Spending time with our landowners, being welcomed into their homes, chatting around the kitchen table, catching up on their lives year after year, learning about the history of their property and their connection to their land…it’s a privilege. – Sarah O’Rear
On any given day from January to March, you are likely to find our staff and volunteers traversing the Volunteer State visiting protected properties.
From the fertile farmlands in Montgomery and Robertson Counties, west to the 4,000+ acres of open space at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, clear across to the wild terrain of the South Cumberland region, we annually visit and monitor every property on which we hold a conservation easement. (Scroll down to see a collection of photos from these visits.)
As this “monitoring season” winds to a close, The Land Trust for Tennessee Stewardship Director Sarah O’Rear sat down for a Q&A to explain the importance of each visit, the personal connections that are made along the way, and her favorite experiences across the state.
Q&A with Stewardship Director Sarah O’Rear:
Q: Why does The Land Trust monitor properties?
A: There a few important reasons. We are required by the IRS, as well as Land Trust Alliance Standards and Practices, to monitor each property we protect with a conservation easement at least once a year.
These monitoring visits not only ensure that the terms of the conservation easement are being upheld and that the property’s conservation values are being protected, they also support the relationships we have with landowners and government agencies.
Q: What types of places do you visit?
A: We visit everything from a 0.22-acre private urban garden in Nashville’s Germantown to forested properties on the Cumberland Plateau that are thousands of acres. We visit historic sites and Civil War battlefields, recreational spots, public parks and thousands of acres of farmland. There really are no two places that are the same.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of this season?
A: Spending time with our landowners, being welcomed into their homes, chatting around the kitchen table, catching up on their lives year after year, learning about the history of their property and their connection to their land…it’s a privilege. Not to mention, what’s not to love about spending beautiful spring days outside on lands our organization has worked to protect?
Q:How do you cover so much ground in only a few months time?
A: Volunteers play a critical role in our monitoring program. We simply wouldn’t be able to complete all of our visits without dedicated, trained monitoring volunteers who help to get a lay of the land. They are the eyes and ears of The Land Trust and our boots on the ground. This year our volunteers traveled approximately 3,500 miles across the state to complete their monitoring visits!
Q: Do you have a favorite experience?
A: Monitoring is always an adventure! I’ve shown up to monitor a farm to find it partially engulfed in wildfire, gotten lost on the backroads of Tennessee, hiked up icy waterfalls, and pushed my four-wheel drive to its limits – all in the name of conservation. It is a rich and rewarding experience, and is critical to our mission to be good stewards of the land we protect.
Ready to learn more about how The Land Trust for Tennessee conserves land? Click here to view our Frequently Asked Questions.
Here are a few more photos from our 2017 monitoring season: