Celebrating Box Creek Wilderness

“North Carolinians today and for centuries to come are very fortunate that Tim Sweeney has stepped forward at this particular time to protect our region’s mountain forests, creeks, rocky outcrops and all that is wild and wonderful within them.” -Susie Hamrick Jones, executive director of the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina.

We are pleased to celebrate North Carolina’s Box Creek Wilderness and its owner Tim Sweeney, who was recently honored with the Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year Award by the land trusts of North Carolina.

Last fall, we were delighted to celebrate this protected corridor in McDowell and Rutherford counties at the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards where Tim Sweeney was recognized as the Land Conservationist of the Year.

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Click to watch Tim’s Acceptance Speech

As we honor an exciting future for the Box Creek Wilderness, we are pleased to share the official nomination (below, courtesy of the writer) for Tim Sweeney as North Carolina’s Land Conservationist of the Year. We hope you enjoy!

NC Wildlife Federation Award
Nomination 2013
Land Conservationist of the Year
Nomination For Tim Sweeney

“The individual efforts of this land conservationist will be historic on a global basis.”
Nominator Mike Leonard, 2012 NC Wildlife Federation Conservationist of the Year

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Tim Sweeney is the founder of Epic Games based in Cary North Carolina. Many years
ago Tim moved his company and his passion for wildlife conservation to North Carolina
from his home in Maryland. Tim Sweeney will likely be recorded as one of the most
significant individual contributors to wildlife habitat restoration and enhancement in the
wildlife conservation history of North Carolina. His contribution to wildlife conservation
is with time, financial resources and jobs. His purchase of the lands he conserves gives
us a new framework for advancing wildlife conservation in the future with private/land
trust cooperation.

North Carolina’s Wildlife Conservation heritage is not just an environmental impact on
wildlife, but also on the human community. That quality of life brought about by forests,
green spaces and sustainable community business practices comes from our rich state
heritage and historic commitment to wildlife conservation. It is much of the reason we
attract business, industry and tourism to North Carolina.

Tim Sweeney has done more than his part to contribute to that quality of life with the
private purchase of over 20,000 acres in the piedmont and mountains of North Carolina
in the past two years. These land purchases are piecing together historic parcels of
natural heritage treasures that over the years have been subdivided into fractured
habitat.

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His Box Creek Wilderness project in McDowell and Rutherford Counties alone has
grown from a few thousand acres to over 12,000 acres. This proximity to the South
Mountain State Park area helps extend greater wildlife corridor space and moves
wildlife conservation in the area forward exponentially. With the headwaters of the
Catawba and Broad Rivers included in Box Creek Wilderness, this area is globally
significant.

Tim Sweeney has also been a valuable partner with local land trusts and national
conservation groups. With conservation funds from the state and local levels so scarce,
he has filled a very important gap in effecting perhaps the most sweeping conservation
efforts of this century. Tim spends considerable resources on Hemlock preservation,
invasives control, and is spearheading one of the largest American Chestnut
Restoration projects in the country. He takes part in tree planting projects and often
joins the fire crew from his land management provider for controlled burns!

Tim is a champion of true sustainability of natural wildlife habitats. His efforts in buying
conservation properties have effected three major conservation objectives in North
Carolina.

1) Tim’s efforts concentrate on natural forest habitat restoration and enhancement
projects that champion the less heralded wildlife in the ecosystem. On many of his
frequent hikes Tim spends as much time gazing at the trees and flame azaleas as he
does turning over leaves and stream rocks looking for rare plant and animal life. Native
species restoration, invasive control and where appropriate controlled burning are all
part of this effort.

2) Tim’s efforts represent projects with scale.  His accumulation and connection of so
many acres will become exponentially significant in its contribution to habitats for
wildlife.  He has purchased over 20,000 acres in the past two years.

3) Tim Sweeney’s projects represent triple bottom line results that have measurable
environmental and financial benefits to wildlife, water quality, and we the people who act
as stewards for the same. This land conservationist and these projects have the
capability of being historic on a global basis.

Box Creek Wilderness (McDowell and Rutherford County)Box Creek Wilderness is presently
12,369 acres and includes Rocky Face in Rutherford County, Vein Mountain in McDowell County and Bob’s Pocket Wilderness in McDowell County.

It is one of the most significant North Carolina wildlife heritage land accumulation efforts in this century. Laced with more than fifty miles of perennial streams, this assemblage of land serves as a major water source for many town and city water supplies. The wildlife species protected here and their state and global significance are included in the attached Summary of Critical Natural Resources of the Box Creek Wilderness.

Tim started Box Creek Wilderness with a vision for an assemblage of land with a scale
to make a meaningful impact on an historically timbered and subdivided area. He
started with a purchase of a few thousand acres and assembled multiple tracts into the
contiguous 12,369 acres it is today. Anyone who has ever been in land conservation
knows how much perseverance, effort and financial resources it takes to be successful
with this kind of assemblage.The result of this effort is a large scale land conservation project providing environmental and economic returns. Jobs have been created to do
inventories, mapping, and forest management. Tours of this wilderness are fully booked at every opportunity and there is in fact a waiting list. Box Creek Wilderness has become a state and national treasure because of the vision and efforts of one person using his own funds to make it happen.

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Nomination Summary
Tim Sweeney’s efforts are ongoing as he continues to buy land in the Piedmont and
Mountains of North Carolina. Tim may well be recorded in the history books as the
North Carolina Land Conservationist of the century. For now, I suggest he is the best
candidate for the 2013 Land Conservationist of The Year.

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