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Easement protects Halifax County forestland

virginia department of forestryTen miles outside the town of Halifax, more than a thousand acres of land, known as Pleasant Grove, will be protected in perpetuity with an open space easement held by the Virginia Department of Forestry.

An appreciation for the land’s rich history, combined with a deeply rooted connection to the land, spurred the Blythes, whose grandmother Esther Emily Farmer was born on the property, to protect their family legacy.

For the last three centuries, portions of the former tobacco farm have been owned and managed by the Farmer family and its descendants.  Pleasant Grove is made up of working forest and farmland and contains more than four miles of perennial streams which ultimately flow into the Dan River.  The extensive forestland helps protect water quality in these streams, both for aquatic habitat and for downstream public water supplies.

The easement protects the property’s important conservation values while allowing for its continued economic viability. It requires forest management activities to be done sustainably and according to Virginia’s Best Management Practices for Water Quality.  Under the terms of the easement, the farm will continue to provide the Blythe family with opportunities for recreation, wildlife observation, and appreciation of the natural world, while simultaneously generating income through active management of its forests and fields

A part of the easement, the original 290-acre homestead of Pleasant Grove, is recognized as one of only a few representations of a complete Southside Virginia tobacco farm and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register.

For the last three centuries, portions of the former tobacco farm have been owned and managed by the Farmer family and its descendants.  “Like our Farmer ancestors, who settled in this part of Halifax County in the 1700s, my siblings and I feel a great connection with the woods, pastures, and cropland that make up this property,” said John Blythe, one of four siblings who own the property Our father, William B. Blythe, spent many summers here with his parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Later in life, he and our mother enjoyed the farm as a gathering place for family and a spot to retreat from their busy lives in Chapel Hill, N.C. I suspect they would be pleased that their descendants are helping to keep a part of Southside Virginia forested and free of unrestrained development for the years to come.”

“Through this easement, we have struck a balance between protecting the ecological and historic values of the  property, while at the same time supporting the continued use of the working landscape through sustainable practices,” said Kim Biasiolli, forest conservation specialist with the VDOF.

The VDOF’s forestland conservation program is focused on protecting large, contiguous blocks of forestland, for both the ecological and economic benefits they provide.  The Pleasant Grove open space easement exemplifies that goal, and is a great success story for the conservation of forestland in Virginia.

augusta free press
augusta free press