The N.C. Wildlife Action Plan is a comprehensive management tool developed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and more than 50 partners to help conserve and enhance the state’s full array of fish and wildlife species and their habitats. The Commission worked with expert biologists statewide to identify 371 priority wildlife species. These are the birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mollusks and crustaceans that are targeted for conservation action.
The Wildlife Action Plan describes 17 river basins and 23 types of habitats that are found across the state. The plan matches each priority species to the habitat type or river basin where it is found, identifies the most important threats facing each habitat, and details the critical actions required to protect and conserve these habitats. This is the basic framework underlying the Wildlife Action Plan. Priority wildlife can now be specifically targeted by carefully considering conservation or management options within essential habitats. The goal is to strategically target imperiled animals and their required habitats early, preventing them from becoming extinct.
The Wildlife Action Plans emerged from a mandate by the U.S. Congress that each state develop a comprehensive conservation strategy to be eligible for federal funding under the State Wildlife Grants program. North Carolina was the first state to submit its Action Plan in 2005. Each year, our state has received around $1.5 million to support implementation of the conservation actions laid out in the plan. In large part these funds have been used to support the Commission’s Wildlife Diversity Program, which implements the Wildlife Action Plan throughout North Carolina.
Congress identified eight required elements to be addressed in each state’s Wildlife Action Plan. Congress also directed that the strategies must identify and be focused on the “species in greatest need of conservation,” yet address the “full array of wildlife” and wildlife-related issues. The strategies must provide and make use of:
(1) Information on the distribution and abundance of species of wildlife, including low and declining populations as the State fish and wildlife agency deems appropriate, that are indicative of the diversity and health of the State’s wildlife; and,
(2) Descriptions of locations and relative condition of key habitats and community types essential to conservation of species identified in (1); and,
(3) Descriptions of problems which may adversely affect species identified in (1) or their habitats, and priority research and survey efforts needed to identify factors which may assist in restoration and improved conservation of these species and habitats; and,
(4) Descriptions of conservation actions proposed to conserve the identified species and habitats and priorities for implementing such actions; and,
(5) Proposed plans for monitoring species identified in (1) and their habitats, for monitoring the effectiveness of the conservation actions proposed in (4), and for adapting these conservation actions to respond appropriately to new information or changing conditions; and,
(6) Descriptions of procedures to review the strategy at intervals not to exceed ten years; and,
(7) Plans for coordinating the development, implementation, review, and revision of the plan with Federal, State, and local agencies and Indian tribes that manage significant land and water areas within the State or administer programs that significantly affect the conservation of identified species and habitats.
(8) Congress also affirmed through this legislation that broad public participation is an essential element of developing and implementing these plans, the projects that are carried out while these plans are developed, and the Species in Greatest Need of Conservation that Congress has indicated such programs and projects are intended to emphasize.
All links below are PDFs that open to a new window. Acrobat Reader is required. You may download the complete document or sections of interest below.
Download entire document
Table of Contents
Forward & Executive Summary
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Approach
Chapter 3.State of the State
Chapter 4. Statewide Conservation Strategies
(including 4A. Urban wildlife; 4B. Private lands; 4C. Land conservation; 4D. Education/outreach)
Chapter 5. Species and Habitat Conservation Strategies
(including Ch. 5A - Terrestrial Sysytems)
5B. Aquatic Systems
5C. Marine Systems
Chapter 6. Synthesis of Conservation Priorities
Chapter 7. Status and Trends Monitoring
Chapter 8. Implementation Monitoring, Adaptive Management, Review and Revision Procedures
Glossary & Key
A. IAFWA Guiding Principles
B. Media Examples
C. Exec Summary of Stakeholder Meeting
D. Additional Species Explanations
E. Original Species Prioritization Criteria
F. Land Cover Data Crosswalk
G. Habitat Association Matrix - Terrestrial Species
H. River Basin Matrix - Aquatic Species
I. Species Recovery Plans
J. Forestry Summit and Working Lands Summit Recommendations
K (partial). NC GAP Analysis Project
Many (144 species) freshwater mussels, fishes and crayfishes in North Carolina are listed as threatened or endangered or were identified as priorities for conservation in North Carolina’s Wildlife Action Plan. Surveys to monitor these species and their habitats, as well as searches for new or undiscovered populations, are conducted by biologists throughout the state. Information from these studies is used to guide habitat conservation and enhancement, update the status of imperiled species, revise conservation priorities, and assess the effectiveness of conservation actions.
