The New River Land Trust is working with Diane and Chuck Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider to establish a new conservation easement. The following is owner Diane Flynt’s story about conserving their land.
Stretching over several hills and hollers in the lee of Buffalo Mountain, sliced and bordered by mountain creeks, this Carroll County property is typical Southern Appalachian farm land. Our neighbors remember wooded hills planted in corn and beans, and what’s now a scrubby bog grazed by sheep “as close as a golf course.” Farmers are scarce these days, and until we purchased our first parcel in 1997, this land had not been farmed in decades. Chuck and I have attempted, in our small way, to preserve this corner of the Blue Ridge Plateau as a working farm, albeit one appropriate for the 21st century.
Carrie Spence raised nine children on part of this farm in a two-room house built into a hillside near one of the many springs on the property. We were privileged to know Carrie the last decade of her life and she taught us much about rural life in the last century—hauling water from the spring, canning peaches, taking produce to sell in an oxen drawn cart. But most of all she liked to talk about walking with her children down Rock House Creek to Buffalo Presbyterian Church, the first “rock church” founded by Rev. Bob Childress.
I believe we’re all born with a native landscape inside us, at least those of us attuned to the natural world. While I appreciate the coast and admire rugged western views, my landscape is an eastern deciduous forest and rolling
farmland. Here every season has its charms - spring ephemerals carpet the woods with delicate blooms before trees leaf out in May; summer is dense with foliage, and spring fed creeks run full even in drought. As a cider apple grower and cider maker, fall is all about fruit and the mad dash that is apple harvest. And winter, the long dark, is best of all - quiet, trees bold against pale winter skies and plenty of time to read and cook. Chuck and I are happy to place this property under conservation protection. We both believe that land can teach us much, not just about flora and fauna, but also about people and culture. We look forward to continuing our education.
Imagine living on the land your family has owned and farmed continuously since the 1700’s. Lewis Ingles “Bud” Jeffries doesn’t have to. Bud is a direct descendant of Mary Draper and William Ingles, who settled the land in the late 1750’s. Mary made a famous trek of hundreds of miles home after being captured by the Shawnee. The entire farm at the time was made up of Bud’s property and the property across the river, now owned by the Barbour, Ingles, and Steele families. Both properties are under conservation easement.
Thirty-five members of Virginia Tech’s Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) visited Ingles Ferry Farm last month with New River Land Trust. “We enjoyed the tour and the talk by owner Bud Jeffries. It’s such a beautiful place and we’re glad to know it will remain that way. Our members appreciated learning the story of the Ingles family from one of its own.” said Molly McClintock, a member of LLI. Members toured the farms on both sides of the river, including the historic Ingles Ferry Tavern.
Bud Jeffries summed up his family’s decision to put a conservation easement on the property in 2002: “We didn’t want to sell our heritage. But even if one day the property is owned by someone other than a family member, the land will stay much as it was when Mary and William settled here.”
The New River Land Trust is part of larger conservation community. This community follows professional
standards set by the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) and NRLT is proud to say it was accredited by the LTA’s Accreditation Commission in 2013. The LTA also supports land trusts through educational programming and grant funding. In 2016, the NRLT is excited to announce that its work and potential have again been recognized by the LTA.
“The NRLT is honored to receive this national recognition and greatly appreciates the support from the LTA which will advance the quality and quantity of the organizations conservation work for many years to come.”
-John Eustis, Executive Director
In the spring of 2016, the NRLT was invited to join the LTA’s Wentworth Leadership Program. The program is a two year program designed to meet the needs of executive directors who have reached a high skill level in their careers but still desire a more advanced set of leadership skills to assist them in navigating the specialized conservation needs that all land trusts face. Having completed the first year of the program, John Eustis, the NRLT’s Executive Director, has found the program
“The training provided by the Leadership Program has been exceptional and the opportunity to network with and learn from other land trust leaders has proven invaluable.”
