Maryville, TN – In late-December 2014 the Foothills Land Conservancy celebrated another ‘best ever’ conservation year with the completion of 13 conservation easements totaling 11,711 acres – projects that span 4 states and cover 8 counties!  To date, FLC’s cumulative land preservation projects now cover 58,711 acres within the 5 states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Over the past four years (2011-2014), FLC has doubled the amount of acreage preserved through conservation easement agreements compared to all the years prior to 2011.

“2014 was a phenomenal year that has been preceded by several other ‘record’ years”, says Bill Clabough, FLC’s Executive Director. He adds, “These successes can be directly attributed to all of our supporters and especially our Board members – they’ve enabled Foothills to grow and expand our service area.”

(The news release continues below images.)

Multi-State Expansion

In 2014, FLC worked with landowners on conservation easement projects in Tennessee as well as in the adjacent states of Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina. Last year, FLC partnered with landowners on an out of state land project consisting of 120 acres off of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Wautaga County, North Carolina. Below is a list of FLC’s 2014 completed conservation easement projects along with project highlights.

  • Bell County, KY (920 acre tract)

Located close to the Tennessee/Kentucky state line, this newly preserved and scenic property resides along a high ridge on the Cumberland Plateau. The easement is very visible to the public for a large area as US highways 25E and 58 are nearby, as well as a

number of county roads, and the city of Middlesboro, Kentucky.  Adjoining the easement are both Federal and state-protected lands, including the Shillalah Creek Wildlife Management Area and Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  The easement not only adjoins Cumberland Gap National Historical Park but also provides views from the park’s overlooks.  Other nearby natural areas include the Wilderness Road State Park and Martin’s Fork Wildlife Management Area and State Natural Area. This easement protects part of the headwaters and sections of a number of creeks. These waterways include Shillalah Creek, Bee Branch, and Devil’s Garden Branch, which flow into the Clear Fork and the Upper Cumberland Watershed.  Rock outcrops and boulderfield communities add to the diversity and wildlife habitat.

  • Fairfield County, SC (2620.21 acre tract)

One of FLC’s larger conservation easements to date, this conservation easement is an expansive scenic tract just northwest of Columbia, in Fairfield County, South Carolina.  The site is mainly forested with the Broad River flowing along one the easement’s boundaries. Creeks, springs, wetlands, ponds, and open fields are also present. Animal species noted or likely to use the tract include resident and migratory bird species, coyote, grey and red fox, black bear, southern flying squirrel, a variety of snakes and lizards, eastern box turtle (two shells noted), and white tailed deer.

  • Lumpkin County, GA (111.61 acre tract) 

This property is located  in Lumpkin County, close to Dahlonega, Georgia. It’s in close proximity to the Chattahoochee National Forest. Several natural areas, including Amicolola Falls State Park, Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area, Unicoi State

Park and other portions of the National Forest, are also close to the property. This site once housed a granite quarrying operation. A portion of the property borders the Chestatee River.  This 50 mile stretch of waterway is popular with many kayakers, canoeists and fisherman is also highly visible within the site’s viewshed. One of the most crucial resources on the Property is the abundance of clean water from the Chestatee River as well as from the various other streams, drainways and associated riparian areas found on the tract. The property is almost entirely wooded, with only a small portion kept cut around the site of an old granite quarry.   During a site visit, FLC staff observed deer, bobcat, and bear tracks along with an abundant sign of beaver, including a small dam.

Centennial Pioneer Farm, Hartsaw Cove – Overton County, TN (1,502.95 acres)

Millard Oakely’s family farm, Hartsaw Cove, is one of only a few ‘Centennial Pioneer Farms’, indicating the farm is actually older than the State of Tennessee.  The farm was originally given as a land grant to Oakley’s family in 1792; 4 years before Tennessee became a State. The property is located within 20 miles of Cookeville, near Livingston in Overton County, TN.

In December of 2014, three tracts on the farm, totaling 1,502.95 acres, were placed under one conservation easement with FLC. As it has been for over 200 years, this property is still maintained as a working farm and is currently leased out to Tennessee Tech as the Oakley Sustainable Agricultural Center (OSAC).  The OSAC is an experiential learning center for students that offer opportunities for agricultural experiments to agriculture, biology, history, and other fields of study.  Property is approximately 60% in open land for agriculture production and 40% in woodlands .Currently hay production, pasture and beef cattle are the dominant agricultural activities.

The Property is located in an area rich with natural, historical, or recreational parks and sites.  Nearby parks include the Standing Stone State Park, Roaring River Park, the Roaring River Recreational Are, and the Obey River Park and Recreation Area. Within 15 miles of the Property is Cummins Falls State Park, a 211-acre park that features Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall.   The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area are located within 20 miles of the farm.

A note about Mr. Oakley… Millard Oakley was elected to four terms to the Tennessee Legislature, served one term to the Constitutional Convention, and was elected to four terms as County Attorney of Overton County. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971-1973 as General Counsel for the House Select Committee on Small Business. Moving back to Tennessee, Millard served as State Insurance Commissioner from 1975-1979. Throughout his life, Mr. Oakely has served the Overton County community and surrounding counties through various volunteer efforts and educational initiatives.

