Putting the Land in Trust
In Ozark County, donors provided funds to buy two adjacent woodland areas in the Bryant Creek watershed, one of them purchased from Elixir Farm Botanicals, which cultivates indigenous and Chinese herbs and sells seed. Farm personnel, who act as stewards of these natural areas, have restored golden seal, a native herb, to one site. The plant had been decimated by "wildcrafters" collecting for medicinal uses.
"We're really quite aware of where we are and what our relationship is to our environment here," says Lavinia McKinney, farm proprietor, "and we're committed to protecting it and stewarding it."
Since the first purchases, ORLT acquired three more parcels in the watershed, bringing the total acreage to 211. Further additions will include natural areas and homesteading sites.
Some projects are not absolutely forever, but have potential for permanence.
In 1997, ORLT accepted transfer of a 100-foot wide, 12.5-mile strip of wildlife habitat, an abandoned portion of the Kansas City Southern Railroad line. The land is "rail banked," meaning the railroad has retained the right to return the line to use. This rails-to-trails project starts in Jasper County in Missouri, then crosses into Kansas.
Galbraith admires the diversity of the strip, which is at a transitional point between the Ozarks and the central plains. "To me it has more significance than a square tract of 120 acres," he says, "because deer use the corridor now, many birds and animals like the edges, it has wetlands adjoining it, open fields around it." He calls it "a wildlife super highway."
South of St. Louis, residents asked ORLT to help preserve an area of high bluffs along the Mississippi River. The landowner, a quarry company, agreed to leave 100 acres in a natural state for 25 years. When that agreement is due to run out, the land trust will seek to negotiate another contract.
It's also possible for a land trust to work with developers in setting aside green space. Paul Justus, ORLT board member with a background in urban design, sees new possibilities for urban and suburban situations - villagelike clusters of homes along with shops, small-scale industry "within environmental reason" and green space.
It isn't easy or quick to create "forever" status for a piece of land. Saving a river corridor, for instance, means local volunteers must encourage many landowners to cooperate, which can take years. ORLT has investigated over 60 potential projects and