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North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Gordon Myers, Executive Director

Durham City Council


101 City Hall Plaza
Durham, NC 27701

August 22, 2018

To the Durham City Council,

The NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) provides information and technical assistance to
local governments on conservation-based land use planning, policies, and ordinances. The natural resource
protections recommended in the Patterson Place Design District Zoning Regulations by the Durham Planning
Department will support the conservation of many highly imperiled wildlife species and ecosystems.

Floodplain Setbacks
The floodplain setbacks of 300 feet will buffer the Lower New Hope Creek Floodplain Forest and
Slopes Natural Heritage Natural Area (NHNA) from the direct and indirect impacts of nearby development.
This area is considered one of the most ecologically sensitive areas we know of in the state. It has high
quality Piedmont bottomland forests, which has become a rare forest type in the south. It is estimated that
in the past 50 years, an estimated 52% of bottomland forests in the south have been cleared for agriculture
or development.i These forests are important for neotropical migratory birds that breed in the Piedmont of
NC. Acadian flycatcher (Empidonax virescens), northern parula (Setophaga americana), red-eyed vireo (Vireo
olivaceus), wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), summer tanager (Piranga rubra), and common yellowthroat
(Geothlypis trichas), for example, have been documented in this NHNA.ii The NC Wildlife Resources
Commission recommends that sensitive natural areas are buffered from incompatible land use (i.e., any
development) by encouraging the protection of rural, working lands adjacent to NHNAs. Since this particular
NHNA is no longer in a rural context, it is imperative that the largest buffer of native vegetation (i.e.,
hardwood forest) be maintained between developments and the sensitive natural areas. These serve to
minimize erosion, reduce the effects of daylighting, and limit the spread of non-native, edge-dependent,
invasive species into forested ecosystems. Large buffer areas also help reduce the effects of noise, outdoor
lighting, and other disturbances to wildlife that result from proximity to human settlement.

Steep Slope Revisions


Urbanized land can have a disproportionate effect on freshwater stream health, with estimates
indicating that urbanized basins can impair as much as three times the length of stream impacts when
compared to stream impacts from agricultural land uses.iii To minimize the degrading effects of erosion
on aquatic natural areas and wildlife, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission recommends that the steep
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slopes of greater than 15% be protected from development. It is also important to site the construction
of detention ponds and other stormwater management structures outside the limits of the natural
areas, especially by not constructing these facilities near seeps and springs located at the base of the
slopes. These seeps and springs are used for breeding by the four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium
scutatum). Four-toed salamanders are a state-listed special concern species and the New Hope
watershed probably has one of the highest concentrations – if not the highest concentration – of four-
toed salamanders anywhere within the state. In addition to steep slope protections, the NC Wildlife
Resources Commission recommends that new developments implement Low Impact Development
techniques to reduce impacts of run-off into New Hope Creek. Excessive silt and sediment loads
associated with construction and impervious surfaces can have numerous detrimental effects on water
quality and aquatic wildlife, including destruction of spawning habitat, suffocation of eggs, and clogging
of gills of aquatic species. Non-point source run-off from residential areas, including pollutants like
fertilizers and pesticides, will also impact stream health. Steep slope protections and Low Impact
Development measures will not only support wildlife but will also help maintain higher water quality in
New Hope Creek.

New Hope Creek is a critical natural resource protection corridor in Durham and maintaining its
high-quality habitat across the larger landscape-scale, within the design district and beyond, is crucial for
the long-term conservation of the plants and animals that currently thrive within its watershed. The NC
Wildlife Resources Commission has been collaborating with local conservation groups, including the
Durham County Open Space Program, to coordinate conservation action along this corridor. The NC
Botanical Garden has been heading up a conservation planning effort in this area and we hope to be
able to share that work with you all soon.

Please don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions. I am also happy to come to a meeting
to provide more information on this watershed, if wanted.

Thank you for your time,

Brooke Massa
Land Conservation Biologist
NC Wildlife Resources Commission
919-630-3086
brooke.massa@ncwildlife.org

i
Smith, R. K., Freeman, P. L., Higgins, J. V., Wheaton, K. S., FitzHugh, T. W., Ernstrom, K. J., & Das, A. A.
(2002). Priority areas for freshwater conservation action: a biodiversity assessment of the southeastern
United States. The Nature Conservancy, 3.
ii
eBird. 2012. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Ithaca,
New York. Available: http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L338056 (Accessed: Date [e.g., November 2, 2017]).
iii
Smoot JL, Cuffney TF, Bryant, Jr. WL. 2004. Effects of urbanization on stream ecosystems: Proceedings of
the 1st annual Stormwater Management Research Symposium, Stormwater Management Academy, Orland,
FL. October 12–13, 2004. pp 127–136. [accessed 2015].
http://nc.water.usgs.gov/albe/pubs/Smoot_Effects.pdf.

Division of Habitat Conservation • 1721 Mail Service Center • Raleigh, NC 27699-1721