Marion County TN – 6 Conservation Easements

FLC also completed 6 new conservation project partnerships, totaling 4,485 acres, near Tracey City in Marion County, TN. Three of the tracts are 705 acres each with the remaining three easements at 876, 765 and 699 acres respectively. All 6 tracts are contiguous and lie above both the Sequatchie Valley and Indian Creek and offer sweeping views of the surrounding Cumberland Plateau, Escarpment and ridges above Sequatchie Valley. TWRA, as part of its Tennessee’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, considers the Sequatchie Valley as one of the most unique features of the Cumberland Plateau.  The preservation of these lands from commercial and residential development, including strip mining activity, will also contribute to the long term enhancement of water quality for the Little Sequatchie River, Mill Creek and Little Indian Creek.

  • The properties are situated roughly in the center of the 10 areas of the South Cumberland State Recreation Area which total over 20,000 acres.  A Cumberland Plateau Heritage Corridor has been proposed as a National Heritage Corridor, a National Park Service designation  The preservation of the scenic attributes of the undeveloped property will add significantly to the enjoyment of travelers to these already protected properties and encourage continued tourism in the region
  • As part of the regions abundant forestlands, the collective size of these tracts are especially important for ecological continuity and for the support of the unusually rich wildlife and plant diversity present in the Cumberland Plateau region. Protected wetlands are critically important habitat for many invertebrates and other wildlife species such as the amphibians currently struggling due to habitat loss and degradation. Cumberland Seepage Forests and Cumberland Sandstone Glades are two unique vegetation types occurring on the Plateau that commonly include many rare species.  Already protected areas nearby include a number of existing private Foothills Land Conservancy (FLC) Conservation Easements with approximately 3,000 acres immediately adjacent to the Property, as well as over 10,500 acres in nearby counties on the Plateau. Other publicly protected areas in the vicinity include the 24,686 acres of Prentice Cooper State Forest which includes the south end of the Cumberland Trail, 234 acres of Grundy Forest, over 20,299 acres of South Cumberland State Recreation Area which includes Savage Gulf Natural Scientific Area, Fiery Gizzard Trail, Grundy Lakes State Park, and the 7,737 acres of Franklin State Forest.  TVA’s nearby 10,370 acre Nickajack Reservoir on the Tennessee River is prized for its spectacular scenery.
  • A number of caves are nearby and some could possibly be located on these tracts. There are limestone bluffs along sections of the Little Sequatchie River where the flora appeared to be especially rich with wildlife cover and denning sites in the rock crevices are abundant. The Property is part of the geographic region where Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia meet, commonly referred to as TAG. Over 15,000 caves are known from this region with many more certainly yet to be discovered. There are at least 6 large caves along Little Sequatchie River, Mandys Cave, Ship Cave, Wine Cave, Dancing Fern Cave, Butterfly Cave, and Sequatchie Cave, most of which are known to support cave-obligate species, or troglobionts, that require the presence of karst topography (limestone and cave) and pure water to survive.

Additional Easements

  • Polk County, TN (288.788 acres)  

This 288 tract is completely surrounded by U.S. Forest Service lands.  The adjacent Cherokee National Forest (CNF) includes over 650,000 acres in east TN.  The Southern Region of the CNF includes around 220,000 acres of forests in east TN, and Forest Service lands continue into the 531,000 acre Nantahala National Forest in NC.  The Property itself includes a variety of habitats similar to adjacent protected lands and wildlife is plentiful.  The Hiwassee River, a State Scenic River and a State Exceptional River, bounds roughly 3,000’ of the Property on the NE side. One creek on the Property, Shadwick Branch, has been noted as an Exceptional Stream by the State of Tennessee for its high quality water and associated habitat. Another conserved property, consisting of 649 acres of forested land held by Foothills Land Conservancy, lies within 10 miles of the Property.

The old CSX Railroad tracks cross the tract in two areas and essentially surrounds the property. Currently, the Overhill Heritage Association oversees management of a private excursion train for scenic tours, called the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure, originating in Etowah, TN. These tours, as well as the occasional shipping of freight including calcite from Copper Hill, TN, are the primary uses of the railway. Located at a sharp bend of the river just off the Property can be found a unique loop of the tracks around Bald Mountain. This is one of only three locations in the US where railroad tracks loop over themselves to gain elevation in limited space. The trestle itself is located within the boundaries of the Property.

  • Van Buren County, TN (1028 acres)

The 1028 acre tract is located south of the small town of Spencer, TN and is visible from State Route 111 along its eastern border.  Numerous outdoor recreation destinations are in the area, including South Cumberland State Park and Fall Creek Falls State Park.  Also within ten miles of the property there are at least seven properties with Foothills Land Conservancy conservation easements totaling more than 5,400 acres. The conservation of this property will support the continuity of habitat corridors between these and other extensive open space lands in the region.

  • Grundy County, TN (755 acres)

This 755 acre property lies within the Cumberland Plateau and Plateau Escarpment in Grundy County near the small community of Palmer.  The tract offers views off to the surrounding Cumberland Plateau toward the Sequatchie Valley, Walden’s Ridge and the Tennessee River drainage.  The size of the property along with the range of elevation and geology combined with the variations of hydrology, slopes, rock outcrops, multiple streams, seeps and edges provides for an unusually high diversity of natural habitats of both plant and animal species.   Tracks of white-tailed deer, turkey, coyote, possum, raccoon and songbirds were observed during a staff site visit. Already protected areas nearby include a number of existing conservation easements as well as Prentice Cooper State Forest and the Cumberland Trail, Grundy Forest, South Cumberland State Recreation Area with Savage Gulf and Fiery Gizzard Trail, Grundy Lakes State Park, North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area, North Chickamauga Creek WMA and Franklin State Forest most prominently.

