Lea Island - Audubon NC photo

I received an email last week from Ida Phillips, communications director for Audubon North Carolina, announcing that Lea Island, a barrier island in Pender County was close to being permanently protected:

“One of the last undeveloped barrier islands in North Carolina is one step closer to permanent protection. Thanks to a generous donation from Fred and Alice Stanback, Audubon North Carolina has purchased a 35.7-acre tract on Lea Island, an undisturbed barrier island in Pender County.  The nonprofit organization purchased the property in a bargain sale from James Johnson of Coastland Corporation.  The island is one of the most important havens for shorebirds and waterbirds in North Carolina, as well as an important nesting site for federally threatened loggerhead sea turtles. Audubon North Carolina will manage the tract as part of its coastal sanctuary system, which comprises 19 other island and inlet bird habitats along the coast.”

This is certainly wonderful news. Wonderful news for shorebirds and all the other marine and estuarine plants and animals that depend on barrier islands like Lea Island for their very existence. And it’s wonderful news for all outdoors men and women (and hopefully children) who yearn for and need unfettered open spaces with nature at their fingertips to be whole. And it’s wonderful news for all the people at Audubon North Carolina and other organizations around the world that have turned their avocation for clean air and water and wild places into the vocation of protecting and/or enhancing such places and attributes for all of us.

A few words from Ida’s announcement jumped right out at me – “Thanks to a generous donation from Fred and Alice Stanback…” I can’t begin to count the number of times, since I began writing about the environment, that I have seen, heard, read or even written that same or a very similar statement.

There is no way for me to list, here, all the purchases, easements, initiatives, programs and/or organization that have benefited from the Stanback’s unsurpassed generosity and unflinching commitment to the health and well being of the Old North State’s people and places. The Stanback’s son Brad and his wife Shelli are also well known philanthropists working to protect North Carolina’s environment.

Just take a quick look around Western North Carolina and you can see some prime examples of the Stanback’s generosity. Fred and Alice Stanback have been instrumental in preserving tracts like Needmore, Mount Lyn Lowry, Lands Creek Watershed, Chimney Rock, Jocassee Gorges, the East Fork Headwaters tract and so many more. They have donated to organizations like Friends of The Smokies, the American Chestnut Foundation and National Parks and Conservation Association just to name a few.

Brad and Shelli Stanback were instrumental in preserving Canton’s Rough Creek Watershed and Little Sandy Mush Bald and they continue working with area environmental organizations.

If North Carolina ever snaps back from the headaches of urbanization, commercialization, industrialization, corporatization, etc. it will be due, in a large part, to the vision, commitment and dedication of the Stanbacks.