The Conservation Vision, Methods, and Motivations behind our Work

Palmer McIntyre
Conservation Planner

PLC was formed more than 30 years ago for a specific purpose – to preserve the most important natural lands in the Triad region, a landscape characterized by beautiful rolling hills leading up to the Blue Ridge, fertile farmlands, broad rivers and rocky streams, scenic views, and a rich history. PLC’s founders – Kathy Treanor, Carolyn Allen, Eric Calhoun, and others – recognized that government would never have the capacity to fully meet our land conservation needs before irreversible losses of these special places.

Paddlers along the Dan River State Trail, one of PLC's initiative areas.

Their answer was to form a local land trust, which became Piedmont Land Conservancy. Since 1990, with support from members and partners, PLC has protected more than 29,000 acres across our region. A local conservation ethic is vital to a healthy future, particularly as our region continues to grow. Land provides clean drinking water, supports the production of healthy food and fiber on our rich soils, creates clean air, and provides beautiful places to recreate and reflect. PLC’s goal is to help balance the inevitable growth of our region with the protection of the most important natural areas.

Early on, PLC settled on four focus areas that drive our conservation work: rivers and streams, family farms and farming communities, ecologically significant natural areas, and strategic or culturally significant

open spaces. PLC only works with interested landowners and leverages partnerships to permanently protect targeted conservation lands. 

Connecting People to Nature

An equally vital part of PLC’s mission statement is connecting people to nature. As our lives have moved increasingly inside, we recognize the critical importance in providing opportunities for people to get outdoors and realize the many physical, emotional and spiritual benefits nature provides. We do this through certain properties we own and manage including Knight Brown Nature Preserve and the Emily Allen Wildflower Preserve (which also protects a significant number of native wildflowers and ferns), through our guided outings program, and through Piedmont Legacy Trails, our regional trails initiative. See some PLT trail guides here.


Clean Water
Family Farms
Natural Areas
Open Spaces

Planning for Conservation

Fall Creek Falls in Mayo River State Park. PLC has added 2,237 acres to this State park. Click the photo for a trail guide to the falls.

In a region as large as ours, it’s crucial to understand what places are most important to protect for the greatest good. PLC has identified conservation initiative areas across the region based on plans and studies completed, including Natural Heritage Inventories (county-based studies of the most significant natural areas in each county), watershed preservation plans, and farmland preservation plans. We consider each project at a landscape scale, recognizing that isolated and small pockets of protected lands are less likely to sustain ecological functions over time.

Our conservation initiative areas include the Blue Ridge Escarpment, our major river corridors, certain farming communities, significant historic landscapes, and 

clusters of natural heritage sites. With limited time and resources and knowing we can’t protect every place, these plans and studies help guide our work, to ensure we are protecting the most important places. While we would like to be able to help every landowner who has a conservation interest, we have to sometimes turn down opportunities and invest our resources in higher priority projects.

Our work will never be done, but we know what we need to do to ensure a resilient and healthy future: Save as many important pieces as possible.

Conservation Success Stories

Community-Based Farmland Preservation:
The Liberty and Randleman Corridor

Concerned about future growth and loss of valuable farmland, families in northern Randolph County approached PLC about a vision to protect 2,000 acres along an 8-10 mile stretch on Old NC Highway 49, a designated Scenic and Heritage Tourism corridor. An important strategy for farmland protection is to work in areas where agricultural communities can thrive. This is one reason why PLC has focused on this area.

According to 2019 North Carolina Agricultural Statistics, Randolph County ranks in the top ten counties in the state for livestock, the only Triad county on that list. Notable protected farms include Goat Lady Dairy and Rising Meadow, but PLC has worked with many families. An additional benefit is that the protection of these rural lands will help protect critical drinking water supplies for downstream Randolph County towns. With 1,477 acres preserved, PLC will continue to work in this area to reach that goal of 2,000 protected acres.

Rising Meadow Farm, Liberty, NC
Watershed Protection:
Mitchell River

The Mitchell River is the only state designated Outstanding Resource Water (highest water quality ranking) in our region outside of State Park lands. It flows off the Blue Ridge Escarpment, one of the region’s most important ecological areas, so it was quickly identified as a conservation target. Working with a very strong local partnership, PLC has protected more than 8,300 acres on 34 projects in the watershed. PLC will continue to “fill in the gaps” so there is as much contiguous protection along the river as possible and along the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

Mitchell River
Natural Heritage
Fishers Peak

At the top of the Blue Ridge, Fishers Peak is the highest elevation in Surry County and one of the State’s most significant natural areas. With just over 2,000 acres protected, PLC has ensured the permanent protection of this special and unique place with outstanding views of the piedmont from its rocky peaks, headwaters, and trout streams. 

Fishers Peak
Open Spaces
Historic Bethania

Established in 1759 and registered as a National Historic Landmark, the Moravian town of Bethania is the only remaining example of a European open-style agricultural village in North Carolina, where clustered houses are surrounded by agricultural lands. After nearly 25 years, PLC has permanently protected 193 acres of these historic lands, including God’s Acre, scenic bluffs, wetlands, and former agricultural fields, an original apple orchard and the site of a former African American schoolhouse, all connected by a network of popular walking trails. With the construction of two interchanges on the Winston-Salem Northern by-pass within three miles of town, these protected lands will ensure the preservation of Bethania’s primary character forever despite inevitable future growth.

Historic Bethania Orchand

Want to be part of the vision?

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More Posts from Piedmont Land Conservancy

PLC closed more gaps along the Mayo River in Rockingham County last month, with the acquisition of two tracts that 

I’ve been out on lots of the trails in the Triad (not all yet!) so I’ve put together a list of some of the stand outs.

Piedmont Land Conservancy transferred two tracts totaling 297 acres to the Town of Elkin for permanent ownership and management. 

Consider giving to

Piedmont Land Conservancy

to protect more special places like this one.