About Conservation Easements: For private landowners who wish to ensure their property stays in its natural state or as a working farm ‘in perpetuity’, or forever, they can opt to enter into a conservation easement agreement with a land trust. This customizable contract describes the activities allowed on the property like hiking, camping, firewood cutting, and farming but often prohibits things like mining and future commercial or residential development. Landowners who place a conservation easement on their property can continue to own, use, sell, live on or bequeath their land.

About Foothills Land Conservancy: FLC is dedicated to promoting, protecting and enhancing the lands and environments of the Southern Appalachian region and promoting the character of the land for the general public, now and in the future.   FLC is a 501(c)(3) and does not receive any financial assistance from local, state or federal governments. They rely on individual and corporate contributions solely to sustain their organization, land acquisition and stewardship funds.

For media inquiries, please contact FLC’s Executive Director, Bill Clabough, by cell phone at 865-755-3883. For more information or public inquiries about the Foothills Land Conservancy, please visit www.foothillsland.org or contact the FLC office at 865-681-8326 or info@foothillsland.org.

Check out related media articles:

Maryville Daily Times:  Foothills Land Conservancy Protected 11,600 acres in 2014

Knoxville News Sentinel: Conservancy has another record year

 

 

Flyer for LRTC & Cycology Pint Night  Flyer for LRTC & Cycology Pint Night

2014 Spring Newsletter & Annual Report

FLC Spring Newsletter_Page_01

2013 FLC Conservation Easement Projects

 

FLC Celebrates a Record Setting Year in 2013!

At the end of December, Foothills Land Conservancy celebratedthe completion of 14 conservation easements totaling 11,271 acres – a ‘best ever’ record for the organization. To date, FLC now has a total of 47,000 acres preserved – projects that span 26 counties in Tennessee with one project recently completed in Wautauga County, North Carolina.

We could not have come this far without the support of our Friends of the Foothills! Thanks to your generous contributions, FLC is able to expand our preservation efforts across this diverse region. Here are a few highlights about FLC’s 2013 conservation easement partnerships:

FLC now has a conservation easement agreement on 120 acres in Wauguga County, North Carolina. This is the first time Foothills has partnered on a conservation easement agreement out of state. The property is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and provides an important scenic backdrop to one of the most visited National Parks in the U.S. Since the easement is situated high on a mountain ridge, it can be seen from long distances. The owners say that on a clear day they can see the city of Hickory, NC, which is close to 35 miles away.

Rock Creek is a beautiful property in Morgan County that encompasses 1,369 acres. This tract includes hemlocks, rock walls, several creeks and is easily visible from parts of Frozen Head State Natural Area which is just south of the Property 10 miles.Less than 2 miles off of the Property, Rock Creek joins the Upper Emory River.

5 of the projects are located in Van Buren County, totaling 3,860 acres. The largest of these tracks, called Flatbush (2127 acres), is adjacent to Fall Creek Falls State Park on the park’s west side. Parkview is an 118 acre project, also in Van Buren, that is adjacent on the east side of Fall Creek Falls. Parkview is also adjacent to the 346 acre Cane Creek Property on which Foothills Land Conservancy holds a conservation easement. The Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness, totaling almost 15,000 acres, is less than ten miles away from Parkview.

Another Van Buren County property, High Point (840 acres) is located within 10 miles of Savage Gulf Class II Natural-Scientific State Natural Area and the South Cumberland State Recreation Area. Both High Point and another tract called, TOT (637 acres), are two properties that are adjacent to the historic Trail of Tears. Regarding High Point, the property’s northern boundary for almost two miles is a section of the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears, as noted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation – Division of Archaeology. This section of the Trail of Tears was part of the overland route used by eleven Cherokee removal parties who opposed the removal treaty in 1838, as well as some earlier voluntary removal groups.

Additional project details are included in the media links within this eNews. For updates, pictures and additional descriptions in the coming days, please friend us on FLC’s Facebook page. We will also post all of the project information in our upcoming 2013 Annual Report/2014 Spring Newsletter.

 About Conservation Easements: For private landowners who wish to ensure their property stays in its natural state or as a working farm ‘in perpetuity’, or forever, they can opt to enter into a conservation easement agreement with a land trust. This contract describes the activities allowed on the property like hiking, camping, firewood cutting, and farming but often prohibits things like clear-cutting, landfills, mining, and further development – according to the landowner’s wishes. Landowners who place a conservation easement on their property can continue to own, use, sell, live on or bequeath their land. 

 About Foothills Land Conservancy: FLC is dedicated to promoting, protecting and enhancing the lands and environments of the Southern Appalachian region and promoting the character of the land for the general public, now and in the future.   FLC is a 501(c)(3) and does not receive any financial assistance from local, state or federal governments. They rely on individual and corporate contributions solely to sustain their organization, land acquisition and stewardship funds.

For more information about Foothills Land Conservancy and their projects and programs, please contact the Foothills office at 865-681-8326.

