The Magnificence of Hein-site
Conservation requires patience
My silviculture professor, David M. Smith, led field trips around New England forests to show greenhorn forestry students how forest stands changed over time. It was fun to learn to read the land—to look at the wolfy “hat rack pines” that grew into old fields, to look at the saprophytic plants survive in the dense shade under hemlocks, to study the ancient stumps of a few of the four billion American chestnut trees that fell victim to a blight a century ago. Professor Smith would take us to places where our well-meaning predecessors had planted seedlings taken from too far away—too far “off site.” He spoke humbly of “the magnificence of hindsight” in realizing that the red pine seedlings wouldn’t thrive on Connecticut coastal plains.
The foresight of the Hein site
Over 13 years ago, Teri Hein invited Heather Bateman, the second hired staff member of the Inland Northwest Land Trust, Betsy Jewett, and me to meet her mom and dad on the Spangle family farm.
They led us to the family land spanning ½ mile of Latah Creek, just above the bridge at Kentuck Trails Road. The snapshots from our visit show lush meadows, pines marching down the slopes, basalt cliffs stacked above, and a field of grain above that. Since our visit, the 142 acres of land has not changed and now it never will.
The family asked questions during the interim and mulled over the weight of their decision to put an easement on their property. Meanwhile, Ralph the family patriarch, passed on and INLT stayed in touch while respectful of the loss and the decision-making processes after such an event. Many easements require an unspecified timeline to address a family’s emotional and legal concerns. We have learned persistence and professionalism go hand in hand with showing up and sticking around.
The Hein family’s land is diverse. Natural bottomlands couple with farmed land to provide income. Grazing and restoration if it complies with conservation purposes can also occur on the property. Also, a one-acre residential area will allow a future home. Many may not be aware of this, but of the 45 conservation easements, over half either have a house on them or have reserved the right to build a house. We consider onsite landowners to be a positive bonus due to invested land stewardship.
Looking forward, the Hein conservation easement will inspire others in the Latah Creek watershed and elsewhere to protect their family lands for future generations. For INLT, it’s a landmark to identify and protect key lands along Latah Creek and its tributaries—a five year initial effort for permanent protection. INLT will continue to connect with people, make contact and over time, fill the gaps—so that we can protect and connect vital lands.
Inland Northwest Land Trust has protected over 15,000 acres since 1991 with 47 conservation easements.
Written by Chris DeForest, Executive Director for Inland Northwest Land Trust.