Project #323

Acre: 308.65

Property Type: Working Farm

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Project #323

Large Agricultural Field

The 308.65 acres of the farm was protected in 2018.  Geographically it lies within the within Eastern Highland Rim, three miles west of Rock Island State Park in Warren County, with the Collins River forming one boundary.

Significant features being preserved are its scenic open space fields and forests, its views to and from the scenic Collins River, and for the protection of its prime agricultural soils and unique natural habitat for wildlife. Additionally, the property has an important ecological role as a buffer to several protected lands in the immediate area, including over 6,000 acres held in other Foothills Land Conservancy easements in Warren and neighboring counties.

Almost 20% of the total acreage is designated by the USDA as Prime Farmland. Productive agricultural soils are frequently lost permanently to residential and commercial developments since flat, workable ground is easiest to develop. These soils are now protected from development under the conservation easement.

Collins River

Biologically the most impressive features of the property are along the roughly 2,500’ of river frontage along the Collins River, as well as a distinctive system of caves and waterfalls indicative of the underlying karst limestone geology.  At least three caves are located near the southwest corner of the property, rising above an inlet of the Collins River.

Stream Flowing from Cave Above Collins River

The most impressive cave opens just above the river and with a significant year-round stream pouring out in a waterfall.  Caves, especially those located within a relatively natural landscape, provide habitat and hibernacula for a variety of plant and animal species.  One of these species is the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), which has experienced a population decline of more than 50% over the past ten years due to human disturbance during hibernation and is protected under the Endangered Species Act.

A section of the Collins River is considered a ‘Scenic River’ by the state of Tennessee just upstream from the property.  It is also one of the few rivers in Tennessee with a good population of muskellunge, attracting fisherman from all over the state.

The bulk of the forested areas on the property support beautiful stands of mature hardwood trees and constitute much of the scenic forested bluffs along the river.  This steep terrain is the least accessible and so the least disturbed and supports the most unique plant community found on the property—fire-adapted glade-type species that thrive in thin soil and exposed rock substrates and can tolerate extreme conditions.

Potentially New Clematis Species from Bluffs

Potentially, one such species, a known but as of yet undescribed species of Clematis, was found on these steep limestone bluffs above the Collins River.  This species, which is expected to be described as C. cumberlandensis, is found only on the Cumberland Plateau and closely adjacent sections of the Eastern Highland Rim.  The diversity of plant species observed in one site visit was impressive including 48 tree species (a quarter of which were oaks and hickories), plus 147 other shrubs and herbs.

Also impressive were the 38 species of birds observed, six if which have either been added to a ‘Watch List’ by Partners in Flight as a species of conservation concern, or have been designated Common Birds in Steep Decline, birds that do not meet Watch List criteria but are rapidly declining throughout their range.  These include Grasshopper Sparrow (62% population loss since 1970), Field Sparrow (-62%), Yellow-billed Cuckoo (-54%), Prairie Warbler (-53%), Kentucky Warbler (-29%), and Green Heron (population trend data not available).  The protection of the property’s natural habitat will support and help secure these imperiled species as the effects of climate change and other anthropogenic factors continue to increase.