Realtor Strives To Save North Carolina Woods He Loves – Joe McDonald’s efforts to conserve the environment

Realtor Strives To Save North Carolina Woods He Loves – Joe McDonald’s efforts to conserve the environment – Brief Article

When foreign service officer Joe McDonald had a chance to take early retirement from the State Department in the late 1980s, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. “I decided that what was going on in my Carolina woods was more important than anything going on in any foreign country,” he says. “My interest in conservation compelled me to come home.”

McDonald’s “woods” are the North Carolina Sandhills, known as the land of the longleaf pine, which stretch for five counties through the south- central part of the state, between the Piedmont and the coastal plain. It is an area that he considers one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

His original idea was to found a local land trust to preserve the beloved region where he grew up. When he discovered one already forming, he quickly became the first president of the Sandhills Area Land Trust. In short order, he also joined the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, an NWF affiliate, and for the past five years has served as its vice president for the central area of the state.

In 1990, McDonald and his wife, Abby, founded Wildlife Habitat Realty, primarily to help preserve open spaces and wildlife habitat. “We’re a regular real estate company,” he says. “We’ll sell you a house, but whenever we have a chance to do conservation work, we take it.”

To date, the most important deal he has helped negotiate was the sale of the privately owned 500-acre Horse Creek Longleaf Pine Forest to The Nature Conservancy, which in turn transferred it to the state. The 1999 transaction protects a valuable corridor of forest that connects two habitats of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Practicing what he preaches, McDonald himself has purchased nearly 400 acres that he plans to preserve through conservation easements, which permanently restrict development regardless of who owns the land. In addition to real estate, he is deeply involved with the North Carolina Alliance for Transportation Reform, which is working to make the state’s Department of Transportation more sensitive to the environment when planning new roads.

And in his spare time? Proud of his heritage as a fifth-generation musician, McDonald loves to play the banjo, guitar and fiddle. But the greatest satisfaction, he says, comes from the opportunity to educate people about the environmental significance of property they’re buying. “It doesn’t always translate into a concrete document like a conservation easement,” he says, “but a lot of the time we are able to influence how people view and manage their land.”

COPYRIGHT 2001 National Wildlife Federation

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group