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Conservation Easements and Land Preservation, Part II


A horse farm in Williamson County under conservation easement since 2010 with a total of 108 acres protected forever. The main use of the farm is to stable horses, raise horses, and for horseback/trail riding for the family and friends. Most of the land is in horse pasture and hay production. The landowners reserve the right to add an existing home and to keep the farm from further division. The farm is in close proximity to the Natchez Trace Parkway, which adds to the natural and agricultural viewshed
Compiled by MSHR Staff

Throughout Tennessee there are valuable places of land that have been protected by conservation easements through The Land Trust for Tennessee. One historical place is Glen Leven Farm in Nashville, TN. At the corner of Franklin Pike and Thompson Lane sits Glen Leven, a 65-acre working farm once owned by Nashville settler Thomas Thompson, who gained the property through a Revolutionary War land grant. In 2006, Susan McConnell, sixth generation of the Thompson family, bequeathed the property to The Land Trust for Tennessee, stipulating that it never be developed and be used only as an educational and recreational resource for the community.

A conservation easement now protects 350 acres along Signal Mountain. The town of Signal Mountain, TN still owns, manages and governs the lands. However, the town donated the development rights associated with those lands to The Land Trust for Tennessee, ensuring the park lands can never be developed. The easement allows for recreational uses and related structures associated with outdoor recreation such as trail heads, backpacking shelters, etc. But there can be no commercial or residential development.

A trip to Leiper’s Fork in Williamson County, TN may seem to be a step back in time, with a quaint town center and plenty of farms, cows, tractors, and bucolic rural atmosphere. Aubrey Preston is one of the preservation architects of Leiper’s Fork. In the early 1990s, Preston began persuading friends from all over to invest in Leiper’s Fork. The idea was to maintain a rural community, and in 2000 Preston and his mother became the first property owners to conserve their 381 acres through The Land Trust for Tennessee. Now, Williamson County boasts the highest concentration of conservation easements in Tennessee. A total of 46 properties totaling 6,122 acres are protected by land trusts. Nine of those properties, amounting to 1,524 aces, are located in Leiper’s Fork. That land won’t change. “We just wanted to leave the land a better place for the next folks. It all started with a small group of [conservation-minded] people,” Preston said.

The Land Trust for Tennessee also works to save valuable public land. The organization works with communities to protect critical land and water resources, striving for a balance between growth and conservation. Some of the public lands protected include Mountain Goat Trail on the Cumberland Plateau. From 1856 to 1985, the Mountain Goat Railroad carried coal and passengers between Palmer and Cowan in Grundy and Franklin Counties along the Cumberland Plateau. Now the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance (MGTA) is reclaiming the path of the railroad to use as a recreation and scenic path. The old railroad bed will be turned into a 35-mile multiuse recreational path.

Radnor Lake State Natural Area. In 2014 The Land Trust for Tennessee and the Friends of Radnor Lake protected 23 acres adjoining Radnor Lake State Park. In May 2013, 40 acres were secured and are now owned by the State of Tennessee. Protection of these two properties, a total of 63 acres, will allow Radnor Lake to extend its current trail system, expand hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities, and permanently protect the view from Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory. This precious undeveloped urban land will be protected for community use and the public health and spirit of Nashville - forever.

The Land Trust for Tennessee and The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) partnered to purchase 68 acres of critical wildlife habitat located along Blythe Ferry Road near the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers. This piece of land and other properties along the Hiwassee River corridor are an essential part of the Sandhill Crane’s natural migration pattern. More than 48,000 cranes descend on the Refuge for up to three months each winter. In addition, Blythe Ferry was a site for Cherokee camps and major departure point for the Trail of Tears.

Read more stories of land conservation at:  Additional resources to learn more about land conservation are: The Land Trust Alliance, The Trust For Public Land, and the Equine Land Conservation Resource

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