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Stephen and Barbara Benson have donated a conservation easement on their family land in Ashe County. Photo submitted

Originally published: 2013-12-19 08:38:58
Last modified: 2013-12-19 08:40:24

61-acre property protected in Todd area

The National Committee for the New River announces the protection of a 61-acre property in Ashe County, not far from the community of Todd.
Barbara and Stephen Benson voluntarily donated a conservation easement on their family land to protect, in perpetuity, its unique open space character, as well as over 3,700 feet of streams, wildlife habitat and abundant forestland, according to NCNR officials. Additionally, the property ties into a network of previously conserved land in the Todd area.

The Bensons have always had a love for the land and a desire to keep it as it is and protect it from development, the officials said.

"This land was a treasure that my father gave to his children. He would be pleased that it will stay as it is, beautiful and full of natural life, for the future generations of his family to walk over and love as he did," Barbara Benson said.

The protected streams on the property, which eventually flow into the South Fork New River, will further enhance the water quality in the river for generations to come, according to the NCNR.

The South Fork is designated as High Quality Waters by the North Carolina Division of Water Resources.
Due to its clean water and rural charm, this section of the river near Todd is very popular for recreational activities, such as canoeing and fishing.
Funding for the project was made possible by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, the statewide organization that supports North Carolina's 23 local land trusts. CTNC offered $1.5 million in grant funds to local land trusts to assist with the completion of conservation projects that take advantage of the expiring N.C. Conservation Tax Credit.
The funds come from Fred and Alice Stanback, an anonymous donor and CTNC's reserve funds.

Dubbed "Money in the Ground," grants of up to $25,000 per project are being used by the land trusts to underwrite transaction costs, often a stumbling block to the speedy completion of land conservation projects, NCNR officials said. Eligible expenses include surveys, appraisals, attorney fees and stewardship funds, which are necessary for the successful completion of a conservation transaction, and stewardship over the long term.

NCNR works throughout the entire watershed in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia to ensure, through science, policy and direct action, that the New River and all the waters that feed it are clean; that the land supports vibrant and resilient plants and animals; and that the communities that rely on it are passionate and empowered advocates for a healthy New River.
Conservation easements are one tool NCNR uses to protect land from future development and preserve important natural resource values, officials said.

 The land continues to be privately owned and may be sold or passed on to heirs, but conservation restrictions stay with the land in perpetuity.