The Sustainable Sandhills Initiative: A Comparative Analysis of North Carolina to the Sandhills Region

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Master of Natural Resources Professional Papers (North Carolina State University. College of Natural Resources)

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North Carolina State University. College of Natural Resources


The Sustainable Sandhills Initiative: A Comparative Analysis of the Sandhills Region to North Carolina Tracy Dixon April 11, 2004 Executive Summary The Sustainable Sandhills Initiative (SSI), a regional effort of government, nonprofit, citizen, and private sector representatives, encompassing the North Carolina counties of Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Moore, Richmond, and Scotland, was formed in February 2003 to ensure long-term sustainability of this region. Through the formation of a baseline sustainability report including 53 environmental, social, and economic indicators measured over time, the region can gauge where it is in terms of current sustainability and how far it has to go to meet established desired end state goals. Current indictors were compared to previous regional trends as well as to statewide trends. A ranking system of green star, red alert, or yellow warning was used to evaluate current indicators. A green star classification means the indicator shows significant improvement; a red alert classification displays the indicator’s progression away from sustainability; and the yellow warning indicates neutral or inconsistent trends, or those indicators with incomplete information. Results reveal that 10 indicators (8 environmental, 1 social, and 1 economic) deserved green stars, 11 (4 environmental, 2 social, and 5 economic) warranted red alerts, and 32 (10 environmental, 11 social, and 11 economic) do not have enough information to yield consistent trends during the given the study period. These findings suggest that given current trends, the region would not be considered sustainable for long-term efforts given the high number of yellow warning and red alert indicators. These results will further aid in the SSI’s efforts to prioritize necessary changes to reach the region’s vision. The original intention of the SSI was to have the Metrics Committee and the air, water, energy, land, and waste community resource teams work closely with me in the development of the indicators. However, the first meeting of the Metrics Committee was not until February 19, 2004, and a more condensed time frame was needed for completion of this project. At the February meeting, the Committee agreed to allow the community resource teams to evaluate the available indicator data to determine how this data fits in with the team’s established desired-end states and identify where gaps in information need to be explored further. This was substituted for more substantive community involvement. The data analysis was done strictly for this project and will not be presented to the community resource teams ensuring teams ultimately decide which indicators to use to track long-term goals and how they should be interpreted. Many indicator projects take years to identify appropriate indicators with the purpose of creating community ownership and awareness through indicator development. Therefore, allowing the community resource teams to use the indicator data as a guide will act as the missing forum to empower the community. The baseline report and indicator information will be updated annually by the Sustainable Sandhills Metrics Committee and used as a tool for public education, as a means for meeting established goals, for prioritizing issues in need of further assessment, and in working towards appropriate policy objectives.



Sustainable Sandhills Initiative, Sandhills Region, sustainability