In July, the NRLT was invited to join the LTA’s National Excellence Program. Through the program, the NRLT applied for a grant and has been awarded $15,000 to support hiring a part-time Conservation Coordinator. There is an increasing need for conservation services in the New River region and this new position will help the NRLT fill this need by enhancing its capacity to provide conservation outreach, education, facilitation and implementation services. You can read about our new staff member below.
In July, the NRLT was invited to join the Land Trust Alliance’s National Excellence Program. The program awarded the NRLT a grant to support hiring part-time Conservation Outreach Coordinator, Kirby Walke.
Kirby describes his motivation for working with the Land Trust: “Early on I discovered a passion for nature. From growing up exploring the banks of the James River, to a move to the mountains of Roanoke, I understood quickly that open and wild places would play a role in my daily life. This love and passion grew and took me on a journey both professionally and personally throughout Virginia. During this continued journey I have learned there are lessons and stories to be told around every bend and ridge top. Today I am lucky enough to not only work to conserve lands with the NRLT but to also instill my love for open spaces in my two daughters. I strive to teach them and the community that open spaces shape us in ways we often overlook. With a quick glance to the skyline we can be reminded that the world is bigger and wilder than we can imagine. I hope to keep it that way, forever.” One of Kirby's favorite quotes:
“We want for people to get out and fall in love, because you will not protect something unless you love it. Unless you go out into these hills and the wind is in your face and things hurt, it’s raining, it stings your face. That’s when you fall in love.” - Kris Tompkins
We celebrated the opening of the Nature Play Space in Blacksburg’s Heritage Park by hosting a Nature Play Date for the community with guests Rick Van Noy, author of A Natural Sense of Wonder: Connecting Kids with Nature through the Seasons, and Sharon Stacy, who provided music and a sing along. The next phase of the Play Space will include interpretive signs, a welcoming arbor entry way, a butterfly garden, birdhouses and more. For more information or to donate please visit the Play Space page.
Your donation will help protect the New River region’s rural, cultural and natural heritage and the quality of life we enjoy - now and into the future. Please make a donation today.
Join us for LandJam 2016 at the Homestead Farm in Riner, VA on Saturday April 23. Tickets are $10. Purchase tickets online here.
January 2016: The New River Land Trust is pleased to be hosting the 2015/2016 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at The Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, VA on March 9, 2016, at 7pm. Doors will open at 6pm.
March 4, 2016 - The film festival has SOLD OUT. Thanks to those who bought tickets and we look forward to seeing you on Wednesday!
November 2015: With the recent acquisition of two new easements, NRLT has helped conserve more than 50,000 acres in the New River region, making a significant impact on the rural landscape and heritage of the area. Since 2002, we've worked with 240 landowners and other partners to reach this milestone. These acres are forever protected and will remain rural, contributing to the quality of life for our community, now and into the future. This year, we finalized an easement on 389 acres of the Obenshain family's Thompson Place property in Montgomery County (image below). We now hold or co-hold four easements in the region and are actively looking for new projects. As a small, local organization, we offer flexibility, providing options for landowners and increasing the likelihood they will be able to conserve their land for future generations.
New River Land Trust to Participate in GiveBigNRV Day
On Wednesday April 22, the New River Land Trust is participating in the 2nd Annual GiveBigNRV Day, sponsored by the Community Foundation of the New River Valley. There are a number of matching grants that will be awarded to organizations that have the most success raising money for their cause. Awards will be given out for the largest single donation, the largest total amount, and for the largest number of individual donations of $10 or more.
We've made it a goal to expand our popular Youth Education Programs for the next school year. We provide these programs at no cost to area schools and youth groups so that everyone has a chance to participate, regardless of economic background. But we need your help to reach our goal.
Please consider making a donation of $10 or more by visiting the Commuity Foundation website. Visit TODAY and schedule your donation to occur on April 22.
New River Land Trust Earns National Recognition
Accreditation Awarded by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission
The New River Land Trust, a conservation organization that has helped to conserve over 49,000 acres of farms and river corridors in the New River region, has received accreditation after a rigorous evaluation by the national Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission. It joins only 230 out of more than 1700 land trusts in the country in achieving this milestone.
