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Preserving a Way of Life

At the Freshwater Land trust, we believe conservation work is more than preserving the natural environment—we believe it’s about preserving a way of life. Our priority is to honor the relationship between a family and its land, so that their way of life and the natural heritage they enjoy is preserved forever.

James and Olivia Howard believe in the deeper meaning of conservation, too. When they first approached the Freshwater Land Trust about preserving their land on the Cahaba River in 2003, they not only wanted to protect the river’s biodiversity, but also protect their legacy.
Now, more than a decade later, James and Olivia have permanently preserved their land and their legacy by donating 167 acres on the Cahaba River to the Freshwater Land Trust.

A Cahaba River Treasure

The Howard’s property is located in Bibb County and is a Priority One area of conservation based on the Freshwater Land Trust’s 10-year strategic conservation plan. This property is surrounded by the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area, 41,500 acres of land along the Cahaba in Bibb and Shelby Counties used for outdoor recreation. In addition, this site is downstream from the Living River Retreat, a nonprofit organization located on the Cahaba that is associated with the Prebytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, an organization of 80+ Presbyterian Churches located throughout central Alabama. With this central location, the Howard’s donation adds to a larger conservation area along the Cahaba River.
Now with this generous land gift, the Freshwater Land Trust owns and manages 580 acres, encompassing over 10 miles, on the Cahaba River. This particular site protects more than one mile of river frontage and serves as a significant forested buffer for the Cahaba.

Conservation Toolbox

Landowners and their families know what is best for their property, and the Freshwater Land Trust can serve as a partner in helping landowners understand the best conservation option suited for their land and their family. We offer several conservation options to private landowners, some with significant tax advantages, including conservation easements, donations by will, bargain sales, and fee simple donations, among others. The Freshwater Land Trust can provide guidance in the critical decision-making process of conserving family lands for future generations.

In the early 2000s, James and Olivia contemplated leaving this land to the Freshwater Land Trust in their will. However, after learning more about the other conservation options available to them, they decided to give an outright fee simple donation of their property.

In a fee simple donation, all rights and interests of the property are gifted to the Freshwater Land Trust. Prior to the donation, FWLT worked closely with the Howards to determine a sustainable plan for the property. Moving forward, the Howards will still be able to visit and enjoy their land as they have been, but the Freshwater Land Trust will own and manage the property, guaranteeing that it is preserved in perpetuity through a continual stewardship program. In addition, the land trust adds a protective covenant on the property to ensure it stays in conservation forever.

Leaving a Legacy

When asked why they wanted to conserve their property, the Howards said that this land represents their legacy because of their love of the Cahaba and its important biodiversity for all. Conserving this land in its natural state brings many benefits to the Howards, but perhaps the most gratifying is knowing that future generations will cherish the land they protected. The Freshwater Land Trust is proud to have played a role in preserving this special place for the Cahaba, its wildlife, and most importantly for James and Olivia’s legacy.

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