North Carolina Building Codes Council: Alter NC building codes to exempt structures at Turtle Island Preserve.
  • Petitioned Dan Tingen
  • Responded

This petition was delivered to:

Chairman, North Carolina Building Codes Council
Dan Tingen
Vice Chairman, North Carolina Building Codes Council
John Llewellyn Hitch
NC Building Codes Council
J. Albert Bass, Jr.
NC Building Codes Council
Kim Reitterer, PE
NC Building Codes Council
Ralph Euchner
See response
NC Building Codes Council
Mack Paul
NC Building Codes Council
Paula Strickland
NC Building Codes Council
Cindy Browning
NC Building Codes Council
Scott Stevens
NC Building Codes Council
Mack Nixon
NC Building Codes Council
Alan W. Perdue
NC Building Codes Council
Ed Moore
NC Building Codes Council
Robert F. Ruffner, Jr.
NC Building Codes Council
Lon McSwain
NC Building Codes Council
David Smith
NC Building Codes Council
Leah Faile

North Carolina Building Codes Council: Alter NC building codes to exempt structures at Turtle Island Preserve.

    1. Turtle Island Preserve
    2. Petition by

      Turtle Island Preserve

      Boone, NC

February 2014


With the overwhelming support of our petition, House Bill 774 passed - UNANIMOUSLY! in both the house and the senate.

Dear Friends of Turtle Island Preserve,

Turtle Island Preserve is in danger. Please read this letter, and, if you feel moved to do so, carefully follow the suggestions for support provided at the end.  

Recently, local county government authorities have targeted Turtle Island Preserve, attacking our way of life, and forcing our educational camp to close to visitors. 

On the morning of September 19th, eleven county officials (being paid by tax payers) barged into our living room unannounced, uninvited, and unwelcome. A large caravan of county vehicles blocked our private road, miles away from any public area. The men (some armed) presented a search warrant two and half miles into the interior of our private land, a most intimate zone of refuge where we do not even take visitors, and then spent the next half of the day violating our privacy and photographing our buildings and personal homes. The unwanted invasion team came prepared with topographic maps, aerial photographs, GPS equipment to discern coordinates, laptops, pages of highlighted photographs of unknown origins, and even a county 4-wheeler to more easily get around the property. Much time and tax-payer money had clearly been spent preparing for this deployment against our 501c3 non-profit education center.


The primary focus of this action centers on our buildings and construction methods. The American heritage buildings that we keep alive and teach about are “unacceptable” in today’s modern world. The very building techniques and materials that all of our ancestors thrived with are now being deemed unacceptable and targeted as illegal because they don’t fit into the cookie-cutter code status that is so extremely far from what we are about. The buildings and lifestyle of our working farm and education center teach about true American freedom. The invasive attack was a surreal wake-up call to the illusion of the American myth: “Land of the free.”


Those of you who have visited Turtle Island Preserve know that our structures are unique in that they are built with materials harvested here on the farm and adhere to natural and historical methods. Our buildings are unquestionably structurally sound, but do not fit the wording or application of modern building codes, as the methods used to build them predate the conception of modern building codes.  The veteran, licensed engineer we hired to assess the structural concerns expressed by the county stated that our buildings are “Better than code.” If modern, cookie-cutter buildings fit our purposes or needs, we would have built them. But they certainly do not.

To comply with current, modern building codes and regulations, with no variance or allowance for natural, traditional, historical, cultural or educational models, is at the very least a compromise to our integrity, our mission, and our value to the community and the world.  If we were forced to function like every other public facility, the values, ethics, and practical knowledge we teach would be lost. Trying to force a modern framework around a facility that is specifically designed to be primitive does not make sense. The methods we teach go back tens of thousands of years. The modern building codes go back only 40-50 years.


For the past twenty-six years, Turtle Island Preserve has been a functioning farm and education center for primitive skills, cultural heritage, and traditional/natural living. We are run by volunteer laborers and administrators, good citizens who believe in the worth of volunteering their time to share natural traditional living in hopes of making life for people more meaningful and our impact on the earth a gentler footprint. Our non-profit education center has brought thousands of people from all over the world, of all ages, faiths, and socio-economic backgrounds and enabled them to develop a personal relationship with the natural world.  In many cases, these are people (usually children) who would not have the opportunity to gain that experience elsewhere.  What they get here, they keep forever. 


Eustace Conway, full-time volunteer director of Turtle Island Preserve for the past 26 years, now faces the threat of criminal charges. That’s right, for dedicating his life to celebrating and preserving American cultural heritage, his American government is condemning his interest in exercising what he believes is an inalienable human right to build and live in the traditions of our ancestors. He said, “If this was a joke or something out of a science fiction novel about corrupt government control, maybe I could laugh about it… but it is very, unbelievably, maliciously true… and I can only cry about it, and ask for the voice of friends to support me and citizens that care about the ‘American Dream’ of freedom to speak up for their rights and interests now.”


Our recent studies show us that there may be no variance for any private, state, or federal interpretation sites that exhibit natural/primitive historic structures or practices. The recent attack on our home and lifeways makes us question the confines of our state building and county codes on our most fundamental freedoms of American heritage, Appalachian regional culture, and a three million year precedent of inalienable human rights concerning structures and living.


