On a cold crisp New Year’s morning in 1990, I shared a duck blind in Mississippi with a small bespectacled man named Stephen Small from Boston. Stephen was a former IRS lawyer who in private practice was becoming the foremost authority on Conservation Easements. I knew what a Conservation Easement was by definition but was given a quick primer that morning. Later in a warm lodge by the fire, I told him all this sounded good in theory but Southerners had been the most oppressed financially of traditional America in the last century and that giving up certain private property rights was not going to fly in my world. Land was too dear to us as it was the only real asset many Southerners had. He retorted that New Englanders and Northern Virginians were just as tied to their land and that it was gaining serious traction in those provinces. He predicted that by the end of my long forestry and land career, I would be heavily involved in easements. I chuckled as we continued to enjoy each other’s company. Later, he sent me his book Preserving Family Lands, now the Conservation Easement Primer.
In 2000, Deke Copenhaver whom I causally knew at the time came to see me in my office. He said he was starting a local land trust and was seeking my support. By then, The ACE Basin Project in the Lowcountry of South Carolina was doing wonders and my attitudes had changed. I told him I would help him anyway I could but it was going to be a tough row to hoe around here. He then went on to procure some serious easements such as the entire Augusta Canal. Shortly thereafter, he ran for Mayor and the rest is history. His greatest parting shot before being Mayor was hiring a Pennsylvanian by way of California to replace him as Executive Director. Hazel Langrall Cook is not only known regionally but has gained national recognition for her work with us. She knows Conservation Easements as well as anyone in this country and we are truly blessed to have her.
In 2007, my sister in law Karyn Nixon nominated me for the board, which with some trepidation I accepted. Here in 2015, I leave the board after 8 years with the past 2 years being Chairman. It became through time the greatest organization I have been humbled to serve with. Seeing the land and doing something worthwhile to preserve it for future generations is an essay in itself. As a Board, we have done phenomenal things in a relatively short period. Thank you to all of our easement donors, past and present board members, past and president Chairmen and our wonderful staff of Hazel Cook and Alison Nelson, our new Communications Director. Most importantly, I want to thank all the people who have helped financially, physically, professionally…. The fellowship with these people has been beyond measure. It was a lot of fun as Rob Pavey our Incoming Chairman is going to have a rich and rewarding tenure.
Thank you and God Bless You All!
Alex Nixon -Chairman