Landowners protect 29 acres on Pigeon River

Nov 08, 2013


Rural preservation leaders in the Bethel community of Haywood County have announced the permanent protection of 29 acres through two separate conservation easements.

One property protects 26 acres of largely agricultural land, while the other includes three acres of mostly forested lands. The two properties feature more than 3,200 feet of river and stream frontage, including 1,000 feet along the main stem of the Pigeon River, 2,000 feet on the West Fork of the Pigeon River, and 250 feet of a small tributary stream.

The owners of both properties have requested anonymity, said George Ivey, coordinator of the Bethel Rural Preservation Project.

By protecting these streamside areas from development, the landowners will help protect water quality for downstream farmers, the towns of Canton and Clyde, Evergreen Packaging, trout, one species of rare fish, two species of rare freshwater mussels and hellbender salamanders.

Both properties were protected through bargain-sale conservation easements. The value of easement is determined by appraising the land at its present market value, and then subtracting its value with the easement, said Ivey. A bargain-sale easement is when the landowner accepts a price for the easement that is less than it's value.

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.

Each set of landowners donated a substantial portion of the value of each easement. Other partners teamed up to pay the remaining easement expenses, as well as property surveys, appraisals, and closing costs. Those partners include the USDA Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, Bethel Rural Community Organization, Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District, the Southwestern NC Resource Conservation and Development Council, 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. These transactions mark the seventh and eighth conservation easements completed in the Upper Pigeon River watershed since 2007, a total of more than 260 acres.

“We are very grateful to the landowners and to all our partners for helping to protect our rural lands and waters,” said Dave Curphey, president of the Bethel Rural Community Organization. “We’re thrilled to know that these properties will forever contribute to Bethel’s rich rural heritage and high water quality.”

To learn more about options for protecting rural lands in the Upper Pigeon River Watershed, contact George Ivey, coordinator, Bethel Rural Preservation Project, at or (828) 712-6474.