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Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Ellington Agricultural Center
440 Hogan Road
Nashville, TN 37220
(615) 781-6500
The Land Trust for Tennessee: Conserving Places that Matter

The Land Trust for Tennessee, founded in 1999, is approaching its 20th anniversary. Like many land trusts, they began their work by responding to conservation opportunities and as a result, have received accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance for their proven track record to conserve important lands across the state. Now, to usher in the celebration next year of their third decade of work and nearly 125,000 acres of farms, forests and other natural, open spaces conserved, the nonprofit has undertaken a statewide strategic planning exercise to maximize its impact for the next twenty years and beyond.

“Our goal has always been to provide land conservation solutions that support Tennessee communities. We believe this planning process is another important step forward to maximize our impact for the long-term,” says Daniel Brown, Director of Communications for The Land Trust. “We are using GIS mapping to identify areas where our participation may be most needed going forward. We are also asking communities to provide us feedback to help shape our plan. We want to ensure our work will benefit all Tennesseans.”

“We are asking folks to take a brief survey to let us know what places in Tennessee are important to them. The survey only takes about five minutes and will remain open through October. This 1.5 minute video, “Help Shape the Future of Tennessee,” explains the survey.

A unique, statewide land trust

The Land Trust protects a wide variety of private and public land types: farmland, forests, wildlife habitat, scenic views, community parks, historic sites, and waterways. Many land trusts are more locally focused on a single watershed, urban area, or land use type. The organization is somewhat unique in that it is a statewide land trust focused on conserving multiple types of land (which almost always include wildlife habitat).

All of the priorities of the State Wildlife Action Plan and TWRA Wildlife Legacy Plan are factoring into The Land Trust’s long-range priorities for protecting habitat for species of greatest conservation need. “Our plan will allow us to hopefully connect more protected areas, which is beneficial for both wildlife and water quality.”

Multiple projects and partners for multiple benefits

In addition to conserving private land, The Land Trust has strong relationships with state and local partners in Tennessee and can play a critical role in many types of land protection transactions. “We try to be nimble,” says Brown. “We can work relatively quickly and have the expertise in land transactions. We have helped add land to state parks and wildlife management areas and in rare cases, we can take temporary ownership of properties if necessary before transferring them to a qualified agency.” This was the case with the Window Cliffs State Natural Area addition that The Land Trust assisted with in 2017, working with multiple private landowners who wanted their property to become part of the state park system.

In urban areas, The Trust has worked with Metro Nashville Parks to achieve multiple parkland additions, as well as playing a key role in executing the easement that protects the 4500-acre Shelby Farms Park in Memphis. “We work to be smart growth partners and try to bridge gaps and provide solutions where we can,” Brown says.

The Land Trust has also completed many projects with state agencies and regional and national conservation partners. The Land Trust played a key role in the Sherwood Forest Addition to South Cumberland State Park, acquired in 2016 to provide public access and recreation, wildlife habitat, sustainable forest management, and to protect drinking water quality for the downstream community of Sherwood. Another example of land acquisition with multiple benefits is the Fiery Gizzard Area Conservation Addition to South Cumberland State Park, in which The Land Trust provided critical transactional support to a partnership effort in 2017.

What motivates private landowners as well as The Land Trust for Tennessee

The majority of The Land Trust’s work has been in collaboration with private landowners, including farmers and forest owners, such as the Vatter family in west Tennessee, who donated a 316-acre conservation easement on their property in Hardeman County in 2017 to ensure its conservation values will endure forever.

Vatter said, “I want my son to share in our past experiences, to pass to his family someday our traditions and practices as well as create his own memories. Having the opportunity to teach a younger generation about conservation and the importance of good stewardship is as much a privilege as it is a responsibility.”

The McEwen family worked with The Land Trust to protect their 175-acres in Hickman County near the Duck River more than 10 years ago. In reflecting on his decision, Bill McEwen said, “The land, to me, is a very sacred thing. It’s a very spiritual thing. I respect it. It is a very special place to us. About four or five years ago, one guest said something that I feel really sums up the experience. She said, ‘You can hear the sound of everything that does not matter disappear out here.'”

View or download a Land Trust for Tennessee illustrated factsheet with photos.

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