Buncombe County approves the first two conservation easements under the Open Space Bond

Totaling about 366 acres, the two projects represent the next step in the County’s 2030 conservation goal.

A view across lake eden. Tents are set up on the other side of the lake and there are mountains in the background.

The two new projects total about 366 acres.

Photo via Buncombe County

The first Open Space Bond conservation easements have gotten the green light. Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved a budget amendment that established two areas to be protected using funds from the bond.

We’ll start with a definition. Conservation easements are legal agreements between a landowner and a land trust or government entity — in this case, Buncombe County — that permanently limit or condition the use of land in order to conserve its natural resources. The land stays in private ownership, but the conservation values (like water quality or forestry) are protected.

To be eligible for funds from the Open Space Bond, conservation easements have to meet certain criteria, like scenic or environmental importance, proximity to other easements, or being in a priority region.

Now let’s get the lay of the land.

🌳 Parham-Fortner Farm

This conservation easement, which is ~30 acres on the Farm Heritage Trail in Leicester, was purchased for $150,000. The property is an active working farm; South Turkey Creek runs through it and other easements are nearby.

🌳 Lake Eden Preserve

You might recognize this preserve as the venue for the LEAF Global Arts Festival. The County’s $250,000 bond for the ~336 acres in Swannanoa is part of a much larger project budget, which includes funds from the NC Land and Water Fund and a private donor.

Buncombe County set a goal of protecting 20% of the county by 2030 — and with these two new conservation easements, there are 83,047 acres protected and 1,049 acres remaining to reach that target.