New rules for use of N.C. Coastal Reserves now in effect

Ridge Road trailhead at the Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve. [courtesy N.C. Coastal Reserve]

New and amended rules will take effect Feb. 1 that will require authorization for some activities at N.C. Coastal Reserve sites. The changes will enhance the Reserve’s ability to balance ecosystem protection and compatible traditional uses.

The special activity authorization will be required for organized events, commercial activities, or other special activities or uses at Reserve sites that are not included in the primary uses of research, education, and compatible traditional uses such as fishing, hunting, navigation, and recreation. No fees are required to apply for or receive a special activity authorization.

“This action is the result of a multi-year rulemaking process involving division and departmental staff, Local Advisory Committees, N.C. Coastal Resources Commission, and stakeholders,” says Rebecca Ellin, program manager of the Reserve. “The updated rules enhance clarity of existing rules and address issues and gaps to ensure effective management of the Reserve.”

The rules, adopted by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Rules Review Commission in October 2021, are part of a state-mandated periodic review schedule (G.S. 150B-21.3A).

The North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve is a program of the state Division of Coastal Management, under the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. The North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve is managed through a federal-state partnership between National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.

The 10 protected sites are Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort, Masonboro Island Reserve near Wilmington, Bird Island Reserve near Sunset Beach, Currituck Banks Reserve near Corolla, Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve in Kitty Hawk, Emily and Richardson Preyer Buckridge Reserve near Columbia, Buxton Woods Reserve on Hatteras Island, Permuda Island Reserve near Topsail Island, Zeke’s Island Reserve near Kure Beach, and Bald Head Woods Reserve on Bald Head Island.

To learn how to apply for a special activity authorization, commercial users are invited to attend a virtual webinar on February 22, 2022, at 6:00 pm. The webinar will provide background about the Reserve program, present new rules, explain the special activity authorization process, and discuss opportunities for future engagement with the program. Registration for the webinar is required, please visit to sign up.

For additional information, read more about the rule updates and webinar on the Coastal Reserve’s website.