The preservation and conversion of purchased land within the 7,544 acres on the 4×4 to prime habitat is crucial for the long-term survival of the wild Banker horses.
The Bankers are recognized as a landrace breed – one that has genetically adapted to and is able to survive its unique habitat, has distinctive and identifiable traits, has not been purposefully improved by the introduction of domestic, standardized stock, and has a historical origin in a specific region. To protect the integrity of the breed, a wild population must be maintained in the habitat in which the horses have lived for the last several centuries. As the rate of development on the northern Outer Banks accelerates every year, so does the need to preserve as much land as possible. This not only provides suitable habitat for the horses, but also the connected corridor helps manage fragmentation delivering co-benefits to other wildlife, natural resources, and native plants as well.
As part of the Wild Horse Management Agreement for protection of the Corolla wild horses, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund has been leading efforts to identify and acquire properties that offer suitable habitat for the horses. A targeted north-to-south corridor of undeveloped property has been identified using detailed data collected by the Fund on horse movement and grazing patterns, herd dynamics and behavior, and utilization of habitat areas by the horses at different times of the year. Since 2015, 9 parcels of land have been secured, including lots bequeathed to the organization for conservation and habitat preservation. These efforts are consistent with the Imagine Currituck Vision 2040 land use policy emphasis for the off-road area that includes protecting natural resources, open space, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity through a variety of conservation methods.
The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has established a Land Acquisition Fund that allows supporters to donate towards the purchase, conversion to habitat, and habitat maintenance of property that will be held in conservation into perpetuity. Funds will also be used to improve property where appropriate, including monitoring water quality, planting native, horse-friendly vegetation, and to help prevent unnatural flooding. Supporters can also donate land to the Land Acquisition Fund to be included in the corridor and land management program.
As protectors of the herd, the Fund is dedicated to a long-term, multi-faceted approach to save the Banker horses from extinction in the wild. The approach includes breed conservation in the form of DNA research, increased education and advocacy efforts, maintaining cooperative relationships with county, state, and federal agencies, partnering with community leaders, real estate companies, and local businesses, and this major undertaking to acquire and preserve as much wild habitat as possible.