Conservation group to host meeting, seeks public interest

Published 1:04 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pamlico-Albemarle Wildlife Conservationists is gearing up to host its first meeting to raise awareness for one of the last remaining wilderness areas in North Carolina.

PAWC, the newly formed group, will host its kick-off meeting March 21 at 9 a.m. at the Beaufort County Cooperative Extension, 155A Airport Rd. in Washington. Breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m., prior to the meeting and registration will be open to interested attendees. The inaugural meeting will feature guest speakers Mike Bryant of the Alligator River Refuge, Curtis Smalling of N.C. Audubon and John Robbins of the N.C. Wildlife Federation.

The grassroots organization of wildlife enthusiasts, which was formed from a previous group, dubbed, Friends of Pocosin Lakes, focuses its advocacy and projects around protecting the Pamlico-Albemarle Peninsula, said Jennifer Skvarla, local resident and board member of PAWC. The group encompasses eight counties — Pitt, Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Hyde, Tyrrell, Dare and Pamlico — due to their location in relation to the Pamlico-Albemarle Sound.

“When we were just a ‘friends’ group for the wildlife refuge, it was narrowly focused,” Skvarla said. “We realized the issues aren’t centered around that one refuge so we needed to have this region-wide focus and a focus on advocacy.”

Partnering with several state, federal and local agencies like North Carolina Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, several state parks, including Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, and the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, the group has several focuses moving forward. Among its current issues and concerns in the area are: the Martin Marietta Mine in Blounts Creek; the Pamlico-Albemarle Refuge System; advocacy for the red wolf; marine fisheries issues; land management plans; and sustaining a healthy environment for future generations, Skvarla said.

PAWC President Attila Nemecz said the group has set goals and created committees that will accomplish those goals, which range anywhere from advocacy to public relations to education to more hands-on projects. The group’s partnership with the NCWF has also facilitated statewide involvement, rather than just from a local perspective, Nemecz said.

“Being in North Carolina, since we are such a vast space, we have all these issues we are dealing with,” Nemecz said. “We want to create a bigger membership base, and we would like the people of the Pamlico-Albemarle Peninsula to realize we are now creating an organization that will give everyone in the region a larger voice with the NCWF, as they have over 100,000 members in North Carolina, alone.”

Skvarla said PAWC is currently involved in several projects throughout the region, including Hunters for the Hungry, an outreach program through a partnership with Acre Station Meat Farms where hunters can bring their hunted game and Acre Station will process it and put it in the food bank for those less fortunate. Other projects include: a partnership with the NCWF that encourages area residents to have certified backyard habitats for wildlife through planting vegetation and creating water sources for wildlife; engaging entire communities to promote conservation and advocacy for the environment; and the group also hopes to partner with Beaufort County on its purchase of the Voice of America property to aid in the conservation of the Henslow Sparrow and its environment that happens to be on that particular property, Skvarla said.

“We are so unique in our agriculture — we feed the world,” Skvarla said. “We are lucky in that respect. We still have dark skies in eastern North Carolina. You look at a map at night — we’re the last large dark sky left on the eastern seaboard. We are the last rural area that hasn’t been overdeveloped and the animals have a chance to live and breed normally. We have over 220 species of birds — only 760-780 (species of birds) exist in the United States so that’s over a quarter (of the population).

“We have a lot of wild spaces, and we have the only population of red wolves in the world. We have the densest population on the east coast for black bears. We have these spaces for wildlife to exist that you don’t see in other parts of the nation and even in North Carolina. This gives you an idea — it’s important for this area to have a voice because this area is unparalleled for other areas. We are the voice for wildlife, which can’t speak for itself, and I feel like that’s our goal — to speak for wildlife and protect it for future generations.”

For more information about the Pamlico-Albemarle Wildlife Conservationists (PAWC), contact Attila Nemecz at 252-940-8672.