Wildlife Diversity staff monitor bald eagle nests each year to obtain information, such as the number of active nests, along with the number of young fledged per nest. Bald eagles are another example of a collaboration of the Commission, agencies, organizations and landowners that has led to the national recovery of an endangered species. The Wildlife Observation Site on Jordan Lake provides a tranquil location for observing our national bird in addition to year-round wildlife. Wildlife Diversity staff coordinates management of this site, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New Hope Audubon Society, and helps landowners statewide with guidance and information on how to ensure the continued recovery of bald eagles in North Carolina.
Wildlife Diversity staff conduct monitoring studies throughout the state to determine bat distribution and hibernation sites. They use a variety of methods, such as mist netting, trapping, banding and telemetry, to survey and band hundreds of bats. They also work to conserve important roost sites such as caves and mines.
hi-res (pdf, 1 MB)
North Carolina’s White-nose Syndrome Surveillance and Response Plan (pdf, 2 MB)
The Commission began surveys for bog turtles in North Carolina in the 1980s to determine the status of populations. Since then, Wildlife Diversity biologists and partners have conducted surveys every year and recorded important information on each captured bog turtle, such as gender, age and shell length. They are working to conserve the rare wetland habitats in the upper Piedmont and mountains that these turtles call home.
Wildlife Diversity staff launched a project during 2007 to determine the abundance and distribution of the Carolina madtom, a very small catfish. The madtom is listed as a state-threatened fish and was once abundant in the Neuse and Tar rivers. Biologists’ surveys found the fish is still abundant in the Tar River but is nearly gone from the Neuse River. One of the reasons for the fish’s decline in the Neuse is degraded habitat due to urban development. This suggests that additional care is required if the madtom is going to survive the Tar River basin’s development.
Since2007, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission mountain region Wildlife DiversityProgram, along with project partners from the N.C. Zoo, collaborators from theN.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, and other agencies, volunteers,universities, etc., began a long-term project to inventory, monitor and assessspecies status in North Carolina. The goals are to study hellbender populationsin the state, revisit historical locations, discover new locations, monitorpopulations and increasing threats to habitats, conduct applied research andeducate the public on hellbender conservation.
lo res (pdf - 563 KB)
high res (pdf - 3.52 MB)
Wildlife Diversity staff survey and monitor green salamanders in western North Carolina to help determine the status of green salamander populations in the state and direct conservation action.
Pigeon River. The Pigeon River was severely polluted by a paper mill for nearly a century. Cleanup efforts reversed much of the damage, but many native fish species had disappeared with no route to recolonize naturally. Since 2003, biologists have been working with partners Blue Ridge Paper, University of Tennessee, N.C. Division of Water Quality and others to restore some of these populations. So far, six fish species —silver, mirror, telescope, striped and Tennessee shiners, and gilt darters — are being reintroduced to their native water.
Cheoah River. The Cheoah River had most of its water diverted for hydropower production for more than 70 years. Flow now has been restored but the river is isolated from potential source populations of missing species. Biologists are working now with partners Alcoa, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Virginia Tech and others to restore habitat and species. In 2007, wavy-rayed lampmussels were the first to be reintroduced. A cooperative effort is under way now to restore the spotfin chub, a federal threatened species.
The NC Birding Trail was created "to conserve and enhance North Carolina's bird habitat by promoting sustainable bird watching activities, economic opportunities and conservation education."
Wildlife Diversity personnel in the mountains conduct research involving trapping, nest box surveys and radio-telemetry of northern flying squirrels to help determine the range of this endangered species. This information will help ensure that our forests are managed in a manner that protects and enhances northern flying squirrel habitat.
