Letter to the Editor: Sanderson’s sponsorship of farm bill contradicts state’s constitutional duty to conserve natural resources

Published 4:24 pm Saturday, June 24, 2023

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To the Editor,

I am writing to express my grave concerns regarding Sen. Norm Sanderson’s sponsorship of the recently ratified Farm Act in North Carolina. The provisions in this bill, which restrict state regulation of wetlands and remove protections for isolated wetlands, directly contradict the fundamental duty mandated by the North Carolina Constitution to conserve and protect our natural resources for the benefit of all citizens.

Article  XIV Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution clearly establishes the policy of the state to conserve and protect its lands and waters as a proper function of the government. It states that the state and its political subdivisions control and limit pollution of air and water, and preserve wetlands as well as forests, estuaries, beaches, historical sites, openlands, and places of beauty as part of the common heritage of the state.
By sponsoring a bill that undermines wetland protections, Sen. Sanderson is disregarding the constitutional duty to conserve and protect our natural resources. Wetlands, as integral components of our environment, contribute to the health of our ecosystems, provide flood protection, and support our state’s rich biodiversity. They are essential for the preservation of water quality, wildlife habitats, and the overall well-being of our communities.

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It is disheartening to think that this bill could leave at least half of North Carolina’s 4 million acres of wetlands without federal or state protection. The recent analysis that found that approximately 900,000 acres of wetlands in the Neuse and Cape Fear River basins alone could be at risk of pollution and destruction, is alarming. The potential consequences for our water quality, wildlife, fisheries, and communities cannot be ignored.

Healthy wetlands make clean water. Clean water drives our economy. The bill sponsored by Senator Sanderson strikes not just at our environment but at our economy. The destruction of wetlands, our estuarine filtering system, will degrade the waters we in Dare County use for fishing, boating, swimming and other water-based recreation. Sen. Norm Sanderson’s bill is bad for the Outer Banks’ economy and the state’s economy.

Sen. Sanderson’s sponsorship of this bill sends a concerning message to the people of North Carolina. By advocating for the rollback of wetland protections, he is disregarding the value and importance of these natural resources. Our wetlands not only provide flood protection but also contribute to the health of our ecosystems and support our state’s wild-caught seafood economy, which is a significant economic driver valued at nearly $300 million.

The Farm Act’s provisions pose a significant threat to the integrity of North Carolina’s natural resources and run counter to the state’s constitutional obligation. It is disheartening to witness an elected official disregard the interests and welfare of the citizens they are entrusted to serve. Sen. Sanderson’s sponsorship of this bill is not aligned with the long-term sustainability and stewardship of our environment.

We must hold our elected officials accountable for upholding the principles outlined in our state constitution. Our natural resources are a shared heritage that must be preserved for future generations. Sen. Sanderson’s actions send the wrong message and set a dangerous precedent for the conservation efforts in our state.

I implore Sen. Sanderson to reconsider his sponsorship of the Farm Act and to honor the constitutional mandate to protect and conserve our lands and waters. North Carolina deserves legislation that supports the responsible management of our natural resources, ensuring a vibrant and sustainable future for all.


Bob Muller

Nags Head, N.C.