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To make an online donation to FLC, please click on our PayPal Link:




FLC is in the News! Check out the media buzz surrounding our record setting year: 

Maryville Daily Times – A Record Setting Year for Saving Land: FLC Protected 11,000 Acres In 2013
 
Knoxville News Sentinel – Foothills Land Conservancy Chalks Up Banner Year in 2013

The Associated Press picked up the article ‘The Record Setting’ article from The Daily Times and here are a few publications that highlighted FLC’s amazing year: 

  Times Free Press – Chattanooga

TN State News.Net

Charlotte Observer

Houston Chronicle

Seattle, Washington

 

Hey Folks,

The staff at the Foothills Land Conservancy needs your help! Every year we cover thousands of acres across 23 counties here in Tennessee. This includes visits to new projects and also the monitoring of over 115 conservation easement properties. That’s a lot of ground! So, we have started a ‘Save Our Dogs’ campaign. Our goal is to reach $10,000 worth of donations to fund an all terrain vehicle and related costs. This much needed piece of equipment ensures that we can continue to expand our conservation efforts and preserve more land.  We hope that you will view our 30 second video or the longer version that allows staff to truly highlight our acting skills.

30 Second PSA – ‘Save our Dogs’

2 Minutes (Extended Version) – ‘Save Our Dogs’

To make a donation through PayPal, click here




A very special thank you to the amazing Heartlands Series videographer, Doug Mills, for his directing, producing and editing assistance. A shout out also goes to Heartland Series host and East Tennessee legend, Bill Landry, for his ideas and narration. We couldn’t have done this project without them! For updates on the campaign’s success, visit this page or like us on Facebook!

Find Us on Facebook

Thank you! - The Foothills Team

A few images taken during our 'Save our Dogs' video shoot!

A few images taken during our ‘Save our Dogs’ video shoot!

FLC’s 2014 Native Tree & Shrub Projects

In 2013, Foothills Land Conservancy received a $5000 grant, made possible by the American Forests and Alcoa Foundation’s Partnership for Trees initiative. The Partnership for Trees Program is part of Alcoa Foundation’s commitment to plant 10 million trees by 2020, with nearly 700,000 trees planted to date.  FLC’s focus for the grant was to work with local partners to plant close to 3200 native trees and shrubs at various sites in the East Tennessee region during the Spring of 2014.  Planting areas centered on sites with stream bank erosion and/or locations where the addition of native bio-diversity will increase wildlife diversity while also enhancing view sheds.  Sites were qualified by designated technical advisors and will be managed and monitored with their help.

Along with FLC staff and the grant’s technical advisors, both Knox and Blount County Alcoa Inc. employees volunteered their time to assist at two planting sites – The Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area and Kyker Bottoms Refuge. These sites are managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.  Other planting sites included the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge (now called the Seven Islands State Birding Park), TVA public hunting sites in Rhea, Meigs, and Hamilton counties, and private lands where restoration efforts were ongoing and additional plantings would be beneficial.

To view a slide show about the grant’s projects, the benefits of planting native in your own backyard, and resources available, please click on this link: Power Point Presentation.

Picture1Images from FLC’s Spring 2014 Native Tree and Shrub Plantings

FLC’s technical advisors for the grant are:

Bill Smith – Mr. Smith is the Wildlife Manager for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (Region 4 Office). He is a graduate from the University of Tennessee in Wildlife and Fisheries Science (1984). He was a wildlife officer for TWRA from 1985-1996. He was promoted to Wildlife Manager II 1996 and is currently the  Wildlife Manager II over four wildlife management areas: Forks of the River WMA(Knox County) Kyker Bottoms Refuge, Whites Mill Refuge, and Foothills WMA all in Blount County.

Dick Conley – For 39 years Dick Conley served as a wildlife habitat biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Retired in 2007, Mr. Conley currently works as a biologist/forest consultant for several land owners in East Tennessee and is a consultant for what is now Seven Islands State Birding Park. He specializes in restoring native warm season grasses and soil building legumes. He served on FLC’s Board of Directors for two terms during 2008-2013.

Erich Henry – Mr. Henry serves as the Director of Conservation for the Blount County Soil Conservation District.  He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and has completed specialized courses in forage and grassland management. Mr. Henry was named the 2007 Outstanding District Conservationist of the Year by the Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts and the Tennessee Valley Authority. He routinely provides technical assistance in conjunction with multiple grant funding pools for the improvement of natural resources within Blount County.

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About the Partnership for Trees Program: Alcoa Foundation and American Forests have joined together for the Partnership for Trees Program, a multi-year initiative to plant hundreds of thousands of native tree species on damaged and degraded sites around the world by engaging local communities in the restoration of forest ecosystems.This initiative, which commenced in 2011, builds toward Alcoa’s goal of planting 10 million trees by 2020 and supports American Forests’ mission to protect and restore forests. For a project to qualify for this program, Alcoa sites and employees work with qualified local nonprofit groups and agencies to develop and submit forest restoration proposals and then participate in the tree planting. To learn more click here

About American Forests: American Forests restores and protects urban and rural forests. Founded in 1875, the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the country has served as a catalyst for many of the most important milestones in the conservation movement, including the founding of the U.S. Forest Service, the national forest and national park systems and literally thousands of forest ecosystem restoration projects and public education efforts. In the last two decades, American Forests has planted more than 44 million trees in forests throughout the U.S. and in 44 countries, resulting in cleaner air and drinking water, restored habitat for wildlife and fish, and the removal of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Learn more at www.americanforests.org.

About Alcoa Foundation: Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the U.S., with assets of approximately US$468 million. Since 1952, they’ve invested more than $590 million to improve the environment and educate tomorrow’s leaders.   The work of Alcoa Foundation is further enhanced by Alcoa’s thousands of employee volunteers who share their talents and time to make a difference in the communities where Alcoa operates. Through the Company’s signature Month of Service program, 62% percent of Alcoa employees volunteer with 700,000 hours donated in 2013.  For more information, visit www.alcoafoundation.com and follow @AlcoaFoundation on Twitter.

