The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Latest Foothills Land Conservancy easement preserves history, farm and forest

Written by

Holston River Sleeping Lady in the DistanceA view across the Holston River toward Sleeping Lady in the distance.  Foothills Land Conservancy

Jefferson County views and values protected with Foothills Land Conservancy easement

Shelby Lyn Sanders is a field biologist with Foothills Land Conservancy

JEFFERSON CITY  Can you see the Sleeping Lady?

We are standing on the back porch of the historic Isaac McBee House, built in 1850, and I follow Jack Kramer’s gaze across the back lawn, over McBee Island flanked by the cold March waters of the Holston River, and to the mountains in the distance.

“She’s easier to see this time of year,” he says, because those distant hills are unobscured by the foliage of trees still nakedly waiting for spring. Indeed, I can see her — she lies with her head to the west and her toes stretched out to the east, the hills forming the rise and fall of her body.

This porch, with its view of the mountain shape, and the other accoutrements that fill the Isaac McBee house are the centerpiece of this 121-acre farm in Jefferson County, but this is not the only treasure to be found here.

A short walk along a gravel road through the farm finds me between the river bottom pastures and a steep rocky slope, and it happens to be the perfect time of year for the latter to become adorned in the ephemeral wildflowers that signal that winter is loosening its grip on the landscape.

Dutchman’s breeches, yellow trout lilies, trilliums, wild blue phlox, and twinleaf have exploded from the leaf litter, and if it were not for the ambient mooing of cattle, I would think I had stumbled into a rich mountain forest.

Agriculture is certainly of conservation importance, and Foothills Land Conservancy has worked to preserve many acres of farmland, but this pocket of biodiversity is a surprising treat.

This crisp morning was my first time meeting the Kramers, Jack and Beverly, who chose to settle in Strawberry Plains after leaving their native Pennsylvania. Conservation-minded and unfailingly pleasant to be around, I would visit them several more times before we finally signed the conservation easement that will forever protect this place in which they have invested so much of their lives. 

Farmland in this area is increasingly being converted to residential development, and it reminds the Kramers of similar changes in land use back home.

The peace of mind afforded by the permanency of the easement, coupled with Jack’s experience as a board member of French and Pickering Conservation Trust, were among the reasons that the Kramers chose to partner with FLC. Over the years, the Kramers have hosted friends and family for gatherings, parties and traditional fox hunts. The views from their home are spectacular. Executive Director Bill Clabough noted on our first visit that this property would be a “jewel” and it absolutely is.

The Sleeping Lady can rest peacefully in the knowledge that, at least on this side of the river, her slumber will remain undisturbed.

Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Published in News, Earth, 15 Life on Land

Related items

  • Foothills Land Conservancy saved some green in 2021
    in News

    Pictured Just a few of the many handmade bird boxes placed throughout the property by Mr. Savage. 768x1024 

    Maryville-based FLC is finalizing this year’s remaining land preservation projects

    131 acres in Jefferson County, TN, now preserved!
    Left: Outstanding views atop this recently preserved property with cosmos blooms in foreground.
    Middle: Spring-fed pond on the property.
    Right: Mature forest on the west side of the property.  Touch here for additional images

    To date in 2021, FLC has worked with landowners to assist in the conservation of over 1,300 acres. It anticipates a few thousand more acres protected by year's end.

    Here are some highlights from the past year.

    Glenn and Katie Savage are two of FLC’s newest friends and partners in land conservation.

    They recently placed a conservation easement on their 131-acre property, affectionately named Dancing Winds Wildlife Sanctuary and Arboretum, which is “dedicated to the preservation and protection of God’s glorious creations—plants and animals.” 

    Glenn has cultivated over 400 different types of trees which are planted across the property and lovingly tends his home garden full of a variety of beautiful and unique flowers.

    The Savages have several fields planted in corn/grain sorghum as well as a variety of oaks and other mast-producing trees to supplement the diet of the countless white-tailed deer and turkeys that call their property home. 

