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Natural Resources

Bicycling at William B. Umstead State Park
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Natural Resources

The Division of Parks and Recreation is responsible for the protection of the natural and cultural resources within the state parks system.  This responsibility pervades all of the division's activities, from field operations and interpretive programming to the planning and construction of park facilities. The protection of these resources is mandated by the North Carolina Constitution and the State Parks Act, and is directed by the division's Natural Resource Management Policy. 

The ecosystems and cultural features protected by the state parks system often represent the highest quality examples of the state's natural landscape cultural heritage. In many cases, these ecosystems and cultural features are also among the most threatened. The primary goal of natural resource management is to ensure the long-term protection of state parks as intact, naturally evolving ecosystems.  Our challenge is how best to integrate human uses while minimizing the impacts on the natural environment. The primary goal of cultural resource management is to protect and preserve historically significant features.

What We Do

The division's Natural Resources Program provides field, planning, and construction staff with technical expertise on issues such as rare species protection, exotic species control, monitoring, prescribed fire, forestry, restoration, scientific research, environmental review and compliance, and landscape planning. No aspect of a park’s operations functions in isolation. Everything that we do to improve customer services has an impact on the environment and every action we take to protect or enhance the environment has an impact on visitors.

No part of the natural resource program’s work is routine. Every natural resource challenge is different depending on many factors including the habitat type, the region of the state, the density of the population around the park, and the intensity of the visitation to the park.  For every situation it is a process of examining an issue, determining the desired outcome, and developing a plan to reach that outcome.  Our work may range from reestablishing hydrology within a park to sampling for salamanders to prescribe burning in an urban park. The cultural resource issues within our parks can range from what type of shingle to put on an historic structure to helping decide which historic buildings in a new acquisition are salvageable.  

More Information

Learn more about natural resources stewardship and environmental review. 


Jon Blanchard--Program Manager
1615 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1615
919 707 9307 mobile919 457 3395
Physical address: 3504 NRC Building
121 West Jones St. Raleigh, NC 27603

Marshall Ellis—Mountain Region Biologist
759 State Park Road, Troutman, NC 28166
704 528 6514 ext 218 mobile704 838 6738

Jimmy Dodson—Piedmont 
1615 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1615
919 707 9330 mobile919 208 7342
Physical address: 3501V NRC Building
121 West Jones St. Raleigh, NC 27603

Jamie Sasser—Coastal Region Biologist
240 Park Entrance Rd. Seven Springs, NC 28578
919 751 2792 mobile919 631 7108

Ed Corey—Inventory and Monitoring Biologist
12700 Bayleaf Church Rd. Raleigh, NC 27614-9633
919 841 4037 mobile919 208 7864

Thomas Crate—Ecological Burn Coordinator
12700 Bayleaf Church Rd. Raleigh, NC 27614-9633
919 841 4066 mobile 910 409 5755

Jonathan Short—State Natural Areas and Invasive Species Biologist
1615 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1615
919 707 9319 mobile910 770 1178
Physical address: 3501G NRC Building
121 West Jones St. Raleigh, NC 27603


In the world of science, state parks function as outdoor laboratories, and research opportunities exist in a variety of disciplines such as botany, geology, zoology, ecology and archaeology/anthropology. The long range goal of the division's research program is to provide a measurable, repeatable and objective analysis of each park's resources through scientific studies ranging from simple descriptive inventories to complex, ecosystem-scale analyses.

Scientific research on lands within the state parks system requires a research activity permit. If you are interested in conducting scientific research in a state park you can read our guidelines (PDF) and then submit an online research activity permit

Baseline Inventories of Park Resources

The division has a long-standing need for a standardized, systematic inventory of each park's plant and animal species, soils, water and air quality, and natural communities. Most parks have virtually no useful information on entire categories, and frequently, the information on file is either incomplete, inaccurate or outdated. For example, vegetation maps for Pilot Mountain date from a 1942 report. Prior to a mapping project initiated at Jockey's Ridge in 1996, the most current topographical maps dated from 1974. Comprehensive inventory guidelines based on the National Park Service's protocols were developed and distributed to each park in late 1999. Park-specific inventory needs have been established, and a simple electronic database has been developed to facilitate consistency in compiling and maintaining inventory data. High priority system-wide needs include complete zoological and botanical inventories; vegetation and habitat type mapping; the location and condition of rare species and the location and condition of cultural resources.

Long-term Monitoring Studies

The comprehensive biological inventory guidelines that were developed in 1999 also include protocols for developing long-term monitoring studies. By periodically updating a park's baseline inventory information, these repeated measurements of important biological indicators provide the most objective method with which to define the present and future conditions of a park's natural resources;    detect or predict changes in the condition of a park's natural resources; and diagnose abnormal conditions in time to develop effective mitigation measures. Used in combination with inventory data, these studies can provide scientifically credible parameters on which to base management decisions.

Except as noted above, there is a general system-wide absence of long-term monitoring studies. Particularly pressing issues include monitoring changes over time in fire-adapted natural communities; assessing aquatic species abundance and distribution as indicators of water quality; tracking rare species abundance and distribution as indicators of overall ecosystem health; and monitoring the introduction and spread of exotic species, many of which have severely altered the natural landscape and displaced native species.