Coastal Plain Conservation Group (CPCG) is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization working to protect rare and imperiled plants and wildlife and the habitats that benefit them and us. CPCG is a small and nimble operation, but we have accomplished a great deal in the few years we have been in operation.
CPCG was founded in 2011 by Andy Wood, and his son Carson Wood, to help support their respective works, including Andy’s all but single-handed 25 year campaign-turned-crusade to prevent extinction of the Magnificent Ramshorn; a freshwater snail once found in tributary streams and associated beaver ponds within the lower Cape Fear River region. The last living members of this largest North American aquatic lunged snail are in Andy’s captive care, as he has provided since 1992. Our field surveys indicate this animal’s last wild population was lost to saltwater intrusion in summer 2008.
Andy Wood, an author, ecologist and conservation educator, has been engaged in the modern environmental movement since Earth Day 1970. His career includes 12 years as Education Curator for the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, and more than a decade as state Education Director with the National Audubon Society. Today, Andy volunteers his direction of CPCG to save rare and imperiled plants and wildlife, and works to save himself as project manager for Habitats Environmental Services, LLC; a community conservation consulting company owned by his wife Sandy. Together, Andy and Sandy design and install habitat gardens and conservation landscapes to help community members save money by reducing water and chemical use and unnecessary maintenance.
Carson Wood, a fifth generation biologist, is an accomplished field naturalist and has been professionally working with Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCWO) since 2009. Carson’s extensive experience with this Endangered Species enabled him to attain all permits required as a USFWS Recovery Permittee and USGS Master Bird Bander. In addition to working with RCWO, Carson is a field technician with a Wilmington-based environmental consulting company.
CPCG is a small and nimble organization that focuses attention on imperiled species at population scale, along with threatened habitats that otherwise slip through conservation gaps. The upside of this small-scale focused approach is seen in CPCG’s accomplishments including the purchase and protection of a 10-acre tract of longleaf pine forest slated to be razed and converted to horse pasture in October 2015. Our GoFundMe capital campaign generated the needed $100,000 for us to purchase the property, but we still have a bridge loan to repay. Please visit our Protecting a Longleaf Pine Legacy page to learn how you can help us repay this loan, due in October 2017!
The property is ecologically significant because it represents 20% of the year-round forage habitat for a population of aforementioned Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. This means, had the property been converted to pasture, the woodpeckers would likely have abandoned their year-round longleaf pine territory.
In addition to being critical habitat for endangered woodpeckers, the habitat supports Bachman’s Sparrow, Carolina Gopher Frog (NC’s rarest frog species), Oak Toad, Spotted Turtle, Southern Pigmy Rattlesnake, Venus’ Fly Trap, three species of carnivorous pitcher plants, at least five kinds of orchids, and too many other species to list here. We’ll soon compose a page with a more complete species listing.
Another noteworthy CPCG accomplishment is the stewardship of two species of mollusk known only from a handful of sites in southeast North Carolina: the Magnificent Ramshorn (Planorbella magnifica), and Greenfield Ramshorn (Helisoma eucosmium), two of the world’s rarest snails. We get it; they’re snails, and glamorous ones at that as the accompanying pictures attest. Both snails are rightly considered Flagship Species, which The World Wildlife Fund describes as, “iconic animals that provide a focus for raising awareness and stimulating action and funding for broader conservation efforts.”
CPCG is protecting these two snails in order to have leverage if and when the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) grants them Endangered Species status; something we have asked FWS to do since 1994. The leverage will be applied to move the US Corps of Engineers to mitigate consequences resulting from dredging the Cape Fear River, including saltwater intrusion from the Atlantic Ocean, with which the river directly communicates.
Saltwater intrusion resulting from river dredging has killed tens of thousands of acres of bottomland swamp forest trees and altered a landscape-scale ecosystem without much fanfare. Dead cypress trees, many of them 1,000 years of age and older, are visible along the river and its tributaries, but they receive little attention other than being called “Ghost Trees.” These are not ghosts, they are sentinels telling us harm is befalling the environment we share with other life forms.
Continued dredging is funneling saltwater further inland, destroying freshwater habitats that support hundreds of plant and wildlife species, including some found nowhere else on Earth, notably our beloved flagship snails.
CPCG speaks for the snails because nobody else will. We are glad to do so, but we need some help.
The Cape Fear River’s swamp forests are endangered from dredging and now also from logging to render swamp trees into wood pellets for export to Europe where they are burned with coal in a subsidized scheme to extend the use of dirty fossil fuels while garnering profit for multi-national corporations, at the expense of American taxpayers.
If taxpayers are going to subsidize corporations, also called citizens, CPCG thinks it is more logical to use tax-based subsidy to help forest owners keep their forests intact to the benefit of people, plants, and wildlife.
Burning trees to generate electricity is beyond foolhardy, because doing so removes our best tool for combating climate change: trees! Especially swamp trees because they scrub Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the air, and pollutants from the water.
These two snails are caught in a bottleneck formed between downstream swamps being killed by saltwater intrusion, and upstream swamps being logged to make wood pellets. The irony is, the saltwater intrusion is a consequence of river dredging to facilitate trans-Atlantic shipping from the Wilmington State Port to Great Britain and other ports of call, including shipping wood pellets generated from the same river’s upstream swamps.
CPCG will champion the snails and all the other beings that are part of their community. But we need help to do this and we hope you will consider making a financial donation and help us fulfill our focused efforts to prevent the otherwise likely and untimely extinction of two charming snails and their compelling habitats.
The untenable alternative is to just watch keep these rare animals languish into obscurity, remembered only as ghosts of a bygone realm.
With a donation to CPCG you will be supporting habitat monitoring, management, and protection of a 10-acre tract of critical plant and wildlife habitat. You will also be securing the future existence of two species of freshwater snails that only CPCG is willing to protect from extinction, now 25 years in the doing. Your donation will also help us hold resource extractors accountable for consequences of their actions.
For information about donating to CPCG, please visit our Protecting a Longleaf Pine Legacy page.
RCWO, P. magnifica & H. eucosmium