About Foothills Land Conservancy: FLC is dedicated to promoting, protecting and enhancing the lands and environments of the Southern Appalachian region and promoting the character of the land for the general public, now and in the future.   FLC is a 501(c)(3) and does not receive any financial assistance from local, state or federal governments. They rely on individual and corporate contributions solely to sustain their organization, land acquisition and stewardship funds. In 2013, Foothills Land Conservancy celebrated the completion of 14 conservation easements totaling 11,271 acres – a ‘best ever’ record for the organization. To date, FLC now has a total of 47,000 acres preserved – projects that span 26 counties in Tennessee with one project in Wautauga County, North Carolina. The public should contact their office with any interest or questions at 865-681-8326 or info@foothillsland.org. To learn more about FLC, visit www.foothillsland.org.

CONTACT:

Elise Eustace, Communication & Development Director

Foothills Land Conservancy

Office (865) 681-8326; Cell (865) 201-5806

eeustace@foothillsland.org

Foothills Land Conservancy is pleased to announce that it is applying for accreditation in September 2013.  After completing an extensive review and update of all policies, records, and practices, Foothills is ready for the extensive review and rigorous standards of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

“We’re excited to be going through the accreditation process.  When the process is over with, we will be a stronger land trust, and we’ll have the proper policies and procedures in place to best serve landowners and the general public more efficiently,” said Executive Director Bill Clabough.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts and extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs.  The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever.

According to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission’s website, “The accreditation seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation. It recognizes organizations for meeting national standards for excellence, upholding the public trust, and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.”

A public comment period is now open.  The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications.  Comments must relate to how Foothills complies with national quality standards.  These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust.  For the full list of standards, see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/tips-and-tools/indicator-practices.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org.  Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 201, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.  Comments on Foothills’ application will be most useful if submitted before October 28, 2013.

 

Due to it’s density, gamma grass has a swift, steady hot burn. Ideal weather conditions contribute to the smoke’s straight rise above the field.

 

 

 

Dick Conley (left) and Ken Goddard observing a switchgrass field post-control burn.

*Please note – this article is not to be utilized as a resource or guide for planning your own control burn but simply for educational purposes only. Any control burn must go through the proper safety measures, permits and notifications specified under local, state and federal laws and regulations.

 

Most of us, when we see a field engulfed in flames tend to tense up, hope things don’t get out of hand, and are glad it is not our project to tend to! For one man in East Tennessee, the responsibility is often found on his shoulders. When you need a control burn expert for warm season native grasses, the person to call is retired TWRA wildlife habitat biologist and FLC Board Member, Dick Conley.
For 39 years Dick Conley worked for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Retired in 2007, Mr. Conley currently provides services as a biologist/forest consultant for several land owners in East Tennessee. He specializes in restoring native warm season grasses and soil building legumes.
In March of 2013, Dick Conley provided a control burn within several sections native warm season grasses within Gene Hartman’s farm. Back in 2008 Mr. Hartman and his wife Becky, partnered with FLC on a conservation easement covering 920 acres on their farm in Roane County.   Also there to learn more about these type of control burns was Ken Goddard, Extension Biofuels Specialist with the University of Tennessee.
According to Conley, the most important question to ask before you begin a control burn is, “What is your overall objective for your farm? And in this case it is for us to promote quail management. And as a result of that, you are also managing for a multitude of different species like song birds, deer, and turkey.” Once the bird’s nesting period is over, burns are then planned. One of the strategies that Conley applies is a checkerboard pattern of burning to allow for standing wildlife cover. For quail and song bird management you don’t want to burn everything.   The next year, fields that were not burned the previous year will be evaluated for burning.

Dick Conley ignites the perimiter of a dense field of gamma grass.

As Conley explains, “Fields become too dense and wildlife habitat can’t thrive, populations decline.” When these dense fields are not controlled, food for the birds like beggar lice, ragweed, and lespedeza can’t be sustained. The general rule of thumb for production fields of warm season grasses utilized for hay and biofuels is one clump per one square foot. For wildlife habitat you want one clump of grass per six square feet, allowing the necessary room for habitat to move around while still being covered.
So what are the optimal weather conditions for burning? Conley says there are several major components of a controlled burn – wind velocity should not exceed 4-5 miles , humidity levels should be really no higher than 40-50%  and temperatures are close to 40 degrees, and lastly the amount of fuel that is being burned. You want lots of fuel on the ground so it will ‘burn hot’. The time of year for a control burn like this is generally from February 15th through the end of March/1st of April.
Once all of these conditions are met, how does Conley approach the actual burn? He places a fire line around the perimeter of the field, letting it burn towards the center. He makes sure that there are open spaces around the field so that if the fire moves towards an adjacent area, the site easily be handled utilizing tools and a water tank.
What can be another benefit to a control burn? It can make the removal of invasive exotics very easy! In this case, Conley was able to take out a hedgerow of privet quickly. Any invasive shrubs still left standing can be sprayed and removed easily. A short while after the burn, a soil test will be conducted and sent in to the University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension Office.  Whatever nutrients the report indicates is lacking within the soil can be added in. For perennial grasses, like switchgrass and gammagrass, the fields will come back post-burn and without any supplemental planting.
A note about the UT Biofuels Initiative…
The biofuels contract program for farmers has expired. The program benefitted farmers that grew switchgrass, so that it could ultimately be ground up and converted into ethanol. Folks at the Hartman farm are moving towards keeping most, if not all, of the grass fields for its wildlife cover instead of harvesting a portion of the hay for livestock.
According to Goddard, farmers are looking into the use of native grasses and examining the optimal time to plant and cut for hay, ensuring the maximum nutrition for the cows. Right now, UT is looking into funding research through competitive grants to grow these grasses. Planting native warm season grasses could ultimately help fill in the grazing gap for cool season grasses, like fescue and orchard grass, which are heavily utilized in the livestock business. Goddard mentions that, “in the summer farmers typically have to use hay or plant some annual warm season grasses such as sudan grass. It’s nice to have a perennial, like switchgrass, so they don’t have to plant every year.” In this way, Goddard sees the planting of switchgrass as having a major benefit while the demand for biofuels kicks back up. He adds, “the marketplace for biofuels will move forward by creating both the crop and the demand… and so until the biofuel market becomes viable/ commercialized, finding varied, useful ways to incorporate switchgrass makes sense.” For additional information about native warm season grasses, please visit The Center for Native Grassland Management.

