Horse Farm Conservation

IMG_4663_1Polk County, and Tryon in particular, has a long history with horses.  Since the 1830’s, horse racing and fox hunting have been sports enjoyed by many equestrian enthusiasts.  The beautiful, rolling hills, and openspaces at the base of the Blue Ridge Escarpment creates an ideal setting for every style of rider.

For the past 27 years, the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) has served as the regional land trust for Polk County and surrounding areas in North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina. The non-profit, grass roots organization is dedicated to protecting the precious natural resources making up the land and water which impacts the beauty and health of our area.

Since its inception, PAC has been ahead of its time in the proactive protection of this region’s natural environment. Through the organization’s conservation efforts, nearly 8,700 acres have been protected in our area.

Based in Tryon, PAC focuses on the thoughtful conservation of mountains, watersheds, forests, farms and greenspace. The land trust helps protect habitat for flora and fauna, as well as scenic and agricultural resources.  PAC works with area landowners to ensure the long-term protection of their property through voluntary conservation easements (agreements) which enable landowners to maintain ownership of their property while preserving precious natural resources.  Lands we’ve preserved by voluntary conservation easements protect riparian corridors which preserve our drinking water, mountains and ridgetops which preserve our viewsheds, forests we use for recreation and nature appreciation, and the impressive greenspace created by the area’s horse farms and agrarian activities.

In fact, PAC has permanently protected 1,010 acres on seventeen local horse farms.  In addition, PAC protects 3,190 acres of land on thirty properties which provide miles of protected equestrian trails, including land around the trails used by FETA, CETA, and NPA members, as well as trails used by riders in private horse farm communities.

Love of the area is shared by those who were born and raised in the region as well as by those who have moved to the area from elsewhere.  Many people who are involved with horses, whether as competitors in hunter-jumper shows, dressage shows, western shows and competitions; eventing, gaited, or driving; recreational, endurance riders, or fox hunters; or breeders on a large or small scale, moved to this area because they fell in love with the beautiful open spaces and the horse communities which formed around these various activities.

One way to preserve our horse country and to ensure the future enjoyment of these equestrian activities we take pleasure in is to protect the land in perpetuity by creating a thoughtful, carefully written, conservation easement (agreement) on your property.  Each conservation easement is personalized to reflect the wishes of the landowner; essentially, it is a Will for your land.

The Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), your local land trust, welcomes the opportunity to discuss land conservation options with area landowners. Please contact us at (828)859-5060, email landprotection@pacolet.org, drop by our office at 850 N. Trade St., Tryon, NC, and check out our website at www.pacolet.org.

Click here to learn about grant opportunities and potential federal tax benefits for protecting your land

Click here to watch a 10-minute video about the importance of Saving Our Horse Country

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The importance of protecting horse farms

Horse farms preserve land that would otherwise be more heavily developed, and these farms can be home to more than just horses.  Farms that maintain areas of natural forest and open pastureland and hay fields provide habitat for native plants and wildlife.  In more developed areas, farms can also serve as important wildlife corridors that allow animals to move between habitat patches.

Many species animal species benefit from the open space created by horse farms.  Insects thrive, attracting a variety of birds, such as Eastern Bluebirds, sparrows, hawks, Eastern Meadowlark, and more, all of which benefit from the cover provided by the forests surrounding pastures.  Invertebrates and grains in the pastures also attract small mammals, which attract birds of prey and fox.  Pastures surrounded by woodlots also attract wild turkey and deer.  Within the less disturbed woodlots, many native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers may thrive, increasing the diversity of animals utilizing the horse farm.

Many horse farms also contain ponds, streams, rivers, wetlands, groundwater aquifers and other water bodies. Depending on their management, horse farms have the potential to protect water quality and quantity, as well as the fish, wildlife, and invertebrates that call these waters home.

By creating/leaving a vegetative buffer around water bodies, horse farm owners have the opportunity to be good stewards of the environment by protecting sensitive water bodies located on or near their property.  Natural stream and pond buffers prevent sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides, and other pollutants from reaching a stream.  These vegetative buffers also provide a major source of energy and nutrients for stream communities.  And, vegetation left hanging over riparian areas keep streams cool, increasing the diversity in the stream.

Riparian buffers also provide valuable habitat for wildlife.  In addition to providing food and cover, they are an important corridor or travel way for a variety of wildlife.  Forested stream sides benefit game species such as deer, rabbit, quail and non-game species like migratory songbirds.  Riparian vegetation also helps maintain stable stream banks.
Horse farms that maintain large open spaces also help maintain groundwater recharge, an issue in heavily developed areas.

Wetlands are of particular importance, they act as nature’s water treatment plants, filtering pollutants before they can enter streams and rivers. Wetlands are also considered one of the most biologically-diverse of all ecosystems and provide excellent habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Horse farms also preserve rural and agrarian landscapes, which are diminishing quickly in many regions of the U.S.  Agriculture, including horse farming, is vital to the character of many rural areas, and is also becoming an increasingly important component of the rural-urban interface.  As food-crop farms meet the needs of the local food economy, so too do horse farms help meet the recreational, social, and aesthetic needs of many people.

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