Wal-Mart Foundation grants $50k for land conservation in WNC

Published 5:31 pm Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Wal-Mart Foundation has donated $50,000 to the Blue Ridge Forever coalition of ten mountain land trusts, which includes The Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC). The grant&squo;s focus supports land preservation throughout Western North Carolina by maximizing help for landowners to facilitate protection of their farms and other lands through conservation agreements.

Conservation agreements between local land trusts such as PAC and landowners limit future development on a property, while keeping the land in private ownership. The landowner may apply for tax breaks or financial compensation for giving up specific development rights on his or her property. Each conservation agreement is tailored to the property in question, and easements can allow for elements such as trails and pastures. Easements on farms and working forests generally allow for agricultural activities to continue so long as the land&squo;s natural value is protected.

The Wal-Mart grant encouraged cooperation between local land trusts like PAC and key professionals who make the easement process happen. &dquo;PAC is fortunate to have wonderful relationships with local legal professionals as well as an appraiser who have agreed to donate time for the cause of conservation, especially for farmland,&dquo; stated PAC Executive Director Sally Walker.

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&dquo;Facilitating farmland preservation is a brilliant initiative, and Wal-Mart is proud to help support such an exciting and important conservation effort,&dquo; Said Chris Neeley, chairman of the NC Wal-Mart Foundation Giving Council. The Wal-Mart Foundation made more than $7 million in grants throughout North Carolina in 2008. Over $150,000 of that was given to land conservation efforts in the state.

Western North Carolina is a national leader in farmland loss. The 25-county region lost 11 percent of its farmland from 2002 to 2007, compared with the national average of two percent. PAC has so far protected 500 acres of horse farm land, and has another 500 acres in the easement process.

Blue Ridge Forever is a coalition campaign led by local land trusts and national conservation organizations to raise public awareness and financial resources to safeguard land and water in the Southern Blue Ridge for present and future generations. The coalition works through PAC in this community to ensure that critical lands are protected for clean drinking water, recreation, wildlife habitats, tourism, and working farms. To learn more about Blue Ridge Forever, visit www.blueridgeforever.info or to learn more about The Pacolet Area Conservancy go on the web to www.pacolet.org or call 828-859-5060.