Bald Head Island Conservancy

Smith Island Land Trust – Why Preservation of Bald Head Island’s Natural Spaces Matters

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By Chris Shank, Executive Director

SILT MAIN LOGO 01A true commitment to protecting Bald Head Island’s environmental integrity must include an active pursuit of preservation of its natural spaces. Barrier islands are fragile ecosystems influenced by many factors which can irreversibly alter their viability; this includes natural forces like hurricanes as well as human influences like over-development. Preservation of land is by far the best way to protect BHI’s maritime forest against these natural and human forces and ensure it can continue to anchor the core of our island and provide essential connective habitat for our wildlife. Further, protection of salt marsh edge properties is critical for ensuring good water quality in our tidal creeks and decreasing the erosional forces of tides and storm surges on the backside of the island.

The primary means by which the BHI Conservancy pursues the Preservation piece of its Mission is through a partnership with the Smith Island Land Trust (SILT). SILT has been preserving properties on Bald Head and Middle Islands for nearly 30 years and its land inventory now exceeds 100 acres of ecologically sensitive land. However, there are still hundreds of undeveloped properties that, if added to SILT’s inventory, would greatly enhance the island’s sustainability.

In the past year, SILT partnered with the Conservation Trust of NC to create a Priority Preservation Model that helped identify these ecologically important areas on Bald Head and Middle Islands. Additionally, through support from BHIC’s Johnston Center for Coastal Sustainability, Graduate Fellow Kimmy Hansen from UNC Chapel Hill conducted a project evaluating the impact to BHI’s maritime forest under different island build-out scenarios. Everyone should watch Kimmy’s presentation from the 3rd Annual Johnston Coastal Sustainability Symposium, which can be viewed on the BHIC website.

I cannot stress enough how important land preservation is for the future health of our island. In addition to the ecological benefits of land preservation, there are also numerous personal benefits to those who donate land to SILT, including tax incentives, enhanced home protection from storms, and protection of privacy and viewsheds. If you have property that you want protected in perpetuity, the Smith Island Land Trust would be thrilled to have that conversation with you!

For more information about SILT and land preservation on BHI, check out or contact me directly at Thanks for caring about the future of our precious island!


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