Landowners Donate Easements to Protect Hunting Preserve

April 5, 2010

A love of the land and the Tar River has George and Lynette Johnson of Greenville and Marshall and Susan Cassedy of Tallahassee, Florida, looking for ways to protect their property in Edgecombe County. The couples recently worked with Tar River Land Conservancy to place permanent conservation easements on three properties located along NC Highway 258. The properties are part of Huckleberry Ridge Hunting Preserve located just north of Tarboro. One of the easements partially surrounds the historic Dr. Dempsey Bryan Batts House, built in the 1880s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Eric Jenkins, Mason Lilly, Derek Halberg and George Johnson discuss conservation strategies for the Huckleberry Ridge Hunting Preserve

Combined, the three newly-protected properties total 155 acres. Under the terms of the “working land” conservation easements, the landowners will continue to actively manage their farmland and timber plantations but the land cannot be converted to residential or commercial development. Funding support from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund helped make the project possible.

“We like to think of ourselves as good stewards of the land,” says Mr. Johnson. “Donating these easements to Tar River Land Conservancy allows us to do even more to protect this land. Now I know that no matter who comes after me, it will be protected forever.”

Over 70% of the land put into the easements is classified by the United States Department of Agriculture as prime farmland. “Prime farmland soils are essential to producing food and fiber,” explains Derek Halberg, Executive Director of the Conservancy. “We’re interested in keeping prime soils viable for future agricultural and timber production. You can’t farm it if it’s been paved over or built on,” he adds.

The Johnsons and Cassedys previously enrolled a portion of the land in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program, which is administered by the Edgecombe County Soil and Water Conservation District. Sometimes referred to as “Buffers for Bobwhites”, the voluntary program provides cost-share assistance to landowners to establish native grass buffers around edges of crop fields to benefit upland wildlife such as bobwhite quail.


Unmowed native grass buffer that provides habitat for quail and cottontail rabbits on one of the preserved properties

Conservation easements are an attractive option for landowners who want to protect farms, forests, and wildlife habitat. Placing a conservation easement on eligible land can also provide federal income tax deductions and state tax credits. Landowners wishing to know more about protecting their land and the benefits available can reach Tar River Land Conservancy at 919-496-5902 for more information.

In its tenth year, Tar River Land Conservancy has worked with over 150 landowners and protected over 16,000 acres across eight counties. “We are proud of what we have achieved over the last decade,” says Mr. Halberg. “But we don’t do this work alone. It takes dedicated landowners and strong donor support to make meaningful conservation like this a reality.”