"Being accredited by the national Land Trust Alliance's Accreditation Commission is one of the things of which our land trust is most proud. It is the culmination of many years and well more than 1000 hours of work by our Board, staff and volunteers. For a small organization with limited financial and person hour capacity, it is truly a great achievement." (NRLT Executive Director, John R. Eustis)
The accreditation gives official recognition of the careful and strategic work of the New River Land Trust in working with local landowners, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Virginia Department of Forestry and other partners to help protect working farms, wildlife habitat and our region's scenic beauty. The Land Trust is now able to display a seal of accreditation indicating to the public that it meets national standards for excellence, upholds the public trust and ensures that its conservation efforts are permanent.
"By achieving accreditation, the NRLT has become an even more professional and capable land trust organization. Our credibility among the conservation community nationwide has increased. Our permanence in, and dedication to, the New River region has been proven.
Accreditation is a tool the NRLT will use to further improve the quality of our land conservation work. As a member of a family whose farm land was placed under a conservation easement with the guidance of the NRLT, I am proud of this mark of distinction." (NRLT Board President, Ann-Margaret Shortt
Accreditation is a signal to the public, state agencies and foundations that this land trust meets the very highest standards. "Land trusts are gaining higher profiles with their work on behalf of citizens and the seal of accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission is a way to prove to their communities that land trusts are worthy of the significant public and private investment in land conservation," noted Land Trust Alliance President Rand Wentworth.
Land is America's most important and valuable resource. Conserving land helps ensure clean air and drinking water, food security, scenic landscapes and views, recreational places, and habitat for the diversity of life on earth. Across the country, local citizens and communities have come together to form land trusts to save the places they love. Community leaders in land trusts throughout the country have worked with willing landowners to save over 47 million acres of farms, forests, parks and places people care about. Strong, well-managed land trusts provide local communities with effective champions and caretakers of their critical land resources, and safeguard the land through the generations.
For information about the New River Land Trust or to obtain information about conserving your land, contact John Eustis at 540.951.1704 or e-mail email@example.com. To join the New River Land Trust or make a donation to support its conservation mission, click here.
Land Conservation Through the Eyes of an Intern
By Lily Terango
Waking up and looking over the rolling hills of your Southwest Virginia farm, reassured that it will never be bulldozed or torn apart is an irreplaceable feeling. Working with the New River Land Trust, landowners in the New River region can conserve their forests and family farms forever by placing a protective easement on their land.
Last spring I applied for an internship with the New River Land Trust (NRLT) at its office in Blacksburg. As an environmental policy and planning major at Virginia Tech, I'm interested in land conservation and wanted to get my feet wet in the field as soon as I could. This internship offered a great opportunity to become part of the effort to preserve our landscape, our woods and rivers for future generations to experience and enjoy.
Experiencing the breathtaking mountain views in the New River Valley Valley cannot be replicated by seeing a photograph or television show. The serenity that enfolds people when they are in nature is irreplaceable. That is why it is essential to conserve forests, open land, historical heritage, and farms that are left.
The New River Land Trust is a local non-profit that helps landowners obtain easements to conserve their land. A conservation easement limits or completely eliminates future development and other destructive land uses, while permitting the owner to continue farming their land and even timbering their forests. Easements are voluntary legal agreements between a landowner and a conservation agency. These agreements allow the owner to continue owning and managing their land while receiving significant tax benefits, some of which can be converted to cash.
The Hahn family's farm nestles in the mountainside that defines the aesthetic beauty of part of Blacksburg's landscape. The farm has pastureland for beef and sheep farming as well as wildlife habitat on its mountain slopes. Holding on to that amount of land and keeping it as a farm can be difficult. In a recent visit to the Hahn farm, Betty Hahn and her husband Doug Chancey gladly showed me around and talked about the vital importance of keeping the land unharmed from increasing development in this once rural valley.
