Wildlife Refuge to be Built on South Yadkin

12/16/99 by Staff Writer

By Bruce Henderson in the December 16, 1999, issue of The Charlotte Observer

A Salisbury-based land trust and Catawba College said Wednesday they will create a 300-acre wildlife refuge on the South Yadkin River.

LandTrust for Central North Carolina bought the land using a $500,000 state clean-water grant. Private fund raising will pay for the rest of the $850,000 purchase from Joe Stirewalt, owner of Piedmont Hardwood Lumber Co.

The land trust will transfer the property to Catawba’s Center for the Environment, which plans to prohibit development. The resulting Catawba College South Yadkin Wildlife Refuge, 7 miles north of the college, will provide a living laboratory for students in wildlife management and land conservation.

The refuge will not be regularly open to the public, but the college and land trust will
offer field trips.

It’s the largest undeveloped property to be preserved in Rowan County, the trust said.

The property is in a bend of the South Yadkin at its confluence with Second Creek. It covers 1.5 miles of shoreline.

In 1996, LandTrust received an easement preserving 1,800 acres at Cooleemee Plantation, farther up the Yadkin in Davie County. The trust has protected about 3,000 acres in the region overall.

John Wear, director of the environment center, said the college envisions acquiring more land that could become part of a much larger refuge network. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consulted on the plan.

“We have all the confidence in the world that this will act as a catalyst for the preservation and management of other tracts in the area,” said Jeff Michael, LandTrust’s executive director.

Many organizations are working to preserve clean water, open land and wildlife habitat in the same area, Michael said. Several landowners are interested in preserving their land, he said.

“It’s important to us now,” Wear said, “but it’s really going to be important 15 years from now when we all of a sudden look back and say, ‘What happened? Where did the land go?’”

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