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Land Trust of Virginia Announces First Easement in Highland County

10 building lots reduced to 1, historic and natural resources preserved

MONTEREY, Va., Dec. 1, 2022 – The Land Trust of Virginia (LTV) is pleased to announce a conservation easement in Warm Springs thanks to the generosity of landowners, John and Shirley Harner. This 717-acre property is the first LTV easement recorded in Highland County.

“I like to see things the way they are,” said John. “I’ve always loved Highland County. The farm lends itself well to conservation. Several neighbors have done it next to me and it is a really rural area. The guy that had it prior to me was threatening to develop it and put houses across the mountain top. I acquired it and wanted to see it maintained.”

Within one mile of the Harner’s easement, there are four easements held by Virginia Outdoors Foundation, and one held by LTV (John Lockridge’s easement in Bath County recorded last year). Contiguous easements strengthen their effect in watershed protection and provide important wildlife corridors. The entire property lies within the area designated by the National Audubon Society as the Alleghany Highlands Important Bird Area which includes the high-elevation portions of Highland, Bath, and Alleghany Counties in western Virginia along the West Virginia border. It occupies the folded and mountainous Allegheny Mountains region and is characterized by long, linear, high-elevation valleys divided by a series of narrow, parallel ridges. This area is one of the most rural in Virginia and the wide, flat valleys are dominated by expansive pasturelands and working farms while uplands are generally forested. This area is a population stronghold for the Golden-winged Warbler, a high-priority species that has been declining by over 10% per year in Virginia.

The Harner’s property is located on, is highly visible from, and has 1.26 miles of frontage on Big Valley Road. It contains a 575.6-acre “ecological core” area with Category 2 (“Very High”) ecological integrity, designated as such in the 2007 Virginia Natural Landscape Assessment of the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Virginia Natural Heritage Program. This assessment is based on a variety of information collected, including rare species and habitats, environmental diversity, species diversity, patch characteristics, patch context, and water quality benefits.

Additional natural resources protected include 80.5 acres of “Prime Farmland Soils” or “Farmland Soils of Statewide Importance”, 569 acres of forest, and a named perennial stream “Bolar Run”, which runs 1.08 miles through the property.

“This is a spectacular property that will continue to provide critical habitat for rare species and stay in active agricultural use,” said LTV Executive Director, Sally Price. “Because of this, the Harner’s qualified for financial assistance from our Malcolm Forbes Baldwin Fund, used to offset the costs on working farms. We are thrilled to fill in the map of Highland County with another conservation easement.”

The Harner’s easement is the 228th easement completed by Land Trust of Virginia. For more information about their work, please visit


About the Land Trust of Virginia

The Land Trust of Virginia is a nonprofit organization that partners with private landowners who voluntarily protect and preserve properties with significant historic, scenic, or ecological value. LTV has worked with 228 families, conserving a total of 28,683 acres in 29 counties in Virginia. While LTV charges landowners for their services, the fees charged only cover about 28% of LTV’s actual costs so fundraising is essential to our mission.


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