Party with a purpose

Foothills Land Conservancy aims for “25 in 25”

Bill Clabough and the folks at Foothills Land Conservancy threw a reception recently with the simple theme of “25 in 25.”

“After we sent out ‘Save the date’ cards, we had several people ask, ‘What is 25-25?’ I said, ‘Come to the reception and find out.’

“It was the exciting, and the buildup was good. Our goal from Day One was just trying to raise public awareness about Foothills Land Conservancy and what we offer and what we do.”

The invitation worked and more than 150 people came to Preservation Plaza on Oct. 25 for a $100 a person reception to support the Foothills Land Conservancy.

“We were every excited and pleased to have the response we had. We had a good number. We didn’t do an official count but someone counted 171 people, and I thought that was excellent,” Clabough said.

The Foothills Land Conservancy has set itself a goal of protecting 25,000 acres from development in East Tennessee by the time the organization reaches its 25th anniversary in 2010.

The “25 in 25” program seeks to add about 8,000 acres to the 17,000 the group has already secured protection for in time for the FLC’s 25th anniversary celebration, Clabough said.

The conservancy is a nonprofit group dedicated to protection and preservation of the Great Smoky Mountains and their surroundings. It does this, Clabough said, by acquiring land outright and giving it to another entity that pledges not to allow development on the property. It also helps landowners place conservation easements on the land, which permits the owners to retain ownership and use but prevents succeeding generations from selling it for development.

To date, the FLC has assisted in preserving land in several East Tennessee counties, and Clabough said other conservation efforts are under way in Greene, Sevier, Blount, Roane, Cumberland, Monroe and Cocke counties. This year alone, Clabough said, the organization expects to be instrumental in preserving as many as 20 tracts totaling between 2,500 and 3,000 acres.

Easements generally restrict how many residences can ever be located on the property and specifically disallow other housing or commercial development “in perpetuity,” said Clabough, Conservation easements are for people who have a familial attachment to the land and do not want it changed radically even after they have died.

The restrictions apply to succeeding generations of the same family and all subsequent owners. In many cases, the FLC assumes responsibility for monitoring the property to assure the easements are being adhered to, Clabough said.

Clabough also said the FLC is beginning to focus on the Little River watershed in Blount County in an effort to protect as much of it as possible. It is an area where, he said, “we hope to be proactive and visit landowners” and advise them how to protect their land.

Clabough said the 25 in 25 event helped accomplish the goal of simply becoming known. “Most non-profit organizations struggle with identity,” he said. “That was our main goal, and we felt like if we established a goal and published a goal and let people know what we are doing, and we’ll accomplish our goal. We’ve got a great start to build on.”

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