Three Families in Northern Iredell County Donate
Conservation Easements to Protect
Over 500 acres of Farmland

In the past two months, The LandTrust for Central North Carolina has secured conservation easements on three separate tracts of land in Iredell County that will help protect the water quality, wildlife habitat, agricultural viability, and scenic beauty of approximately 540 acres of farmland, forest, and open space. The three families involved voluntarily extinguished most of the development rights on their property through conservation easements in order to ensure that their land stays relatively undeveloped for many generations to come. The three families who made this generous commitment are J.B. and Dorothy Rash, Dr. Walter and Edith Holland, and Ruth Robertson, all from Northern Iredell County.

The largest tract protected through conservation easement belongs to J.B. and Dorothy (Dottie) Rash and includes three hundred seventeen (317) acres of rolling farmland. Located off of Church Lake Road, the property includes significant frontage along the South Yadkin River at its intersection with Rocky Creek. Because the South Yadkin River serves as a source of drinking water for many towns downstream, The LandTrust for Central North Carolina has made protection of this river corridor a priority. In fact, last year The LandTrust announced it had received its first Iredell County conservation easement along the South Yadkin River on a farm owned by the late Hilda Watt. It also purchased nearly three hundred acres along the South Yadkin River further downstream in Rowan County to provide a buffer to the river.

Jason Walser, Director of Land Protection for The LandTrust, remarked "Protecting the Rash property against significant development is an important piece of a much larger puzzle. We hope to continue our land protection efforts along this important water and wildlife corridor as we are seeing greater and greater development pressures in this area. By having the Rash family make such a noteworthy commitment of keeping their land in a relatively undeveloped state we have succeeded on two fronts. First, we have accomplished another mile and a half of River protection. But perhaps even more importantly, our overall corridor protection plan has been publicly supported through this easement by one of the most respected farming families in Iredell County. Having the Rash family on board with our land protection efforts in Iredell County will surely help open the door to many more farming and land owning families in Northern Iredell County."

This portion of the Rash farm protected by an easement includes not only the bottomlands by the river, but also several steep bluffs that afford beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. J.B. Rash, who uses the land mostly for cattle pasture lands, noted "With land prices in this area skyrocketing, it is getting harder and harder for farmers to justify growing food instead of just houses. This land has been in the family a long time and has some wonderful memories. We wanted to make sure that our family would continue enjoying the beauty and productivity of this land for a long time to come and we feel that we have been able to do this by placing a conservation easement on the property."

The second property to be protected by a conservation easement was the farm of Dr. Walter and Edith Holland on Chipley Ford Road. This one hundred ninety-two (192) acre farm between Red Chimney Road and the South Yadkin River is a working beef cattle operation. With two perennial streams flowing through the property on their course to the South Yadkin River, water quality and wildlife habitat again have proven beneficiaries of an easement. The property, which is surrounded by residential neighborhoods on two sides, faces obvious development pressures. However, the Hollands want the area to stay as natural and undeveloped as possible.

Dr. Holland noted "As a native of North Iredell with a beef cattle farming heritage, preservation of this property is very attractive to me. Edie and I see this as a win-win situation that not only promotes environmentally friendly farming practices and preserves wildlife habitat, but also preserves attractive, highly visible open spaces as a benefit to the community at large. We hope to preserve additional farm lands similarly in the future."

James Beall Graham, President of The LandTrust for Central North Carolina and himself a dairy and beef cattle farmer in Davidson and Rowan Counties, exclaimed, "Perhaps most noteworthy about the Holland easement is how they worked with both us and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to make their farm a model of innovative and environmentally sensitive farming. They are working closely with NRCS to make the farming operations they employ today as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. But they also went a step further and turned to The LandTrust to make sure that the long-term potential uses of the land would also be environmentally sensitive and beneficial to their neighbors. With a very restrictive conservation easement, they have made a significant gift not just to The LandTrust, but to their neighbors, all of us downstream of their farm, and society at large. Their conservation ethic is truly remarkable."

The third landowner to place a conservation easement on their property was Ruth Robertson of Union Grove. The easement encompasses 32 acres of managed forest with some open lands. Not only does this property provide gorgeous views of the surrounding Brushy Mountains, it abuts and is part of the Robertson Bog Natural Heritage Inventory site identified by botanist Chris Frye as being of local environmental importance. The spring-fed bog identified in the Inventory of Iredell County will largely be protected by virtue of the conservation easement placed on the property by Mrs. Robertson.

Led by her son John Robertson, who is a local activist and community spokesperson for a variety of environmental issues, Mrs. Robertson placed a very restrictive easement on the property that will prevent all future development of the site and greatly restrict the ability to alter the landscape. Furthermore, provisions were made that will allow this property to one day serve educational and recreational purposes on a more wide scale basis. John Robertson noted, "Although this tract is not large, its contribution to water quality, wildlife habitat, oxygen production, educational potential, and scenic beauty can not be overstated. With this easement, our family hoped to set a precedent for this community that can be built upon with further regional efforts." Jeff Michael, Executive Director The LandTrust for Central North Carolina added, "The Robertson farm and forest is located in a remarkably undeveloped and beautiful area. If we are going to do significant farmland protection that also focuses on preserving water quality and scenic viewsheds, I can’t think of a better place to focus than this region of Northern Iredell County."

A conservation easement is a flexible but legally-binding agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization like The LandTrust. In such an agreement, the landowner commits to keeping the land in a relatively undeveloped state, although some limited building of homes and other structures may be permitted. Depending on the terms of each particular easement, the landowners can also continue to use the property for hunting, limited forestry practices, and farming. While the landowners are free to sell or give away the land to whomever they wish, future owners of this property will also be bound by the same terms of the easements.

The LandTrust for Central North Carolina is a non-profit land conservation organization that protects the natural areas, family farms, and wildlife habitat throughout the south-central Piedmont of North Carolina. They currently have four thousand five hundred acres of property permanently protected in the Yadkin / Pee Dee River watershed with several more large-scale projects pending. For further information about The LandTrust’s ongoing programs, or to learn how you can help support the ongoing efforts of land preservation in this region, please contact the staff at (704) 647-0302.
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