LAND TRUST

John Stevenson and Amber Bromley are pictured with their son John “Haddock” Stevenson, 8. They recently protected their 422-acre farm in a conservation easement, along with a portion of the Fisher’s Hill Battlefield.

A large portion of Fisher’s Hill Battlefield near Strasburg has been permanently protected.

The site of the battlefield includes the 422-acre farm owned by John Stevenson and Amber Bromley, who recently chose to permanently protect the historic site and prevent eight building lots from being developed.

The nonprofit Land Trust of Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation co-hold the conservation easement.

It was “one small little thing that we could do to give back,” Stevenson said on Friday.

Even before purchasing the property about four years ago, he and Bromley had begun talks about protecting the land and its history. They had contacts through The Piedmont Environmental Council and other environmental groups, so they already knew some of what the process would entail.

“When we talked to the battlefield [foundation], that helped too, just their interest in the property,” Stevenson recalled.

He and his family can still live on the land and build more structures, if desired, according to the easement’s regulations, though Stevenson said they have little desire at the moment.

“For us, we really have no desire to divide the property,” he said. “We have no plans other than possibly our son building a house there.”

The Stevenson-Bromley farm is located two miles southwest of Strasburg, Land Trust of Virginia says in a Sept. 22 news release.

Located on the eastern-facing slopes of Little North Mountain, the property has expansive ridgeline views, the release says, and is highly visible from several public roads, including Interstate 81, U.S. 11 and Virginia routes 623 and 55.

“Everyone in the community benefits from open space and the preservation of the history of this property,” Stevenson says in the release. “My hope is that this inspires others in the valley to put their properties into easement.”

He said on Friday that the easement allows them to be compensated with tax cuts, which “makes it better, makes it easier.”

Though not for everyone, he said it made sense for their property, which has such historical context and is viewable from I-81.

“It’s nice that it’s going to stay that way,” he said.

“Large swaths of connected, conserved habitat will benefit local wildlife, the release says.

“With this easement, the scenic integrity of this area will now be preserved and continue to be enjoyed by the public,” it says. “In addition, a portion of the ridgeline boundary is adjacent to Devil’s Backbone State Forest, a 705.5-acre property maintained by the Virginia Department of Forestry to conduct research, support biological diversity, and allow outdoor recreation.”

The conservation agreement with Stevenson and Bromley will also protect the farm’s significant historic resources by maintaining its landscape and structures.

The property is “an extremely important part of the Fisher’s Hill Battlefield,” Keven Walker, chief executive officer of the battlefield foundation, says in the release.

“It’s the site where the Army of West Virginia, under the command of Union General George Crook, arrived after their secretive flank march and from where they launched an attack that would crush the confederate left and win the battle for the Union,” he writes. “This property, this hallowed ground is a critical contributor to the rural, historic landscape of the Shenandoah Valley and to the history of our nation.”

The foundation has agreed to oversee the preservation of the property’s historic values while Land Trust of Virginia oversees the property’s open space and natural resource values.

Most of the family’s costs of the easement donation were covered by a gift from the battlefield foundation’s membership, Walker says, “which was a critical component of getting this property protected.”

Also helping cover some costs is Land Trust of Virginia's  Deborah Whittier Fitts Battlefield Stewardship Fund.

The Stevenson–Bromley Easement is the 206th conservation easement recorded by the Land Trust of Virginia.

Community partnerships like these “are why conservation can be a solution,” says Sally Price, executive director of LTV. This decision protects “the character and history of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.”

For more information, visit landtrustva.org.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com