There is still a place where rare and threatened species are still healthy and thriving.
There is still a place where dark skies command the night … where miles and miles of productive farmland run up to the base of fully forested mountains. A place where the water runs clean in creeks, streams, and free-flowing rivers … where the air keeps us breathing in deep. There is still a place where being part of a rural community is cherished.
This place is the Cacapon and Lost Rivers watershed.
For 30 years, the Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust has been the only local land trust dedicated to protecting the farms and forests, water quality, wildlife, and rural heritage of this 680-square mile watershed. In partnership with landowners we have protected more than 14,000 acres.
Our 2020-2025 Healing Waters1 Strategic Plan builds on our 30-year legacy of service, partnership, and commitment to land protection.
Our land protection efforts are needed not only for those who live, work, and recreate here, but for millions of citizens downstream who rely on our work for their clean water.
Our efforts are urgent for wildlife that depend on this region for survival and as a vital migration corridor. And our success is required for the benefit of future generations who will always need to experience the values inherent in resilient landscapes and rural communities.
Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust
Healing Waters 2020-2025 Strategic Plan
The Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust works in partnership with landowners and communities in the Cacapon watershed to maintain healthy waters, protect forests and farmland, and preserve rural heritage for the well-being and enjoyment of present and future generations.
The Cacapon watershed has a robust connected network of protected lands that enhance the region’s ecological resiliency, water quality and economic vitality that are managed by private landowners and valued by local communities.
To achieve our mission and vision we hold true to core values including:
- Respect: for the character of our communities, and the goals and histories of landowners.
- Integrity: with landowners, partners, and supporters, building honest and trustworthy relationships.
- Stewardship: with landowners, permanently protecting land and encouraging environmentally responsible land practices.
- Collaborative Leadership: through our facilitation, improving collaboration with partners to bring more resources to the watershed to protect natural resources.
- Excellence: in using the best available science, demonstrating the importance of the Cacapon watershed to achieving national priorities for clean water, habitat protection, climate resiliency and the vitality of rural economies.
The Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust is the first local West Virginia land trust to receive national accreditation through the Land Trust Alliance. In maintaining our accreditation, we, the Board, and staff of the Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust agree to uphold the public trust and maintain a strong, effective land conservation program with financial transparency.
THREE PRIMARY ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS
The Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust will:
- Proactively grow a connected network of protected land hubs and corridors that link private and public land throughout the watershed.
- Protect and enhance resiliency.
- Increase awareness of land protection as a major tenet to protecting natural resources, water quality and the rural heritage and economic vitality of the Cacapon watershed.
A Rare Gem of a Place Worth Protecting
Cacapon Watershed Is …
- Nationally recognized as one of the most ecologically beneficial tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay
- 85% forested
- Nutrient rich supporting productive farmlands
- Home to more than 50 rare and endangered species
- A vital wildlife migratory corridor and recognized for its resiliency in the face of climate change
- A recreational destination for hikers, birders, fishermen, hunters, and dark sky enthusiasts
- A source of clean water for millions of residents in the Washington DC metro area.
Goal One: Proactively grow a connected network of protected land hubs and corridors that link private and public land throughout the watershed.
The protection of connected priority resource lands, based on sound ecological principles, is a critical element to achieving our mission. We will continue to build a connected network of natural, working forests and agricultural lands, to maintain the ecological function and economic vitality of the watershed.
Utilizing our science-based GIS model, we will make strategic choices about land protection that address high priority areas for agriculture, wetlands, streams, upland, rural heritage, climate resiliency, migration corridors and West Virginia’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need.2
Through a Neighbor-to-Neighbor community approach, and in collaboration with watershed partners, work with landowners who will voluntarily protect priority lands through conservation easements with the goal of protecting 8,200 acres of high conservation value land over the next five years.
Goal Two: Protect and Enhance Resiliency
We are committed to ensuring and enhancing the ecological resiliency of the Cacapon and Lost Rivers watershed. The resiliency of this watershed will only increase in importance as a migratory corridor, a forested region to capture carbon, a vital contributor to a healthy Chesapeake Bay, and a source clean water for millions of citizens. We are committed to ensuring the resiliency of our communities by demonstrating how protecting and improving forests and productive farmland is linked to rural economic vitality. And, we are committed to enhancing the capacity and resiliency of our organization.
Align hubs and corridors strategy land protection strategy with evolving resiliency data to cultivate a greater awareness of how our watershed relates to the larger Appalachian landscape, the protection of key species and the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Increase organizational recognition as a trusted partner, innovator, and regional and national leader in the land protection movement.
Launch the Cacapon Watershed Collaborative to bring all partners working in the Cacapon and Lost Rivers watershed together to identify shared goals, implement effective land protection strategies, and bring more resources to the watershed to achieve these goals.
Serve as a resource to landowners about the value and importance of conservation easements and how to enhance the ecological sustainability of their land.
Continue to demonstrate organizational fiscal transparency, sustainability, and effective governance.
Healthy Waters Prioritization Model
- In 2003, the Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust brought together more than 30 local, state, and federal stakeholders at the Healing Waters retreat to develop a consensual conservation strategy for watershed protection.
- A science-based GIS model was designed based on the comprehensive resource information and sound decision-making techniques utilized at the Healing Waters Retreat.
- The GIS Prioritization model identifies the highest conservation value land to protect through five spatial models: forests/uplands, agriculture, streams, wetlands, and rural heritage.
- Data sets were classified into 8 ordinal ranking based on a Jenks Natural Break Classification at the HUC12 and catchment levels.
- The Cacapon Watershed GIS Prioritization Model continues to guide strategic decisions for optimal land protection.
Goal Three: Increase awareness about the importance of land conservation and stewardship to protecting the natural resources and economic vitality of the Cacapon watershed.
Increase awareness about the importance of land conservation and stewardship to protecting the natural resources and economic vitality of the Cacapon watershed.
Disseminate key messages about land protection and the vitality of the watershed’s rural economy by cross-promoting information with our partners in the watershed and co-sponsoring watershed activities.
Be a source of information on the impact of land protection on maintaining water quality, conserving productive farmland and forests, and protecting wildlife.
For more specific information on our Strategic Plan’s metrics and the resources needed to achieve these goals, please contact Executive Director, Emily Warner, firstname.lastname@example.org
1 From Native Americans, “Cacapon” means healing waters or medicine waters.
2 As delineated in the West Virginia State Wildlife Action Plan.
Photos courtesy of Tom Cogill.