Tour of Roane County Conservation Easement

Folks get the full tour experience while sitting atop 'Monster Truck'!

This past fall FLC took a few employees with Strata-G, an environmental and consulting company in Knoxville, on a tour to one of our many remarkable conservation easement properties. With 106 of these partnerships covering 21 counties deciding which one to tour can be difficult! We decided to highlight Hartman’s property in Roane County and what a tour it was.  Many thanks Dick Conley and the all- terrain vehicle, known as ‘Monster Truck’, for the transportation and the wind in our hair! (Periodically, FLC does provide tours like this one to groups or individuals, so please contact us with any interest at 865-681-8326 or info@foothillsland.org.)

Back in 2008 Mr. Gene Hartman, and his wife Becky, partnered with FLC on a conservation easement covering 920 acres of their farm in Roane County.  Mr. Hartman is an ongoing Foothills supporter and his company, Duo Fast of Knoxville, has been an annual sponsor of FLC’s Celebration for many years. Several times a year, Mr. Hartman offers up his property for various conservation fundraisers and for use by disadvantaged youth, providing them with camping, fishing and other hunting activities.

FLC Board Member, Dick Conley, is the Land Manager for Hartman’s farm and provided the tour.  He kicked things off with an aerial photo and brief history of the property. FLC’s Land Director, Meredith Clebsch, explained the data gathering and photo collecting that goes into the annual monitoring of these easements. Mr. Conley spent 39 years with TWRA as a wildlife habitat biologist, his specific areas of expertise is in restoring native warm season grasses and soil building legumes.  A major interest of Conley’s is also helping to develop and monitor quail habitat.

Prior to the property’s current use as a commercial hunting preserve, it once housed a cattle farm, dairy operation and pasture lands. Close to 700 of the acres are in open fields with 300 in woodlands. Since the early 90’s Mr. Conley as helped to create a wildlife and native grass oasis amid neighboring cow pastures. Here are just a few of the projects that he has worked on over the years and in recent months:

Dick leads the tour through the various native warm season grasses on Hartman's property.

Native warm season grasses were converted from fields of fescue, sericea lespedeza, and bermudagrass to grasses like big bluestem, little bluestem and indiangrass. Since 1999, 400 acres have been converted to warm season grasses.

Planting native grasses assist in providing habitat needed for wildlife . The root systems of these grasses aids in soil structure and water infiltration. Mr. Conley is always exploring what grass works best with the conditions on the property and he has seen an increase in wildlife species, like quail and rabbits, as a result of the plantings.

Controlled burns are conducted on half of the grass fields annually in a checkerboard type pattern. This ensures that there is always food and habitat for wildlife on the property.

Conley has removed hedgerows that contained privet and replaced them with wildlife loving shrubs such as American beautyberry, hazelnut and persimmon trees.

A few years ago 50 acres of the property were planted in switchgrass, primarily as part of UT’s biofuel switchgrass program. This contract has expired so plans are in the works to manage the current fields from ‘maximum yield’ to ‘wildlife benefit’, reducing the stand density to about 1 plant per 6 square feet.

There are 13 man-made ponds on the property that are spring fed. They are designed for the purpose of benefiting fish and wildlife. 2 waterfowl areas have been created with the planting of several grains such as corn, Japanese millet and grain sorghum.

Spring fed ponds abound on the Hartman property providing for many different wildlife species.

50 acres of Hartman’s property has switchgrass. Until recently, the acreage was part of UT’s biofuels initiative.

Quail habitat is an indicator of a large, diverse habitat that benefits many other species like song birds and butterflies. Quail require 4 different habitats within a 40 acre area – brooding/nesting, escape, feeding, and cover. Outside temperature humidity levels also need to be between 20-30% when the hen sits on a clutch of eggs or the heat kills the eggs. Predators such as possums, skunks and raccoon are also a constant threat to the vulnerable quail eggs.

Did you know Dick Conley is also a Consultant Wildlife Habitat Biologist for Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge? In the coming weeks, FLC will also post entries about current projects at Seven Islands by Dick Conley, the folks at TWRA and the Refuge’s Land Director, Nora Hassell. Stay tuned…

 

2012 Conservation Easements

News Release (March 2013)FLC Applauds Renewal of Conservation Tax Incentive

FLC Celebrates Another Record Setting Conservation Year!

