Rural preservation leaders in the Bethel community of Haywood County have announced the permanent protection land along Garden Creek. The property features 13 acres of largely agricultural land, which provides corn, hay, and the critical calving unit for a larger cow-calf operation. The tract also includes a residential area, a barn, and associated farm buildings. While the public will not have access to the property, the land includes more than 1,000 feet of Garden Creek, which helps provide water for downstream farmers, the Towns of Canton and Clyde, Evergreen Paper, trout, one species of rare fish, two species of rare freshwater mussels, and hellbender salamanders.
The property was protected through a bargain-sale conservation easement. A conservation easement is a voluntary and permanent agreement that limits certain development on a property in exchange for possible federal, state, and local tax benefits, a cash payment, or some combination. Conservation easements can be tailored to suit the landowner’s present and future needs. For example, through a working land conservation easement, a property owner still owns the land and can continue activities related to farming and forestry.
By placing a conservation easement on this 13-acre property, the landowners, Charles and Janice Henson, have retired development rights on the property worth approximately $100,000. The Hensons donated a substantial share of the easement’s value.
“It’s a great relief knowing that this land will remain in agriculture,” said Charles Henson. “I’ve worked this land for too long to see it lost to development some day.”
Other partners teamed up to pay the remaining easement expense, as well as other out-of-pocket expenses, including a property survey, an appraisal of the easement’s value, legal fees, and other closing costs. Those partners include the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District, the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, the Southwestern NC Resource Conservation and Development Council, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Bethel Rural Community Organization, and the Pigeon River Fund, which has provided several grants to help protect water quality in the Upper Pigeon River Valley by protecting rural lands. This transaction marks the sixth conservation easement completed in the Upper Pigeon River watershed since 2007, a total of more than 230 acres.
“We are very grateful to the Hensons and to all the partners for each pitching in to help protect our rural lands and waters,” said Barbara Eaffaldano, President of the Bethel Rural Community Organization. “This project required a total team effort, and we’re thrilled with the results.”