The farm came into their family in 1976, and the Hahn family has been dedicated to it ever since. The Hahns decided to go through the New River Land Trust to place a conservation easement on their land. Heirloom pear and apple trees still grow on the land. The North Fork of the Roanoke River stretches through the farm. The Hahns plan to grow plants alongside the river to prevent erosion and undercutting of banks as a form of riparian restoration. The farm's mountainsides support an Old Growth forest. Such a forest provides a good environment for fungi and other organisms that supply nutrients to the ecosystem. Through their conservation easement, the Hahns gain the comfort of knowing that their undeveloped farmland and mountain forests will be preserved for all of time.
Youth Education Committee Field Trip
Educating Future Generations to Respect and Protect
the Land and The Landscape That is Their Heritage
The newly established Youth Conservation Committee of the NRLT launched its first program to engage children in our land conservation efforts in 2011. The Committee sponsored a field trip for the children of the Harding Elementary School Green Club to historic McDonalds Mill in Catawba Valley, which is a Special Projects Area for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the New River Land Trust. The Mill property is under a conservation easement which permanently preserves the land in a rural state and prescribes that it be used for traditional rural land uses such as farming, forestry and fishing.
The property and accompanying Mill building are also part of the Catawba Valley National Rural Historic District. The farm is used as pasture for dairy cows and the milk is used by the Homestead Creamery. The landowners Ned and Janet Yost have also participated in the VA Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) Landowner Incentive Program (LIP). This program focuses on streambank and riparian restoration projects.
The children got to learn about the importance of land conservation, preservation of historic resources and sensitive land management that contributes to protection of critical water and aquatic resources. The legacy of the land was shared with the children in a fun and exciting way. Below are some reflections the club members had to the experience:
"It was really pretty and untouched, plus it had a lot of animals you tend not to see."
When asked why land need to be protected one student replied "Because with development and all, the creek and house could have become office buildings in no time."
The Land Trust has for several years been mustering its resources to develop a youth education program. We are excited to report that we got going in 2011. The Land Trust is future oriented particularly in terms of protecting land, and engaging with the children who will follow us as protectors of land, water, wildlife and rural heritage that is ours. The next generations will inherit the land we conserve today and will need to appreciate the vital nature of this land. Here in southwestern Virginia rural land is our heritage and the foundation of our healthy social, economic and environmental systems. Finally, in what is an increasingly polarizing political landscape, the Land Trust feels that conservation of land and engagement of youth in our rural landscape and associated traditions are a common ground on which our diverse regional community can unite.
Committee Chair, Alice Coddington noted: "It's important to have a Youth Education Committee because the kids of today are the future land conservationists. If they grow up with respect for the dignity of our local farmlands and forests, then they will help to carry on the legacy of land trusts throughout the world. It is my hope that by planting the seeds of land conservation in the minds of these young folks, that great tall trees will grow in their hearts".
Elderly landowner protects the New
Buster Osborne greets John Eustis, executive director
of the New
River Land Trust, who helped facilitate
the conservation easement
COXS CHAPEL, VA—A pristine 2 ½-mile stretch
of the New River once proposed as the site of a new state
prison is now forever protected with a conservation easement—thanks
to its 92-year-old landowner.
Mastin F. “Buster” Osborne and his family have
owned a farm along a bluff overlooking the New River for
generations. Then two years ago, a private company recommended
the state build its new state prison on land surrounded by
Osborne’s farm along a horseshoe bend of the river.
Once angry landowners along the river found a better site
for the prison, Osborne decided he had better buy his neighbor’s
land before some other development scheme popped up. The
tract’s only access is through Osborne’s farm.
So at age 91, Osborne negotiated the purchase of the adjoining
farm. He then contacted the New River Land Trust to place
his family farm and his adjacent newly acquired property—a
total of 546 acres—under easement. On December 19th,
he finalized and filed a conservation easement that will
be co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the National
Committee for the New River. Osborne and his nephew’s
family, which farms the land, now have the security of knowing
that their land will remain forever productive farmland.
The easement also guards the rural landscape along a popular
stretch of the New River Blueways canoe trail.
“This easement is so important because it is an essential
block in a growing corridor of protected land in Grayson
County critical to the scenic character and the water quality
of the New River,” said Dixie Leonard, president of
the New River Land Trust.