Between 1984 and 1997, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission personnel released 92 juvenile peregrines from various cliff sites in western North Carolina. In 1999, peregrines were removed from the federal list of endangered species; however, with such a small population in North Carolina (less than 15 breeding pairs), falcons remain on the state endangered species list. Wildlife Diversity staff coordinate a nest monitoring project, which continues to track the success of restoration efforts and provides guidance to cliff landowners on how to manage these important breeding sites.
North Carolina has a new tool for conserving rare and endangered freshwater mussels and fishes! Wildlife Diversity is partnering with the Commission’s Table Rock and Marion fish hatcheries, N.C. State University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the N.C. Department of Transportation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Conservation Fisheries, Inc., to develop facilities, techniques and the expertise needed to reproduce rare species in captivity. Following successful experiments to hold and propagate mussels, plans are now under way to expand culture facilities for them and rare fishes at the Marion hatchery. This expansion will enable biologists to provide safe refuge for critically endangered mussels during short-term habitat problems (like drought). It also will allow for the production of juvenile mussels and fishes for restoring populations in North Carolina streams and rivers and will support further research to improve and expand these efforts.
Wildlife Diversity staff work on Commission-owned game lands and with other state and federal agencies in North Carolina to manage public land for the red-cockaded woodpecker. In addition, the Commission has initiated a Safe Harbor Program on private lands to help landowners manage their properties in ways that benefit woodpeckers while ensuring that landowners can utilize their property in compliance with terms of the US Endangered Species Act. This small black-and-white woodpecker, perhaps the most well-known endangered species in North Carolina, uses open stands of pine forests with trees that are 30 years or older for foraging and even more mature trees for nesting.
Learn about the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Safe Harbor Program:
Safe Harbor Program Questions and Answers (PDF)
Information for Landowners. Is it right for you? (PDF)
Since 2002, Wildlife Diversity personnel have been principals in a cooperative project tagging and monitoring the robust redhorse, a large sucker that until very recently was thought to be extinct in North Carolina. The robust redhorse is extremely rare and, in North Carolina, is found only in the Pee DeeRiver. Human impacts, such as dam building, pollution and the introduction of exotic species, are likely causes of the fish’s decline.
lo-res (pdf, 392 KB)
hi-res (pdf, 2.32 MB)
Learn more at seaturtle.org
Learn about the satellite tracking at Bald Head Island, NC
Begun in 2004, the Urban Wildlife Project works to promote open space conservation through land use planning and land conservation in the Triangle Region. This proactive approach steers development away from sensitive wildlife habitat and encourages compact communities with associated connected open spaces.
This annual event highlights the biology, ecology and conservation needs of reptiles and amphibians around the world. With live animal and educational exhibits, the event offers much to see and learn for people of all ages.
Wildlife Resources Commission staff work cooperatively with many different partners and stakeholders to conserve North Carolina’s natural resources. Some of these working relationships span years and involve multiple project efforts, while others represent single or unique opportunities. These descriptions represent only a few of the partnerships Commission staff have been involved with over the years. A broader list is available for download in Adobe PDF format; Click here for a copy of the list.
Albermarle Pamlico Community Conservation Collaboration
The Albermarle Pamlico Community Conservation Collaboration got underway in 2007 when an extensive group of professionals gathered to share concerns for the natural resources and important wildlife habitats of the Albermarle Pamlico peninsula, especially in light of global climate change. This group intends to explore opportunities to manage lands, restore habitats, and protect lands and waters for the benefit of species native to the region.
Cape Fear Arch
The Cape Fear Arch includes the watersheds of the lower Cape Fear and the Waccamaw Rivers. The area is under great development pressure, which requires infrastructure that often eliminates habitat for important wildlife species. Since forming in 2006, the mission has been to develop a community conservation vision that provides protection and stewardship of the important natural resources and raises conservation awareness for the area.
Chatham Conservation Partnership
Numerous state and federal agencies, local land trusts, local conservation organization, county officials, commissioners, planners, and landowners have the common interest of developing a sustainable county focused on the preservation of its natural resources and rural and agricultural heritage.
