The North Carolina Coastal Land Trust recently purchased for preservation Hutaff Island in southern Pender County, the last privately-owned undeveloped barrier island in the state, according to the conservation organization.
The 2.5-mile long beach and the 1,000 acres of saltmarsh and island hammocks are an example of a natural, dynamic barrier island system. The island, the first line of defense against storms for local communities, helps provide critical habitat for threatened species like sea turtles and beach-nesting birds, as well as rare plants, Coastal Land Trust said.
“Hutaff Island is a classic barrier island landscape that supports the full complement of plants and animals that depend on North Carolina’s barrier islands, and it is equally important to people that live on and visit our coast,” said Walker Golder, executive director of the Coastal Land Trust, in a statement. “We are so very grateful to the Hutaff and McEachern families and the partnership that made this possible.”
Hutaff Island will be protected in perpetuity by the Coastal Land Trust and managed in partnership with Audubon North Carolina. The property was purchased with the support of conservation philanthropist Tim Sweeney, the Hutaff and McEachern families, which owned the land, and a partnership between the Coastal Land Trust and Audubon North Carolina.
The Hutaff and McEachern families, who have owned the island since 1925, are “thrilled the island will be conserved and remain as a natural habitat forever,” according to a statement shared by the families.
The protection of Hutaff Island will help sustain the “Outstanding Resource Waters” as designated by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality, officials said. The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program has recognized Hutaff Island as a critical component of the Lea-Hutaff “Significant Natural Heritage Area” because of its “special biodiversity significance due to the presence of rare species, unique natural communities, important animal assemblages, or other ecological features.”
“Nothing epitomizes our land conservation aspirations better than acquiring Hutaff Island — a property at the top of our Top 40 List,” said Janice Allen, director of land protection for the Coastal Land Trust.
Dr. Stan Riggs, coastal geologist and longtime friend to the Coastal Land Trust, said that the conservation of Hutaff Island is critical.
“Hutaff Island not only serves as important habitat for coastal wildlife, but, like other barrier islands, it also serves as nature’s speed bump slowing down the forces of storms before they reach the mainland. Even with sea level rise, Hutaff Island will still be around and will continue to roll back like these undeveloped islands do,” he continued.