Over 18 miles along the New River are now protected with
conservation easements thanks to the combined efforts of
local landowners, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the New
River Land Trust and the National Committee for the New River.
At age 92, Osborne is also set to become a presence on the
Worldwide Web. A new conservation web site called LandScope
America, being launched by NatureServe and National Geographic,
is making Osborne’s story and photos one of its first
features. LandScope is
a new online resource for the land-protection community and
the public. By bringing together maps, data, photos, and
stories about America’s natural places and open spaces
its goal is to inform and inspire conservation of the nation’s
lands and waters.
Buster’s story for LandScope is
written by Mary Bishop, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter
now retired from The Roanoke Times. Fred First, a noted nature
photographer from Floyd, took stunning photos that showcase
the Osborne farm and Buster himself for the web.
A view of Buster Osborne’s farm from the New River
Bishop’s story for the LandScope site
catches the rich family history of the Osborne farm: “When
Buster Osborne was a boy, the New served up catfish and mud
turtles weighing 40 pounds or more. It was a river that froze
in foot-thick ice and allowed easy winter crossings by foot,
horse or Model T. A river where the postman pulled himself
across in a cabled basket, and children rode ferries to school.
“The land, too, provided abundance. Apple and cherry trees filled
the cupboards with jellies and jams. A chestnut orchard littered the ground
with bushels of nuts. “Not a worm in ‘em,” Osborne proudly
Across the river, neighboring landowners including
Phil and Charlotte Hanes of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Jerry
and Mary Osborne Young have already protected hundreds of
acres of farmland. The Youngs, like many other families along
the river in Grayson County, have inherited their land directly
from King’s grants to ancestors in colonial days.
The Osborne easement is one of dozens being finalized this
month by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which protects
more than 500,000 acres of natural, scenic, historic, open-space,
and recreational land in Virginia.
“It was a privilege to work with the Osbornes to help them protect their
family farm and also leave a legacy for future generations,” said Neal
Kilgore, conservation easement specialist for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. “This
legacy includes the perpetual opportunity to grow food and forests, while also
providing a place for wildlife and enhancing recreational resources like the
New River. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is thankful for generous and visionary
people like the Osbornes, as well as partners such as the New River Land Trust
and the National Commission for the New River, that help facilitate the easement
The New River Land Trust educates landowners about how they
can protect their family farms with easements while also
harvesting generous state and federal tax incentives. Working
with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the New River Land
Trust has helped conserve over 33,000 acres in the New River
watershed since 2002.
“At a time when real estate prices are soaring on
the New River, all of us who value this beautiful river and
the productive forests and farms along its banks owe families
like the Osbornes a debt of thanks. Families who canoe the
New as well as communities that pull their water from the
New will enjoy the environmental benefits of protecting this
river corridor,” said John Eustis, executive
director of the New River Land Trust.
A view of Buster Osborne’s farm from the New River
Photos by Fred First. Fred First is an essayist, physical therapist, naturalist and photographer living in Floyd County.
Conservation Easements Can Benefit Taxpayers
by David Yolton
In the New River Valley, we face a huge challenge: How do we preserve the bounty of nature and our rich natural resources, the envy of many on this planet? Retirees and others from all parts of the country are moving to (or staying) in this area because of its natural beauty and a lifestyle that comes with close proximity to nature. To maintain this appeal and ultimately for our very survival, our biggest challenge is to find ways to preserve our renewable resources so that we may use them indefinitely into the future. There are numerous organizations that participate in this goal, from private non-profits to government agencies, with each occupying a niche in the effort to preserve, maintain, and enhance our natural resources.
Photo by Cedric Rudisill.
