attributed to the Commissioner’s initial vision and allocation of seed funding for the HRI, which has been leveraged with matching grants from the USDA-FS Forest Health Protection program, local county governments, NGOs and private donations. Equally important were two additional infusions of state funding, allocated to the HRI by the members of NC General Assembly under the leadership of Representative Chuck McGrady. However, in the past year and a half, that funding has not been renewed due to the lack of passage of a state budget in 2019 and new funding priorities and constraints resulting from COVID-19. Both have led to visible uncertainties for HRI.
In an attempt to allay fears and to show both solidarity and commitment, Commissioner Troxler and WNC Communities Executive Director, Jennifer Ferre, have issued a joint proclamation (included below) stating their desires to continue the existing momentum and to inspire ongoing collaboration, cooperation and support among partnering organizations. This bold action provides encouragement for the future of HRI, while giving assurance to funders and volunteers that the HRI’s efforts will continue and that our restoration goals will be met. We are extremely grateful to the Commissioner and to WNC Communities for taking this next vital step.
Sharing this good news with you also allows me the opportunity to thank you for your contribution to our success and to encourage you to continue your support. Together, we will build on the strong foundation we have created and secure hemlocks’ place in our forests now and into the future.
You can also visit the NCDA&CS website to see their announcement of the proclamation.