Maryville, TN – It’s been another banner year for Foothills Land Conservancy. In December of 2012, FLC completed 12 conservation easement projects totaling 6625 acres – surpassing last year’s acreage number of 4400. To date, FLC has a total of 36,000 acres preserved. The total number of conservation easement agreements stands at 105, covering 21 counties! Here are the easement descriptions, primarily grouped by county:

Blount County

FLC’s 100th Easement ● Jarvis Property – 62 acres

Dr. Craig Jarvis helped FLC celebrate mark the organization’s 100th conservation easement agreement Friday by signing his second easement with Foothills to mark the occasion! FLC also has another reason to celebrate. Dr. Jarvis will be a returning Board Member in 2013. He has been associated with FLC since it started and has served intermittently on the Board throughout the years.

December’s signing will protect a 2nd property, which is in Blount County. The 62 acre tract is 50% wooded with most of the remainder in hay fields. The property is very close to Chilhowee Mountain and the 11,000 acre Foothills Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a vital buffer between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the developed areas outside the Park’s perimeter. Other natural areas in the vicinity include the 350 acre Kyker Bottoms WMA and the 8000 acre Tellico WMA3. The proximity of the Jarvis property to these areas adds a safe buffer habitat for maintaining healthy populations of resident and migratory wildlife species and as a reservoir of native plant species.

For Dr. Jarvis, the timing was right for the second easement, “we didn’t want it to change and we felt like because of that it was time to go ahead and give the easement on it also – so that we know from this moment on it won’t change.”

Back in 2007, Jarvis permanently preserved close to 478 acres in Monroe County. Located in the wooded foothills of the Unicoi Mountains, the majority of the acreage from the first easement is forested with 2nd and 3rd growth oak, hickory and pine.  Views from the west side of that tract offer sites of Starr Mountain and the Cherokee National Forest.

Loudon County

Cline Property (56 acres) Also celebrating their second conservation easement with Foothills are Drs. Richard & Kim Cline. Back in 2008, the Cline’s put close to 220 acres in an easement with FLC. 120 acres of that tract are woodlands that consist primarily of 100-150 year old oak and hickory trees. The remainder is in pasture and crop land.

Both practicing physicians, the Cline’s wanted to continue to protect their land from development emerging in the area by placing a second easement on an adjoining 56 acre tract. Portions of Loudon County that include Tellico Village and Lenoir City are becoming quite popular. The Cline’s property sits on an area that is subject to development due to its proximity to Highway 321. The property also lies close to three Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs: Fort Loudon Lake, Watts Bar Reservoir on the Tennessee River, and the Tellico Reservoir on the Little Tennessee River.

About 2/3 of the second tract is currently in hay fields with at least two wildlife plots under current cultivation. The forested sections contain both evergreen and deciduous trees.

Warren County

The Dry Creek conservation easement is located in Warren County. The 433 acre tract is south of the town of McMinnville and within 20 miles of Fall Creek Falls State Park. The vast majority of the site is forested. Gently rolling plateau tops allow for scenic views. The easement will help to protect these high areas which provide part of the view shed for the valleys below.

Within 15 miles of the property, there are Several Class II Natural-Scientific State Natural Areas. Hubbard’s Cave, considered by the Nature Conservancy as a “foremost cave preserve” (nature.org), is found within 4 miles of the Property. This State Natural Area is comprised of the cave and 50 surrounding acres and is home to large populations of endangered gray bats and Indiana bats. Within 10 miles is the Savage Gulf Class II Natural-Scientific State Natural Area, part of South Cumberland State Park. Big Bone Cave, 15 miles from the Property, is a National Natural Landmark.

Myers Cove- 460 acres – The property, located southeast of McMinnville, TN, is situated within the southwest portion of the Cumberland Plateau. Within a short driving distance from the Warren County property there are numerous parks including:  the northernmost portion of South Cumberland State Park, the 16,000 acres of Fall Creek Falls State Park and Rock Island State Park (which encompasses nearly 900 acres). The property’s location is also in close proximity to Cumberland Caverns, the fourth largest cave in the U.S.

This property is roughly 70% wooded with the remainder composed of fields in varying degrees of succession. Some of these fields consist primarily of native grasses; others are composed of a variety of grasses and forbs. Trees species include sourwood, tulip poplar, Virginia pine and shrub, dwarf sumac

The tract is drained by creeks that are part of the Collins River watershed. This watershed supports 28 known rare, threatened or endangered species of plants and animals, with 20 of these species known from within a four mile radius of the property. At least two year-round streams found on the property provide plentiful water to resident and migratory species. At this time these streams are minimally impacted by activities both on and off the property and so provide a high quality resource to the Collins River watershed area.

Van Buren County

The Goforth conservation easement, also situated in the Cumberland Plateau, is located in Van Buren County, Tennessee. The 395-acre tract is south of the town of Spencer and less than a mile from Fall Creek Falls. The property contains a creek, open fields and several groves of mature trees.  The proximity of both these preserved properties to these natural areas adds to a regional wildlife corridor. Continuity is an important ecological concept for sustainable habitat for plant and animal species.

The 500 acre Harper Branch property is situated on the southwestern portion of the Cumberland Plateau (south of Spencer, Tennessee). Within a short driving distance from this property, lies the northernmost portion of South Cumberland State Park, Fall Creek Falls State Park and Rock Island State Park.

Roughly 2/3 of the Harper Branch property is in early-successional grasses, forbs and shrubs with the remainder in mature loblolly pine plantation. Grasses such as Broomsedge, Rabbit Tobacco, Green Sawbriar, Dwarf Sumac, and Canada Goldenrod are prominent.

