January 23, 2017 – Mainspring Conservation Trust recently conserved more than 340 acres from two private properties at each end of their service area, capping off a successful year for the local land trust. Each property is conserved through a conservation easement, a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and land trust that permanently limits the uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.
Patrick and Jeanne McGuire chose to conserve 202 acres in Jackson County, protecting a prominent ridgeline visible from Sylva, Webster, Cullowhee and Western Carolina University (WCU). Located less than a half-mile from Roy Taylor Forest, a large unit of the Nantahala National Forest, the forested property contains a diversity of plant communities and unique habitats. There are at least eight headwater springs and approximately 3,440 feet of first-order streams. These streams feed into larger creeks that flow into the Tuckaseigee River which provides drinking water for WCU.
“For most of my life I have dreamed of conserving land that has been in our family for six decades,” says Patrick McGuire. “With the help of Mainspring, 2016 was the year to donate a conservation easement.” McGuire is glad others will benefit from his decision. “Jeanne and I are so grateful that through this gift we have been able to protect the view shed for WCU, some of the head water springs of Wayehutta and Cane Creeks, and countless wildlife and timber concerns.”
At the other end of Mainspring’s service area sits Fishermare Branch in Cherokee County. The 141-acre property, owned by George and Linda Jensen, is adjacent to more than 28,000 contiguous acres of conserved National Forest System lands in the Snowbird Mountains. The entire forested property contains the uppermost headwaters of Fishermare Branch. Visible from numerous locations in the Valley River valley, including US Hwy 74, the land has rich old-growth forest features and fosters a wide diversity of plant and wildlife species.
Hiwassee Programs Manager Sara Ruth Posey says the Cherokee County easement project is meaningful both personally and professionally. “As a new employee of Mainspring, this is my first conservation easement project, and I couldn’t be more pleased. The Jensen’s decision to conserve their forested land means the property will forever provide ideal habitat for wildlife, including stream habitat for salamanders. It will be a blessing to see this hardwood forest mature through time.”
Jordan Smith, Land Conservation Manager, says closing on projects at each end of Mainspring’s service area exemplifies the commitment to be a regional land trust. “Partnering with folks from completely different backgrounds, who share a common interest of conserving their properties, is amazing,” he says. “Being able to customize a conservation easement that satisfies the needs of the landowners while protecting the conservation values of the properties gives me hope for future conservation work across our region.”
Celebrating 20 years in 2017, Mainspring has conserved more than 25,000 acres over six counties in western North Carolina and Rabun County, Georgia. The Franklin-based non-profit also works to restore natural and cultural resources and connects people to those treasures.