Land conservation conference to meet here
Share with others:
It turns out Chuck Leavell, a tree farmer and keynote speaker at the Land Trust Alliance's annual National Land Conservation Conference starting today in Pittsburgh, also knows his way around a keyboard.
When he's not tending his 2,000-acre farm outside Macon, Ga., writing books, winning the Georgia Tree Farmer of the Year award twice and lobbying his congressman in favor of greenspace preservation, Mr. Leavell is playing with a little band called the Rolling Stones -- and has since 1982. And before he became "the sixth Stone" he was a member of the Allman Brothers Band; headed his own band, Sea Level; and played with Eric Clapton and George Harrison, among many others.
Mr. Leavell, 56, said that when he steps to the podium at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Sunday, the last day of the conference, he will endorse pending federal legislation that would extend and improve existing tax breaks to people who promise to keep their farms and forest lands as farms and forests.
Such land preservation arrangements, called conservation easements, are voluntary, legally enforceable agreements between a property owner and a government agency or land trust that conserve land and restrict development.
"We're seeing a lot of growth and development and losing a lot of our natural forest and agricultural lands," Mr. Leavell said this week in a phone interview conducted while he was on his tractor in the woods at his Georgia property known as Charlane Plantation.
"We need set-asides and conservation easements that mean that in certain spots there will never be a strip mall, a high rise or a parking lot."
Two years ago, the Birmingham, Ala., native agreed to a conservation easement on 300 acres of the tree farm. It was one of the first conservation easements in Georgia, where the program has grown quickly to cover 117 properties and 67,000 acres.
"I wanted to make a statement to my fellow landowners, letting them know that easements are good for the family farm, good for the future," Mr. Leavell said.
The four-day conference brings 1,700 attendees from 432 land trusts to Pittsburgh at a time when land conservation efforts are surging.
Those 432 land trusts have conserved a total of 7.4 million acres.
In Pennsylvania, 254 new easements were agreed to last year, bringing the total number held by land trusts in the state to 2,233 on 176,340 acres.
First Published September 18, 2008 12:00 am