Adjacent to 1.5 miles of the Property’s southern boundary includes the more diverse habitat and culturally historic Trail of Tears (Northern Route), which is a narrow band of about 200’ wide of older growth timber in largely mixed hardwoods and some pines.  The forb and sub-canopy layers on the Trail of Tears are fairly diverse in natives and together provide quality food sources, nesting and cover for many native wildlife and invertebrate species.

Headwaters for three streams that drain to the nearby Rocky River originate on the Property. The Harper Branch tract lies within the immediate watershed of the Rocky River which was classified in the Tennessee Department of Environment and
Conservation’s Tennessee Rivers Assessment Report of 1998 as being of regional significance.  24 rare aquatic species are noted within the watershed.

Cane Creek – 345 acres  – The property is nearly 100% in woodland with about 75% in planted pine plantations and the remainder in mixed oak forest (within the drainages and riparian areas). The large areas of public lands in the region include the 20,000 acres of the Fall Creek Falls State Park and Natural Area which is less than one mile from the Property, and the Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness totaling almost 15,000 acres less than ten miles away.

As an almost completely forested landscape, the Cane Creek property functions as an especially important buffer to the adjacent conservation areas and is a critical component in the support of regional continuity and ecological viability of wildlife corridors between these vast protected public lands on the Cumberland Plateau, Cumberland Escarpment and Cumberland Mountains. The property is located within the Caney Fork River watershed and contains the source of the Whetstone Fork of Cane Creek, which then flows into nearby Fall Creek Falls State Park and supports Cane Creek Falls, a popular destination in the Park.

Currently a 60,000 acre wilderness corridor is envisioned by Conservationists who hope to link Scott’s Gulf to Bledsoe State Forest and Fall Creek Falls State Park. The Cane Creek Property would at lease serve as a buffer, and therefore conserving the property in its natural state would further the goal of establishing a vast, unbroken corridor.

Piney Cumberland (439 acres) -This easement adjoins another conservation tract of 464 acres, called Meadow Creek. These tracts are located in close proximity to Fall Creek Falls State Park, providing a regional corridor for wildlife.

The easement protects a reach of Piney Creek and associated tributaries. Piney Creek is a major tributary for Cane Creek, which flows into Fall Creek Falls State Park.

The majority of the site is forested and dominated by oaks with white oak appearing to be the most dominant tree, followed by red, black and occasionally southern red oaks. As these oak trees mature, they begin to produce mast acorns that provide winter food important for survival.A population of worthy shield lichen was found within the easement. Although this species is not on the Tennessee list of rare species, it has Federal status as a Federal Species of Concern. A short list of plant species was compiled during the field survey. A total of 121 species were recorded. The list includes 26 species of trees, 23 species of shrubs and vines, 57 herbaceous species and 15 non-vascular species.

Van Buren & Bledsoe Counties

The Meadow Creek property adjoins the Piney Cumberland tract (439 acres). The majority of Meadow Creek’s 466 acres is forested and located in close proximity to Fall Creek Falls State park, providing a regional corridor for wildlife. The easement protects a reach of Piney Creek and associated tributaries. Piney Creek is a major tributary for Cane Creek, which flows into Fall Creek Falls State park. Numerous species of trees, shurbs, vines, plants (including non-vascular species) are found on the property.

Coffee & Grundy Counties

3 adjacent FLC conservation easements totaling 3469 acres in Coffee & Grundy Counties! Wild Boar – 1112 acres; Pull Tight – 1130 acres; Land South – 1227 acres

For Keith Thompson, the Manager of all three preserved tracts listed above, the idea to have large, permanently conserved acreage in the Cumberland wilderness surrounding a 100 acre camp and ministry is a dream come true. “Once we started to explore the property we found quail and duck habitat. We look forward to starting a timber/forestry management program. The former sand mines now house springs that stay full all the time and are full of fish. It’s perfect for fly fishing and even teaching someone how to flyfish! We hope to break ground on the ministry sometime in 2014.”

Roughly two thirds of all 3400 acres consist of mixed hardwoods, with one third consisting of lakes, open fields and a former sand mine. Throughout the three tracts ephemeral wetlands have been noted. Much of the perimeter of the property includes the cliffs and ledges of the Cumberland escarpment – offering up a diversity of wildlife, plants and habitat types. Several rare plants have been noted near or on the property including American smoke tree and Fameflower.

According to Meredith Clebsch, FLC’s Land Director, “the Cumberland Wilderness properties may be the most ecologically diverse easements FLC holds to date. The Cumberland Escarpment, the Cumberland Plateau and the valley below together offer a great variety of habitat types and opportunities for diversity of flora and fauna. The steep slopes of the escarpment tend to be less disturbed and so retain many elements of the unique communities that have naturally evolved there. Geologic diversity is an important factor in the complexity of the flora on the properties and also creates an incredibly scenic environment. The sandstone cliffs and rockhouses are simply dramatic and exciting to explore. We are looking forward to learning a great deal from these properties.”

For more information about these conservation easements or other FLC projects/programs, please contact Bill Clabough at 865-755-3883 or by email at bclabough@foothillsland.org.

Mission Statement – Foothills Land Conservancy is dedicated to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the lands and environments of East Tennessee and promoting the character of the region for the benefit of the general public, now and in the future.

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Foothills Land Conservancy ● 865-681-8326 ● 373 Ellis Avenue ● Maryville, TN 37804 ● www.foothillsland.org

For 2011 Easements info: Click here

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