LOUIS BACON AND THE ORTON FOUNDATION, the North Carolina affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation, are deeply committed to protecting the area’s rivers and wetlands, and to preserving its land, forest and wildlife habitats. The Orton Foundation is also a strong advocate for educational and community organizations in the region. The Orton Foundation supports organizations who advocate for environmental protection and community wellbeing in eastern North Carolina. These organizations include the National Audubon Society’s efforts to protect the habitat at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust’s work securing open spaces, and multifaceted efforts from Waterkeeper, Cape Fear River Watch and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) to protect the future of the Cape Fear River. Specific areas of focus are listed below.
Cape Fear River
The Orton Foundation is dedicated to the vitality of North Carolina’s largest river basin and supports the improvement and protection of its watershed and community through strategic and diverse partnerships. Specific threats to the Cape Fear River’s health and ecological diversity include factory farms, insidious industrial waste such as coal ash pollution, and new development. The Orton Foundation provides ongoing support to organizations fighting for the river basin’s protection by employing legal measures to expose specific environmental and health threats, including:
- Titan America. Titan America proposed building the country’s fourth largest cement plant near Wilmington, North Carolina. Its construction would destroy nearly 1,000 acres of wetlands, the subsequent operation of which would be a major new source of mercury pollution in the Northeast Cape Fear River. Allowing the construction to continue would not only ensure greater pollution and health threats in the region, but would also allow Titan to bypass relevant laws and environmental regulations. The Foundation supports SELC’s ongoing legal and policy work to oppose the destruction of vital wetlands.
- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The Cape Fear River watershed has the heaviest concentration of swine and poultry CAFOs in the world, the waste storage and disposal of which has caused extensive contamination of surface waters throughout the Cape Fear Basin. The Orton Foundation supports the many organizations addressing the devastating environmental impacts from CAFOS practices, as well contributing to ongoing expert collaboration towards real solutions.
- Coal Ash: Sutton Cement Plant. Coal Ash pollution from Duke Energy’s Sutton Cement Plant has caused insidious groundwater pollution, violating state regulatory standards. Sutton Lake is simultaneously being used as a coal ash waste disposal site and a public fishery, contaminating resident drinking water and harming the fish population.
Wildlife and Habitat Protection
The Orton Foundation focuses on habitat restoration and wildlife protection through The Nature Conservancy North Carolina, The Audubon Society and others.
- Longleaf pine: The diverse longleaf pine forest represents some of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. Requiring regular cycles of fire and forest management to thrive, the remaining longleaf pine regions have been seriously threatened by fire suppression. The Orton Foundation supports efforts to restore a natural fire regime by applying prescribed fires to target longleaf sites along the Coastal Plain of North Carolina.
- Red Cockaded Woodpeckers. This small to mid-size bird plays a critical role in the intricate and fragile Longleaf pines ecosystem. As such, the endangered red cockaded woodpecker is a priority in conservation efforts – which will focus on optimizing ideal nesting habitats and increasing nesting sites.
- Barn Owl. Barn owl populations have decreased severely as housing developments and shopping centers replace open agricultural fields, resulting in a significant reduction in open space. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting and promoting open land needed for barn owl nesting sites.
- Venus Flytrap. Despite regulations, Venus flytraps have been threatened by poaching in the Wilmington area. The General Assembly has responded to public calls for conservation and preservation by introducing and passing a statewide bill to make the theft of Venus flytraps a felony offense.
- Off-road vehicle regulations at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This popular coastal area of North Carolina is a globally significant “Important Bird Area” – home to least terns, piping plovers, black skimmers, and sea turtles. The Orton Foundation has supported both a significant science-based management plan and the implementation of responsible off-road vehicle (ORV) regulations to provide protection for birds and sea turtles visiting Cape Hatteras, while ensuring the continued recreational use of beaches.
Community and History Support
The Orton Foundation and Louis Bacon support historical preservation efforts in Eastern North Carolina through the restoration of historic rice fields and the preservation of important historical structures such as the Latimer House and Bellamy Mansion. The Foundation promotes historical education through The Historic Wilmington Foundation’s guided walking tours of Wilmington historic district. Read more about The Orton Foundation partners here.