Beyond Conservation: Restoring the Land

Betty Hahn and Doug Chancey have a vision: that their 600 acre traditional farm become a model for ecological restoration and sustainable farming practices. Their property, tucked away in the Ellett Valley near Paris Mountain, is under a conservation easement, so they know their efforts will be sheltered from bulldozers and concrete.

They asked the New River Land Trust (NRLT) for help to realize their vision. NRLT connected students from Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources to the property, where they completed a wildlife survey funded by The Morton and Spapperi Family Foundation. They found species such as the northern long-eared bat, federally listed as threatened, many species of salamanders, and grasshopper sparrows nesting in the fields; like many grassland birds, their numbers are declining. NRLT then contacted various agencies, and Betty and Doug are now working with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to plan and implement a stream restoration project and introduce sustainable grazing practices on the property. These projects will improve water quality, enhance nutrients in the pastures and promote habitat for grassland birds. Recently, they received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to dramatically improve the habitat in the North Fork of the Roanoke River on the property for the Roanoke logperch, a federal/state endangered species of fish.

NRLT wants to enable ecological restoration projects as landowners become increasingly aware of sustainability, but may not know where to begin. As we continue to engage with agencies, organizations, and individuals implementing ecological restoration, we enrich our mission as a land trust in the community. “We are completely indebted to the New River Land Trust for helping us make the connections for these and other exciting opportunities,” Hahn said, “We look forward to working with them in the future on other projects on the farm.”