Missouri couple donates conservation easement on land

Saturday, June 30, 2012 | 5:41 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD — A Missouri couple has taken steps to protect a large stretch of acreage along the James River from development by handing over easement rights to a conservation group.

Larry and Nancy O'Reilly, who are working to return their land along the river to its natural state, donated the permanent conservation easement to Ozark Greenways.

The 3.5-mile-long stretch is the first along the James River to be enrolled using a specific federal Clean Water Act grant. Joe Pitts, executive director of the James River Basin Partnership, said the O'Reillys will retain ownership of the land but give up their rights to develop it. The O'Reillys will continue to pay property taxes on the land covered by the easement.

"The key with this easement donation is now we have a 3.5-mile stretch on the James that will never be developed," Pitts said.

The James River Basin Partnership applied for and received a $1 million Section 319 grant to create a Conservation Easement Program to protect creek and river corridors from pollution and erosion. Pitts said some of that money will be used to plant willow thickets along an area of O'Reilly property that has severely eroded. The river carries soil and any contaminants it might contain downstream into Table Rock Lake, The Springfield News Leader reported.

"I've always enjoyed rivers and floating, and this conservation easement creates a border on the river and the springs that feed into it that keeps cattle out and creates a natural barrier to prevent erosion," said Larry O'Reilly, a director of O'Reilly Automotive, Inc. "The easement ranges from 100 feet to 300 feet wide and stays with the property even if we sell it."

Larry O'Reilly said the 1,500 acres his family owns northwest of the small town of Ponce de Leon used to have a lot of cattle on it. After he bought the property, he removed the cattle and the cross fencing and planted more than 14,000 trees and bushes along the river corridor to stop erosion.

The O'Reillys received no money or tax advantage from the Section 319 grant program. They are eligible for a small stipend to maintain tree plantings along the river's edge.

Terry Whaley, executive director of Ozark Greenways, said his group is considered a land trust, and the O'Reilly easement will be placed in its control. He said he hopes other landowners along the river will consider similar arrangements.

"It's a big decision, but one that will protect the river for future generations," Whaley said.

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Delcia Crockett July 1, 2012 | 2:42 a.m.

@"It's a big decision, but one that will protect the river for future generations,"...

One thing Columbia City Parks and Recreation did right was apply a $150,000 grant here in Columbia to creating a trail into the lakes so that walkers/bikers/runners can enjoy the natural habitat that our ancestors once enjoyed.

It is a given that a growing concern exists that the natural landscape is eroding quickly to developers' concrete and homes that steal the beauty of nature and put it on a decline. We are watching much of it slip away to homes/yards intruding into what was once preserved for all of us to enjoy. There is some concern that our progeny will have nothing to hold onto in the respect to the sublime peace/tranquility that only nature reserve/respite can hold.

How sad that we let that happen, acre by acre by acre until there is virtually no more.

Hope more people do what these folks did! Commendable! What a great contribution to all that is beautiful about life/living/humanity.

Gracious/generous beyond compare.

See, there are still some unselfish people left in the world.

May the tribe increase!


(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett July 1, 2012 | 12:09 p.m.

Just, people, please do not leave your broken beer bottles, discarded diapers and fast food lids and cups for the rest of us to pick up, please.

Could you show some common courtesy and respect for others?

I mean, there will always be those of us who will pick up after your messes, and fix them by taking them to the trash cans, but it would be nice, if/when you use the same trail we do, that you would show the same courtesy and respect.

In fact, if any/all in Columbia showed common courtesy and respect to any/all in any/all, there would not be so many problems in Columbia, would there?

Have a nice Sunday!


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