Guest Post from Legal Intern, Nicole DiBartolo

March 6, 2018

My passion for the environment and nature started at a very young age. My parents joke that it all started when they took me to see Chicken Run, a movie about chickens that were trying to escape a farm after they found out they were being fattened to be made into chicken pot pies, and I decided to become a vegetarian because I no longer wanted to eat animals. It wasn’t necessarily the movie that spurred my becoming a vegetarian, but the fact that the night we saw the movie my dad decided to pick up chicken for dinner and I couldn’t help but imagine that dinner was the chickens from the movie. I had always loved nature and animals, but through personal experiences and things I learned in my middle and high school classes, I became passionate about protecting animals and the environment they live in. Since then I have pursued a career to protect the environment, which was what brought me to law school and eventually brought me to Piedmont Land Conservancy as a legal intern. In my first week at Piedmont Land Conservancy I already learned so much and had the opportunity to attend a landowner meeting with my site supervisor. At the meeting we walked around the land that the landowner was interested in obtaining an easement on and we discussed with them what they wanted to get out of the conservation easement. After speaking with the landowner about their ideas and desired outcome for the use of the land, we got to see the full extent of the passion that the landowner had for the environment and their desire to keep the land from being developed after they were gone. They were primarily concerned with conserving the natural habitats of the local birds and the trees and flowers that grew on their land. They also integrated the environment into their everyday lives, in a way that if the land were developed around them, it would disrupt some of the things they loved to do. They had built a shack in their backyard where they could observe birds as they came to the bird feeders right outside of the shack, or where they could simply relax and enjoy the peaceful sounds of their environment. If their land was developed, the birds and animals they liked to observe would lose their habitats, home, and food. I also got to attend a second landowner meeting within my first two weeks. This meeting occurred on a piece of land that is a not yet cut path on the Blue Ridge Parkway. When I say not yet cut, we fought our way to make it to the top through steep land and sharp, thorny vines. The view at the top was worth the climb though, and we got a great view of the stream that ran through the land and the mountains off in the distance. I learned that land like this is high priority for conservation groups as they offer substantial amounts of diverse animal and plants species, and have recreational benefits such as hiking and possibly mountain biking that attract tourists. Although no decisions were made, the hope for this land is that it would be made into a trail for the public to enjoy and use. Trails with such a great view, the stream, and the challenging terrain are likely to bring in many visitors, some from out of town, and be a great recreational spot for everyone to enjoy. I have also learned that creating conservation easements is no easy task. Although our law books do not discuss it, the length of time it takes to create a conservation easement can take months to years. Piedmont Land Conservancy continually works with these owners, and on top of that they are then responsible for monitoring the easements to make sure that terms of the easement are not being violated. However, once an easement is created, the land is fully protected and it conserves important land, such as farmland and environmentally diverse and important land, that could have ended up being just another shopping mall.