As homeowners know, there is no avoiding the expenses of maintenance for caulking and painting, keeping the roof sound and the furnace running. Skimping is likely to mean paying even more on down the road.
North Carolina faces a parallel situation when it comes to keeping what could be called its natural house in good repair.
The state is fortunate to have large tracts of protected federal lands as well as its own parks that preserve priceless scenery, resources and habitat. But as the population continues to grow and spread, land conservation must keep pace. A what you see is what you get approach would amount to letting a house deteriorate through lack of upkeep.
Despite ambitious goals, the states conservation efforts have taken an understandable hit as the recession locked state revenues in a cruel vise. Now, however, the call has gone out: North Carolina can and must do better. A coalition of conservation groups called this week for protection of an additional 399,000 acres, providing not only recreational and tourism-related benefits but also helping keep waterways clean and giving plant and animal species a better chance to thrive.
The groups themselves play a key role in preserving natural tracts, often purchasing conservation easements or buying land outright for transfer to public control. But they seek a restoration of state efforts via trust funds that have been drained as budget-writers squeezed discretionary programs of all kinds.
To preserve all the land they have identified, the groups say, would cost $812 million over five years a number that causes some hard swallowing. Their own contributions could be crucial. Yet they make a convincing point: With land prices in a recessionary slump, this is very much a buyers market.
Timing, as they say, is everything. More than ever, the state would get its moneys worth from a renewed commitment to open space preservation. And its investment would protect resources that, once degraded, can never be replaced.