We are working with legal counsel and structural engineers to present a clear and thorough assessment of our structures, practices, and mission to authorities who are not personally familiar with Turtle Island Preserve. We have drawn up a petition and begun a letter writing campaign, all of which we’ll present to the North Carolina Building Codes Council on December 10, 2012 in the hopes of educating the council about the unique importance of Turtle Island Preserve and securing a variance for our continued operation without sacrificing our integrity and commitment to historic structures and natural lifestyle.


We need your help in raising a voice. This matter will not be resolved positively without your support. Please help support Turtle Island Preserve by taking the following steps: 


1.      Sign the petition at


2.      Join the letter writing campaign! Write your own letter in support of Turtle Island Preserve, or use the attached letter – just print, sign, and send to the Chairman of the North Carolina Building Codes Council.  Either way, be sure to send us a copy of your letter, too.  


It is impossible to overstate how important your swift support is to the future of Turtle Island Preserve.  With the North Carolina Building Codes Council meeting just three weeks away, we need all the voices we can get, and as quickly as possible. Please set aside a few minutes to sign the petition, send a letter, and stand with us as we work to save Turtle Island Preserve.


Keep checking Facebook for updates, and for more information on the Building Codes Council meeting or if you have any questions at all, please email or call our office at 828-265-2267.


In appreciation,


The Staff and Community Members of Turtle Island Preserve


NC Building Codes Council

Dan Tingen, Chairman

322 Chapanoke Dr.

Raleigh, NC 27603


Turtle Island Preserve

2683 Little Laurel Road

Boone, NC 28607


Recent signatures


    1. Reached 17,500 signatures
    2. Press Release

      Turtle Island Preserve
      Petition Organizer

      Eustace Conway, Reality TV Show Star, Faces North Carolina Board
      In Effort to Save Non-Profit Org and Avoid Criminal Charges

      Eustace Conway, famously documented in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller “The Last American Man”, and Turtle Island Preserve occupy 1000 acres of prime Blue Ridge Parkway real estate in the North Carolina mountains and have recently been featured prominently on a hit cable reality series. Conway, a founder and Director of Turtle Island Preserve for the last 26 years, is threatened with criminal charges and has been forced to close the non-profit traditional living and natural skills educational farm.

      After operating as a public facility for over two decades, local authorities have recently targeted the center, executing a search warrant and issuing a report that recommends the buildings be condemned. Turtle Island Preserve maintains that their structures are safe and that “trying to force a modern framework around a facility that is specifically d

    3. Today's story in the Charlotte Observer...

      Turtle Island Preserve
      Petition Organizer
      Watauga County 'mountain man' fighting to keep his nature camp open

      BOONE A road that peels off the Blue Ridge Parkway curves around mountain slopes until, at a keep-out sign, it turns to gravel and plunges downhill through the forest into a world nothing like yours and mine. The buildings scattered in a clearing at the road's end look like they might have been raised by pioneers.

    4. Reached 10,000 signatures
    5. Front page of the Gaston Gazette today!

      Turtle Island Preserve
      Petition Organizer
      Mountain man in fight with government - Gaston Gazette

      A Gaston-raised man known for his role on the History Channel's "Mountain Men" says he is taking on the government in a struggle to preserve his way of life and share his historically authentic experience with others. Eustace Conway is the founder of Turtle Island Preserve in Watauga County, a place he describes as a working farm and education center.

    6. Reached 9,000 signatures
    7. Eustace on the radio!

      Turtle Island Preserve
      Petition Organizer

      Eustace's interview with Donna Miller on the Preparedness Radio Network.

      Your Preparation Station

      Tonight, on Your Preparation Station, Donna Miller is joined by Eustace Conway, Owner/Operator/Director and Desere, Office Manager/Assistant of Turtle Island Preserve. Eustace is the subject of the book "The Last American Man" by Elizabeth Gilbert and of an early episode of the weekly radio show This American Life.

    8. Reached 7,000 signatures
    9. Turtle Island front page article Watauga Democrat

      Turtle Island Preserve
      Petition Organizer

      Our story has made front page of the local newspaper:

      - The Watauga Democrat

      ©2012 The Watauga Democrat. All rights reserved. Reproduction of advertising and design work strictly prohibited.

    10. Reached 1,500 signatures
    11. Decision-maker Ralph Euchner responds:

      Ralph Euchner

      give the man a break

    12. Reached 1,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • George Graham SYLVA, NC
      • 9 months ago

      The US was founded on the the principle of individual rights freedom.

    • Marisa Smith AUSTIN, TX
      • 9 months ago

      The knowledge of sustainable living has never been more needed.

    • William Shepherd II BEAVER FALLS, PA
      • 9 months ago

      This is important to me because I feel that Building codes have been used by the banks, government and building associations to force us to over build homes so that more money is spent.

    • Stephen Brown DURHAM, NC
      • 9 months ago

      As long as he doesn't sell the buildings to a third party there is no reason he cannot build what he wants this far from neighbors and off the grid. This is nonsense.

    • Vanessa Verner MURPHY, NC
      • 9 months ago

      This is Socialism at its finest.


    Develop your own tools to win.

    Use the API to develop your own organizing tools. Find out how to get started.