Conservation Trust for North Carolina
The Conservation Trust for North Carolina protects land and water through direct efforts with willing landowners and in partnership with our state's local and regional land trusts. As a land trust, their protection efforts are focused on mountain streams, forests, and scenic views along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture
A collaboration between state fish and wildlife agencies, federal resource agencies, academic institutions and private sector conservation organizations working under a Memorandum of Understanding to conserve native Eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and their habitats. The long-term goals of the joint venture are to implement a comprehensive conservation strategy to improve aquatic habitat, raise public awareness, and prioritize the use of federal, state and local funds for brook trout conservation.
Greater Uwharrie Conservation Partnership
This partnership centers around the southern, central Piedmont of North Carolina that contains the Uwharries, an ancient mountain range, a series of lakes along the Yadkin-Pee Dee watershed, nationally significant aquatic habitats, rare wetlands, Uwharrie National Forest, Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, farmlands, and Piedmont prairie remnants. The mission is to work for the long-term conservation and enhancement of biological diversity and ecosystem sustainability throughout the Greater Uwharries landscape compatible with the land use, conservation, and management objectives of the participating organizations and agencies.
Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition
A conservation organization whose mission is to facilitate water quality improvements in lakes and streams throughout the upper Hiwassee River watershed within Cherokee and Clay counties in NC. The coalition supports water quality education, watershed restoration projects, watershed planning, and opportunities for citizens to volunteer.
North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
The Coastal Land Trust works to protect land, water, and air quality in the Coastal Plain through the acquisition of open space and natural areas, conservation education, and the promotion of good land stewardship.
NC Partners in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation
NC Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (NCPARC) is North Carolina’s own chapter of the successful world-wide organization Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Like its parent organization, NCPARC unifies members from all walks of life under one banner; that of the conservation of amphibians and reptiles and their habitats. The program hopes to make a difference for the persistence of healthy amphibian and reptile populations in our state.
NC Partners In Flight
This initiative, coordinated by Wildlife Resources Commission nongame staff, brings together government, private and public organizations and individuals in an effort to further migratory bird conservation throughout the Americas. Through habitat protection, management, monitoring, professional training and education, this program strives to maintain both bird species and habitats.
North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership
This Partnership was formed to facilitate collaboration between various federal, state, and non-profit conservation groups for the purpose of conserving the vanishing longleaf pine ecosystem and recovering the federally-listed endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in the North Carolina Sandhills.
Onslow Bight Conservation Forum
The goals of this conservation forum include promoting conservation, restoration, health and sustainable use of the landscape and the native terrestrial and aquatic communities that depend, in whole or in part, on the lands and waters of the Onslow Bight area. This regional collaboration works toward conserving saltwater marshes, riverine wetlands, pocosins, longleaf pine savannahs, and other coastal plain ecosystems located between Cape Lookout and the Cape Fear River. The area also encompasses several large protected areas, including Cape Lejune and Croatan National Forest.
NC Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (NCPARC) is North Carolina’s own chapter of the successful world-wide organization Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. The members of NCPARC hail from academia, state and federal agencies, research facilities, nature education centers, land trusts, municipalities, zoos, veterinary fields, forest products industries, energy cooperatives, conservation organizations, herpetological societies, pet trade industries, museums, and even your own neighborhoods. The program hopes to make a difference for the persistence of healthy amphibian and reptile populations in our state.
This initiative, coordinated by Wildlife Resources Commission nongame staff, brings together government, private and public organizations and individuals in an effort to further migratory bird conservation throughout the Americas. Through habitat protection, management, monitoring, professional training and education, this program strives to maintain both bird species and habitats
Robust Redhorse Conservation Committee
A voluntary stakeholder partnership established in 1995 and charged with the overall responsibility for directing the recovery of the robust redhorse (Moxostoma robustum). The partnership is a pioneering effort to recover a species proactively, without federal listing. The partnership operates under a Memorandum of Understanding between state and federal resource agencies, private industry, and the conservation community in lieu of listing this species under the Endangered Species Act.
Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership
A regional collaboration of natural resource and science agencies, conservation organizations, and private interests developed to strengthen the management and conservation of aquatic resources in the southeastern United States. The mission of this partnership is to protect, conserve, and restore aquatic resources including habitats throughout the Southeast.
