Forum Journal & Forum Focus

Combining Preservation and Conservation Values: Six Illustrative Examples 

12-09-2015 17:35

Historic preservation organizations can and do protect farmland, open space, and natural resources. Land trusts preserve historic buildings and cultural landscapes. Preservation and conservation organizations work cooperatively to protect places that combine both natural and historic values. The examples that follow highlight several organizations that embody the idea that conservation and preservation are the same concept—flip sides of the same coin. Working together, conservation and preservation organizations can dramatically increase community support, access to resources, and the protection of places that embody multiple values—and lead to the protection of the whole place.

Preserving Natural and Historic Landscapes and Sites in Tennessee

The mission of the Land Trust for Tennessee (LTT), recipient of a National Trust Honor Award in 2010, is to preserve the unique character of Tennessee’s natural and historic landscapes and sites for future generations. Among its projects is stewarding the historic Glen Leven home and its surrounding 65 acres in Nashville, bequeathed to LTT. LTT is currently developing programs and seeking partnerships related to open space conservation, sustainable agriculture, and historic preservation for the property. LTT collaborated with the Capitol Grille restaurant at the Hermitage Hotel to grow heirloom vegetables on the historic estate, including butterstick zucchini, zephyr squash, French breakfast radishes, and Cherokee purple tomatoes. As indicated on LTT’s website,, the hotel is committed to gardening naturally and promoting sustainability. In other projects, LTT seeks to protect historic farm properties and cultural landscapes, such as the Beaman Park to Bells Bend Corridor near Nashville, an intact historic rural and agricultural landscape that may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as a rural historic and archeological district.

Saving a Rural Historic Community in Maine

Known as the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, this highly intact Shaker community faced uncertainty about its future due to reduced farm revenues, rising taxes and maintenance costs, and pressure from suburban sprawl. Working in partnership, a group of private charities and public agencies formed a coalition and developed a strategy to save Sabbathday Lake including fundraising to purchase an easement from the Shakers that would permanently protect the community’s cultural, historic, and natural resources. The Trust for Public Land, Maine Preservation, the Royal River Conservation Trust, the New England Forestry Foundation, Friends of the Shakers, the State of Maine, and the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service succeeded in their efforts, protecting more than 1,700 acres of wildlife habitat, walking and cross-country skiing trails, agricultural lands, and productive woodlands along with multiple historic buildings. Endowments were also established to ensure the permanent stewardship of the property.

Preservation, Conservation, and Open Space AdvocatesWork Together to Protect Oatlands Plantation

Oatlands Plantation, a National Trust Historic Site in Leesburg, Va., includes approximately 261 acres. An additional surrounding 385 acres are protected by open space easements. In a collaborative effort among the Piedmont Environmental Council, Oatlands, Inc., and the Jamestown Compact, an adjacent threatened parcel was acquired through a bargain sale and protected by an easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. A coalition of preservation and conservation organizations continued to fight to protect the context of Oatlands, including engaging legal action when necessary to ensure that adjacent development complies with regulatory requirements, such as Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The collaborative efforts implicitly recognize the importance of the site for historic, cultural, agricultural, and open space values.

Protecting Agricultural and Natural Areas Near Danville, Ky.

An easement held by the National Trust protects multiple preservation, conservation, and agricultural values. Individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and a contributing property to the Harrodsburg Pike Rural Historic District, Cambus-Kenneth Farm also includes important Kentucky bluegrass agricultural land and remnants of a Kentucky woodland savannah. The easement requires the maintenance of historically significant buildings and the farmland, while protecting the savannah remnant from potentially damaging agricultural practices. Consisting of approximately 550 acres, the property, which cannot be subdivided, serves as a barrier against encroaching sprawl from Danville.

Combined Efforts by Two Organizations Protect Buildingsand Land in Damariscotta, Maine

Patricia Geiringer, the owner of the Jones property, donated an easement to the Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association (DLWA) in 1995, primarily to protect the conservation values of the 86 acres of land, but also incorporating basic protections for the historic buildings. Ms. Geiringer subsequently donated the property to the National Trust, which worked with the DLWA to strengthen the easement’s protections for historic buildings, and to incorporate an additional 3-acre parcel that extended the property’s boundary to a nearby river. The easement is now jointly held and enforced by the DLWA and the National Trust.

Public-Private Partnership Protects Land and Buildings at Montpelier

This cabin, on a portion of Montpelier, James Madison’s home in Orange County, Va., was built by one of James Madison’s freed slaves, George Gilmore. The total Montpelier property includes approximately 2,700 acres, 1,900 acres of which are outside the historic core (the area including the residence of James Madison). More than 700 acres—including the Gilmore Cabin—were permanently protected by easements created through a unique public-private partnership between the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Montpelier Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. An additional 200 acres—a National Natural Landmark old-growth forest—is protected by an easement held by The Nature Conservancy.

Publication Date: Fall 2010

#ForumJournal #Landscapes

Author(s):Thompson M. Mayes and Ross M. Bradford