The New River Land Trust is a non-profit organization committed to conserving farmland, forests, open spaces, and historic places in Virginia's New River region, including the counties of Bland, Carroll, Giles, Floyd, Grayson, Montgomery, Pulaski, Wythe, and the cities of Galax and Radford. We preserve precious land by educating landowners and others about the benefits of voluntarily donated conservation easements, and by helping those donors make the most of the state and federal government land conservation tax incentives. An easement typically is defined as a right, such as a right of way, given or sold to another to make limited use of one's real property. An easement only confers the right of use, not ownership. There are many kinds of easements for just about any use one can think of. Common ones might be utility easements, drainage easements, and slope easements among others. A conservation easement in Virginia is one that gives the right to perpetuate existing conservation values on one's property to another, usually to a federal or state agency capable of monitoring and maintaining those values into the future. The most common way to perpetuate existing conservation values is to limit development on the property. The agency holding the easement doesn't necessarily pay for it, the payment comes in the form of tax incentives provided by the state and federal governments.
Since 2002, the New River Land Trust has worked with more than 200 landowners to protect over 42,000 acres of farms, forests, historic places, and open spaces including almost twenty-one miles along New River. This land will forever be maintained as rural land contributing to the landscape, livelihood, and heritage of our region. Both the state and federal governments, acting for the general welfare of our country and its citizens, offer significant tax incentives to easement donors to partially offset the loss of land value resulting from the development restrictions associated with conservation easements. Absent other considerations, an elderly farm couple might be hard-pressed to refuse a developer's offer of say half a million dollars for their beautiful 100 acre farm on the New River. With an easement, they can continue to live on and farm the property, lease it to others, pass it on to heirs, or they could sell the land to the next generation of farmers. Thus, the land remains forever open and the important natural resources protected and available to continue to feed us into the future.
The New River Land Trust Welcomes
New Board Members and Treasurer
Dr. Eugene Seago has accepted the position of Treasurer for the New River Land Trust effective January, 2012. Dr.Seago is the R.B. Pamplin Professor of Accounting at Virginia Tech and has been a member of the College of Business faculty for 40 years. He holds a PhD in Accounting and a J.D. from the University of Georgia. He is also a member of the Virginia Bar Association.
He is a long standing environmentalist and has published an article on the environmental tax credit for Environmental Law and Policy Review Journal and Tax Notes. He has distinguished himself as a consultant for the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration, and has developed numerous accounting related courses for both academia and industry. He has a special interest in environmental issues and conservation. He has three children and lives with his wife Pat on a small farm in Craig County.
James Cowan is a shareholder in LeClairRyan, PC. He is the Office Leader for the firm's Blacksburg, Virginia, office which is located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. He received his J.D. from Washington & Lee University in 1994. While at Washington & Lee he was selected for the Law Review and membership in Omicron Delta Kappa. James graduated summa cum laude from Towson University with a B.S. in English in 1991. He is also a graduate of the National Trial Advocacy College at the University of Virginia. James has been selected for "The Best Lawyers in America" and named in Virginia Business Magazine's "Legal Elite." Recently he was recognized for the second year in a row by Richmond Magazine as a "Rising Superlawyer" in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
James currently serves as the General Counsel to the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance and on the Board of Directors of the New River Valley Society for Human Resource Management. He represents a number of employers and developers in the region, ranging from high-tech start-ups to large manufacturers and from local property owners to national developers. His practice focuses on representing management in labor and employment matters, and representing property owners and developers on land use issues. James has spent the last decade trying cases in federal and state courts across Virginia. He has argued multiple cases before the Virginia Supreme Court, and also represents employers before the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
James assists land-owners and developers in obtaining zoning and necessary entitlements for commercial and residential real estate development projects throughout southwest Virginia.
Karen Iannaccone has enjoyed living in the New River Valley since 1977, and was the owner and operator of Our Daily Bread Bakery for 29 years, until selling the business in 2009. During the time she owned the bakery, Karen supported many local charitable and community organizations and public schools through her business. She was appointed to the Virginia Small Grains Board, of which she served many years.
Karen is currently participating in the Virginia Master Well Owner program through VT extension, pursuing an interest in private and public source water quality. She has a lifelong interest in the quality of the environment and conservation of resources, and looks forward to being a member of the New River Valley Land Trust.
She is an active member of Christ Episcopal Church, and enjoys photography, gardening, kayaking, reading, and traveling with family and friends.