    Glen and Katie are also avid birdwatchers and provide many types of feeders for their winged backyard visitors.  The Savages say that protecting their beloved property and knowing that it will forever remain a safe haven for wildlife has given them peace of mind, and Glenn hopes in the future to convince some of his neighbors to partner with FLC to protect their land, too. Touch here for additional images

    Landowner Glen Savage and FLC Biologist Shelby Lyn Sanders place FLC conservation easement boundary signs along the property. 768x558

  • Another slice of the wild preserved in Cumberlands

    Knox News: Nearly 12,000 acres added to Skinner Mountain preserve on the Cumberland Plateau

    The Conservation Fund and state wildlife and forestry officials reached a deal to conserve and manage thousands of wild acres in Fentress County.

    The expanse was previously held by an out-of-state speculative investment company likely originally tied to timber companies.

    The Cumberland Plateau and escarpments have been increasingly recognized for their biodiversity along with the Smokies to the east beyond the Tennessee Valley. The Cumberlands are along a songbird and fowl migration route, and host a niche population of mature timber, mosses, lichens, fungi, mammals and amphibians. Elk were reintroduced a decade ago, and black bears have begun to range across the Cumberlands and their base.

    The area is pocked with caves and sinkholes, some containing petroglyphs and other carvings from previous populations.

    "On the Cumberland Plateau, the key to maintaining biodiversity is to retain as much natural forest (both managed and unmanaged) as possible," a forestry expert told the News Sentinel's Vincent Gabrielle.

    The Foothills Land Conservancy has also helped protect thousands of acres along the plateau and its escarpments in recent years.

  • New Jarvis Park in Maryville could total nearly 50 acres
    in News

    Go check out the ancient oaks in Maryville’s new park

    Jarvis Park is 1.5 miles southeast of downtown off South Court Street and includes nearly 10 acres owned by Maryville doctor Craig Jarvis that were protected under a conservation easement via Foothills Land Conservancy in 2018 and transferred to the city a year later.

    Park highlights include two 250-year-old oak trees, a mile of walking trails and a creek near Duncan Spring. 

    An additional 37 acres, consisting of two lots adjacent to the park, will be transferred for preservation to the city in the future, per current expansion plans, according to a conservancy digital newsletter. That acreage would adjoin the park.

    “Jarvis Park ... is one of the few remaining intact woodlands in the area,” according to the conservancy, which added it was “bordered by open farm fields, residential development, and a rock quarry operation.” 

    The park is one of 20 other such easements held by the conservancy that total more than 4,000 acres in the immediate Blount County area.

  • Preserving our heritage: Foothills Land Conservancy reaches 135,000-acre milestone

    456915 10150749976200572 259742799 oA view of some of the land preserved by Foothills Land Conservancy on the Cumberland Plateau.   Courtesy Foothills Land Conservancy

    Foothills Land Conservancy preserves land and multiple habitats across seven states

    Foothills Land Conservancy rang in the new year with the preservation of 250 undeveloped acres along the Little Pigeon River in a rapidly growing area of Sevier County in East Tennessee.

    The deal was finalized in late 2020 — a fitting end to the Blount County conservancy’s 35th year.

    Foothills Land Conservancy has protected about 135,000 acres in seven states, including 95,000 acres in East Tennessee, since its inception in 1985. For comparison’s sake, that’s nearly a third of the protected land that encompass the 500,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Most of that land has been acquired since 2006, when former state Sen. Bill Clabough became executive director.

    “We’ve been really growing and expanding,” Clabough said late last year from the conservancy headquarters on the century-old Harris family farm in Rockford. 

    The farm itself is under a conservation easement, one of several ways the conservancy preserves and protects natural and agricultural lands.

    “When you do good work you don’t have to do a lot of advertising,” said Clabough, 69, a likable former country store owner and Wildwood native whose political public service came to an end in 2005 when the moderate Republican incumbent was defeated by a firebrand conservative in the Senate GOP primary. 

    “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Clabough said of his primary defeat.