Our goal is to protect natural places and make sure they are there for future generations. We note here the important acquisition of a natural area located in the Morgan Creek Bluffs Natural Area, recently announced by the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG). See press release. NCBG raised money through a fund drive, supplemented with funds from the Town of Chapel Hill and the Orange County Lands Legacy Program, to buy a portion of a 187-acre tract know as Still House Bottom—cited by NCBG as a large area of biodiversity significance.
The press release goes on to say that Still House Bottom is a conservation priority for the state of North Carolina, Orange County, and the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Over 100 plant species have been identified, and the high quality of the site is demonstrated by the presence of varied wildlife. The press release says this area is considered of such significance that the Botanical Garden will open the site to people only by special permit.
Dr. Johnny Randall from the Botanical Garden coordinated this important achievement. We want to bring everyone’s attention, including the Botanical Garden’s, to another important natural area of equivalent importance –Bolin Forest. The 425 acre Bolin Forest also features old growth trees, and a richly diverse habitat. This Bolin Forest is considered a conservation priority by the state of North Carolina, the Orange County Lands Legacy Program and Friends of Bolin Creek. We are aware that the sewer easement mars the natural conditions of the forest, as in the case of Morgan Creek near Still house Bottom.
Currently the area is well used by walkers, runners, bicyclists, and naturalists. Yet Bolin Forest lacks a management plan. The largest land owner of over 300 acres is owned by the University of North Carolina. By contract this land will not be developed; some is protected forever and other portions for 50 years. Portions west of the creek are home to the Great Horned Owl, the Pileated Woodpecker and the Spotted Salamander. These species cannot coexist with heavy human use. Yet currently University forest managers are cutting paths through this area, and the constructing multiple bridges over ravines. These practices are drawing more and more active recreation to this sensitive area.
We call on the University of North Carolina to respect the most ecologically important parts of Bolin Forest and to work with other environmental groups including the Friends of Bolin Creek to protect the ecology of this special area.