Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
North Carolina Natural and Working Lands

North Carolina Natural and Working Lands

The North Carolina Natural and Working Lands Action Plan, part of the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan, was created in response to Executive Order 80 to identify opportunities for North Carolina’s natural and working lands (NWL), including farms, forests, and wetlands, to sequester carbon, support ecosystem and community resilience, and enhance the state’s economy.  In collaboration with the North Carolina’s Natural and Working Lands stakeholder group, the Nicholas Institute helped to develop maps and recommendations for the Natural and Working Lands Action Plan (PDF) related to managing lands in the state to enhance these benefits.

The Nicholas Institute led a NWL subcommittee on floodplains and wetlands and coordinated development of a recommendation for coordinated buyouts and restoration in frequently flooded areas. The Institute also conducted spatial analysis to identify the geographic scope of many of the NWL group’s recommendations, the potential scale of the recommended actions’ carbon and resilience benefits, and how the recommended actions overlap with areas important for co-benefits such as improved water quality and recreational access. These results are included in the NWL Action Plan, and data and maps are available for download. The data is also summarized in a series of StoryMaps External link that include state-level maps and information as well as examples of using the data at local scales.  This information can be useful for targeting actions and understanding co-benefits and trade-offs at both the state and local levels.

Related work stemming from conversations by the NC NWL forestry subcommittee has resulted in a policy brief that describes a menu of state actions to promote forest-based natural climate solutions. Though this brief was derived from the North Carolina Natural and Working Lands Action Plan and Forest Action Plan, the menu of action items is relevant to any state looking for ways to enhance carbon storage and sequestration in its forests.

Following the NWL Action Plan’s release in 2020, the Nicholas Institute continues to work on making information about nature-based solutions that provide value for both people and nature accessible to the public and improving the maps and data available to inform NWL management in North Carolina, including through online dashboards and updated pocosins maps. A guide to developing NWL action plans, aimed at other states and built on our experience with North Carolina, was released in 2022.

NWL Action Plan



Data and Methods Guide

Downloadable Datasets


Conservation Planning Tools for North Carolina’s People and Nature