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The Partnership

The mission of the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP) is to identify, protect, and restore the significant resources of the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. APNEP pursues its mission with guidance and support from its overarching Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), the Management Conference (advisory groups) and regional partners. 

APNEP was among the first of 28 National Estuary Programs established by the Clean Water Act in the late 1980's. The Partnership is a cooperative effort currently hosted by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and works closely with the Commonwealth of Virginia. APNEP's program area extends across both states, from its headwaters in the Virginia mountains and North Carolina Piedmont, through a broad coastal plain and out to the string of barrier islands bordering the sounds.

APNEP's staff works closely with diverse stakeholder committees whose members include citizens, local business leaders, environmental organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies. APNEP engages citizens and organizations through its committees to ensure a coordinated approach to managing the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. By facilitating communication and collaboration among different organizations throughout the region, APNEP seeks to leverage its resources and those of its partners to accomplish more together than any individual organization could alone. This, combined with our ecosystem-based management approach, positions APNEP to identify and fill regional gaps and to address pressing issues confronting the region.

As authorized in N.C. Governor's Executive Order #250 (2022), APNEP staff is advised by a Management Conference composed of a Leadership Council, Science and Technical Advisory Committee, and the Citizen Advisory Advisory Committee. APNEP's most recent guiding plan was a 10-year Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), which was created in a stakeholder-driven process with an ecosystem-based management approach. APNEP anticipates the release of an updated 5-year CCMP in 2024.

View our 2012-2022 Management Plan

APNEP's Approach

APNEP incorporates an ecosystem-based management approach to achieving its mission.  More specifically, this approach includes consideration of both human and natural systems, an adaptive management framework, and meaningful engagement with the public to find environmental management and policy solutions.  These themes are explored below.

A systems view

APNEP's systems approach considers the hundreds of human and natural elements in the Albemarle-Pamlico ecosystem as well the relationships between them. APNEP's management plan is based on a model of these relationships, ensuring that management actions directly target improvements in ecosystem services and are linked to explicit conservation goals.

Managing adaptively

Adaptive management requires setting environmental and management goals, then routinely evaluating progress toward achieving them. Adaptive management will ensure that management actions are routinely assessed, then continued, improved, or discontinued based on environmental evidence and community feedback. APNEP is committed to developing and applying information to support adaptive management practices, both internally and with its partners.

Watershed boundaries

APNEP is active throughout the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed, with management efforts directed from river headwaters to the sea. For this reason, APNEP works in both North Carolina and Virginia, as water from both states ultimately drains into the sounds.  By working within ecological rather than political boundaries, APNEP ensures that issues are addressed in an integrated and holistic way.

Engaging our partners

APNEP has taken a partnership approach to achieve its mission. Out goals for our region cannot be achieved alone. Protection of the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system is an enormous undertaking, and the resources directly allocated to APNEP are limited. APNEP seeks to overcome this hurdle by leveraging partnerships among federal, state and local government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and the public to make significant improvements for the sounds. As a result of its broad reach, APNEP is well positioned to fill gaps and identify synergies among its partners. 

The hard work and dedication of a myriad of local, state, and interstate organizations in our region contributes hugely to the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem. You can find a list some of these groups, many of which APNEP has partnered with in the past on specific projects or initiatives on the Partners page