Ginger and Rich Lang knew that they wanted to protect their land, even before they owned it. When they began the search decades ago, the Langs purposefully sought out a tract with qualities which they wanted to help preserve for future generations. “We looked all over the United States,” says Ginger. “We looked for a place with green mountains, arable soil, streams, forests, and mild temperatures.”
The Langs describe themselves as country people, and after living in St. Louis for several years, they were ready to put down roots away from the city. They purchased their dream property in the Crabtree community of Haywood County in 1994 and spent a long time deciding on how to best protect the land for the future. Last year, the Langs donated a conservation easement on 102 acres of their property in Bald Creek Valley.
“From the beginning, we wanted to make sure the bulk of the property would never be developed,” explains Rich. “In our search, we had a list of nine traits that we were looking for – including available water sources, arable soil, and forested land. We spent a long time investigating options for permanent land protection; it has been a very thoughtful and deliberate process. We were looking for the best option for the land, for us, and for people who come after us to be able to continue to own and enjoy the land. SAHC representatives came to meet with us several times, and we feel like we can trust the organization to protect the land in perpetuity.”
For years, Rich has enjoyed hiking all over the land as a way to “get back to nature”, and they wanted to be able to continue to enjoy the hiking trails — and for family and future owners to enjoy that experience as well.
“I walk the trails frequently, and love seeing the wildlife,” says Rich. “There are two families of ruffed grouse and other bird species up there that we’ve never seen anywhere else.”
“From the beginning, we wanted to declare the property a sanctuary,” adds Ginger. “We wanted to continue to have wildlife habitat, to take care of animals, and preserve the trees — which are important for carbon storage.”
An avid gardener, Rich says they also wanted to conserve land with great soil and plentiful water, which would be good for growing food and more.
“Another factor that drew us to this area was the friendliness of the people here,” adds Rich. “In the valley we live in, families have been there for 9-10 generations. They are amazingly talented and resourceful, and they care about keeping land in the family so they can pass it down. We were very eager to have roots for ourselves and decided this is where we wanted to be. We love this valley. Now we are in our 2nd generation in WNC; all of my siblings and their kids live here as well.”
In fact, friends and neighbors John and Ann Geers moved to the area, influenced by the Langs. The Geers donated a conservation easement on 120 acres of their property on the northwestern flank of Crabtree Bald in 2021.
“We appreciate SAHC not pushing us, but allowing us the time to decide on the conservation easement,” says Ginger. “We found it easy to work with Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter and Stewardship Associate Chris Kaase. They were incredibly helpful and patient in answering our questions. We could tell that they were both invested in nature, and appreciated them sharing their knowledge and experience. We can’t say enough good things about SAHC, and we have faith that we made the best decision to protect the land and to benefit those who come after us.”