By Dac Collins and Lorelei Goff
At the end of 2014, several regional land trusts finalized a host of easements, conserving views, habitats and cultural sites.
In a typical conservation easement, land trusts protect property from development that might affect ecological integrity, while private landowners retain ownership.
The Dickson family of Monroe County, W.Va., recently donated their 600-acre farm to the West Virginia Land Trust as a conservation easement. The family has owned Spring Valley Farm since Richard Dickson settled there in 1776.
The easement is ripe with heritage and rural culture. Remnants of old mills and other historic structures are visible along the banks of Second Creek as it winds through the property. “One of the motivating reasons we wanted to seek permanent protection of the property was to preserve the scenic and agricultural character of the land,” Page Dickson told the land trust.
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy protected a 76-acre tract of land near Carver’s Gap in the Roan Highlands. With trout waterways, wildlife habitats and views from the Appalachian Trail, this “jewel in the crown of the Roan” was on the land trust’s radar for 40 years.
In the highlands of southwestern North Carolina, The Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust acquired the 48-acre Black Bear Trail property in Jackson County, N.C, increasing the size of a vital wildlife corridor to more than 1,000 acres.
The Foothills Land Conservancy had a record year and preserved more than 11,700 acres across southern Appalachia. The tracts range from 112 acres to 2,620 acres and are located in South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee.