Preserving Nature

January 31, 2005

Duke has signed an agreement with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to place 1,220 acres of Duke Forest in the Registry of Natural Heritage Areas. The registry agreement states it is the intention of the university to maintain the 1,220 acres for the perpetuation of natural processes, natural communities, and populations of rare species. Landowners who place their land in the Registry of Natural Heritage Areas are making a voluntary, nonbinding commitment with the state to preserve their natural areas.

The Duke Forest Teaching and Research Laboratory comprises 7,025 acres of land, occupying six tracts in Durham, Orange, and Alamance counties. It is administered by the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke. "This registry agreement gives formal recognition for something Duke has been doing for many years," says Judson Edeburn, Duke Forest resource manager. "And it further demonstrates our commitment to good stewardship of our most significant natural areas."

The 1,220 acres now registered include Couch Mountain, Bald Mountain, Blackwood Mountain, and Stony Creek Spring. Slopes along the Eno River and New Hope Creek also are registered, as are the forest's rare Piedmont meadow flats, among other sites. Duke Forest has been managed to provide a diverse array of research and teaching opportunities since its establishment in 1931. Active management, including the harvesting of timber stands, and passive management, in the form of reserving areas for observation of natural processes, have been equally important in enhancing the forest's academic and natural values, Edeburn says.

"Registering these significant natural areas with the Natural Heritage Program underscores their importance not only for the biological diversity they contain, but also for the long-term research opportunities they provide," he says. "This helps ensure our ability to meet the forest's academic mission."