A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century

By Robert E. Stipe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Natural Environment

CHARLES E. ROE

The eighteenth-century farm on which artist Andrew Wyeth painted more than a thousand scenes of southeastern Pennsylvania landscapes and rural life was acquired in late 1999 by the Brandywine River Conservancy, a private land trust, from its elderly owners through a creative estate-planning transaction. Other land conservation organizations across America have protected culturally significant rural and natural landscapes.

Recently, one of a few surviving historic covered bridges in North Carolina and its surrounding old-growth hardwood forest, mountain laurel, and stream, with remnant populations of rare aquatic species, were acquired, and the bridge was restored by two private land trusts. Other land trusts have protected many more historic landmarks and archaeological sites across the continent.

Thousands of acres of antebellum rice plantations and live oak—bordered historic roads near Charleston, South Carolina, with landscapes distinguished by maritime forests, salt marshes, and barrier island beaches, have been protected by the Low Country Open Land Trust. Likewise, other private land trusts have conserved many hundreds of historic farmsteads, plantations, ranches, and other features of America's cultural and natural heritage.

These are only a few of the many instances in which private land trusts have protected land enriched with both natural and cultural heritage resources. Hundreds of others could be cited: Native American archaeological sites; historic canals, mills, and industrial sites; battlefields; and historic roadways. Twentyfive years ago the boundaries between nonprofit historic preservation and land conservation organizations were clear. Now those lines are blurred and have often been eliminated completely. This chapter raises important issues about whether the agencies representing these closely related interests should engage and support one another in more formal ways, and how. However, any discussion of these issues must begin with a clear understanding of the history of the natural areas protection movement itself.

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