The Cary, N.C. Billionaire Conserving Our Forests and Wetlands

Hunter Cabot

Meet Tim Sweeney

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Tim SweeneyPhoto use permission granted by Tim Sweeney

The Cary billionaire, whose net worth is reported by Forbes as $7.4 billion in 2021, is the founder and CEO of Epic Games (of which the game "Fortnite" was born) and the creator of Unreal Engine, a game developement platform.

He is the wealthiest man in the state of North Carolina (bypassing another Cary billionaire, James Goodnight, this past April), and he ranks 608th wealthiest in the world.

More importantly, he's a dedicated conservationist. Originally from Maryland, Sweeney has called North Carolina home since 1999, and he's taken it upon himself to preserve our wilderness, buying up thousands of acres of undeveloped land for conservation purposes.

In April 2021, Tim Sweeney made the largest private conservation land donation in North Carolina history

Sweeney's LLC, "130 of Chatham" donated 7,500 acres in the Roan Highlands of western North Carolina to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The acreage was valued at tens of millions of dollars. Once the paperwork is finalized next year, the conservancy plans to offer guided hikes while maintaining the property as a nature preserve and conducting scientific studies.

That's just the latest in the heroic environmental mission of Tim Sweeney.

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Box Creek Wildernessphoto credit Box Creek Wilderness FB

Between 2008 and 2019, Tim Sweeney has purchased and dedicated over 50,000 acres of North Carolina land to conservation, the most notable being the Box Creek Wilderness, a 7,000-acre natural area that contains more than 130 rare and threatened plants and wildlife species.

The biodiversity of the Box Creek Wilderness is largely due to its standing as a transition zone between the Piedmont and the mountain ecosystem. It has been designated as a top Natural Heritage Area in North Carolina.

Sweeney paid $15 million for the large tract, fighting a court battle with the Rutherford Electric Membership Corporation who intended to fragment the land, running a transmission line through the area. The issue was resolved with the help of Senator Richard Burr and the USFWS, allowing Sweeney to then donate the conservation easement to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The hard-won conservation easement permanently protects the 7,000-acre Box Creek Wilderness from developement. The land is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains south of Morganton, north of Rutherfordton, and west of South Mountains State Park.

Also acquired by Sweeney's LLC, 130 of Chatham, for conservation purposes:

  • a 1,753-acre tract in the Crooked Creek community of Old Fort, with an estimated land value of $4.2 million
  • a 2,075.6-acre tract in Dysartsville along Polly Spout, Rhom Town and Vein Mountain Road. It has an estimated land value of $3.3 million
  • 136 other parcels of land in McDowell County (as reported by The McDowell News)

In addition, 130 of Chatham contributed to the Mount Mitchell State Park expansion project by donating 1500 acres of land.

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Tim Sweeneyphoto use granted by Tim Sweeney

In His Own Words

"All of the land I’ve bought is on track for eventual permanent conservation, with around 4,000 acres already transferred to the state parks system and game lands, and 7,000 acres under easement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife System.” - Tim Sweeney, as reported by The McDowell News
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Box Creek Wildernessphoto credit Box Creek Wilderness FB
The whole project will likely take a couple decades to complete. The aim is to create a continuous corridor of conservation land running from South Mountains State Park and Gamelands west to Pisgah National Forest and Chimney Rock Park.” - Tim Sweeney, as reported by The McDowell News

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