Help Us Now: Help us incorporate strategies and recommendations for addressing impacts to fish and wildlife species, including climate change.
State-wide Amphibian Survey
If you are familiar with frog calls, you can volunteer for a route with the Calling Amphibian Survey Program. This is a night survey where you listen for frog calls. The program requires being able to identify frogs by sound, but training sessions are available. To find out more, go to the N.C. Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation website or contact Jeff Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to choose a route.
The Wildlife Diversity Program collaborates with the Center for Conservation Biology’s United States Nightjar Survey Network to monitor populations of whip-poor-will, chuck-wills-widow, and common nighthawk. To find out more go to the US Nightjar Survey Network website (http://ccb-wm.org/nightjars.htm) or for routes in the mountain region, contact Christine.email@example.com.
Track Reptile and Amphibian Populations
Help NCWRC biologists track reptile and amphibian populations by registering with the Carolina Herp Atlas and reporting your observations.
The Wildlife Diversity Program also works closely with volunteers from the N.C. Herpetological Society to survey, monitor, and conserve bog turtle habitat in North Carolina. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about bog turtle monitoring and management in North Carolina.
Coastal Waterbird Projects
Coastal North Carolina is home to many species of marsh-, shore-, sea-, and wading birds. To keep these species common along our coast, and to monitor rare species closely, the Wildlife Diversity Program conducts seasonal surveys and research, and protects important habitat. If you are interested in assisting with surveys of Piping Plovers, American Oystercatchers, colonial-nesting waterbirds, or other species; ongoing research projects; or habitat protection activities, contact email@example.com for more information.
Jordan Eagle Observation Area
Folks in the Chatham County area can volunteer to be stewards of the Jordan Lake eagle observation area off Martha’s Chapel Road. We need people willing to help pick up trash, develop educational signs, maintain trails, and monitor the area. Interested parties can get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org, or the New Hope Audubon Society (Bo Howes, email@example.com).
Monitor Bat Populations
The Wildlife Diversity Program has several efforts underway to monitor North Carolina’s bats (most in the mountains of N.C.), including winter surveys of hibernating bats, surveillance for White Nose Syndrome (a deadly bat disease), long term monitoring at summer habitats, and bat acoustic surveys (NC BAMP – Bat Acoustic Monitoring Program) . Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about volunteer opportunities with bats.
The North Carolina Wildlife Action Plan is intended to provide a foundation for State and Federal agencies and other conservation partners to think strategically about their individual roles and coordinate prioritizing conservation efforts throughout the state. The current deadline to evaluate and revise the plan is October 2015.
North Carolina’s revision process began with the September 2010 Climate Impacts Workshop held in Raleigh and continued with five regional workshops held during early 2011. You can find more information about these workshops under the “Related Information” menu.
Updated Species Priority Lists: Evaluation and ranking criteria metrics were updated in 2013 and used by teams of species experts to identify Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and species for which there are knowledge gaps and management concerns. The taxa review process is described in a white paper and an abbreviated outline (“cheat sheet”) of the ranking metrics that are available for download. Click on the document name to download a file in PDF format.
Updated lists of SGCN and other species that are a priority based on knowledge gaps and management concerns are now available for download. Click on the species group name to download a file in Excel format.
Help Us Now: Help us incorporate strategies and recommendations for addressing impacts to fish and wildlife species, including climate change impacts, by sending your comments to email@example.com.
Help Us Later: Participate in future opportunities to review and comment on a variety of other topics. Future opportunities will be announced on the Commission’s website www.ncwildlife.org/conserving.
If you have questions or need more information, contact Cindy Carr, Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
N.C. Wildlife Action Plan
[Note: Large PDF download -
9 MB | 577 pages]
Wildlife in North Carolina
(PDF 2.4 MB)
(PDF - 1.26 MB)
Participate in the Revision Process
2011 Spring Regional Workshops
2010 September Climate Impacts Workshop
Return to N.C. Wildlife Action Plan
North Carolina River Basins
Click here for more information about N.C. River Basins
(N.C. Environmental Education website)