1st Blog: Conservation Development - Nature as the Foundation

Services for Real Estate Pros with Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc.

Since February 2007, janeAnne Narrin of Eco-Stewards Realty in Asheville, NC has encouraged me to join the Active Rain network. janeAnne is a columnist for the New Life Journal, and we met to discuss an article on ecological home-site planning. I was leaving my job as botanist & wildlife biologist with an environmental company to re-form my former ecological consulting group - Mountains-to-Sea Conservation (MTS). After five years of self-employment in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains and then as Conservation Biologist for "wildlands conservation easements" (5000 to 20,000 acre easements!) in New England & Adirondacks for Sweet Water Trust of Boston, it was simply not my game to work under someone else.

Two months later, janeAnne finally said "Look - you're coming to my office for about two hours and we're going to get you on Active Rain. You need each other."

So what's an ecologist doing here? Simple - land is expensive, but the value of its living things and natural resources is priceless. That's where I come in- by helping new & longtime landowners (and both green and traditional developers) to discover, protect, and incorporate the plants, wildlife, and wild places on the land within new construction and development planning. These are often pitted as "opposites" - the "green movement" versus "growth and development", but they can go hand in hand with a little effort.

Since 1997, I've performed about 125 botanical & wildlife inventories, habitat restoration, woodland management, and stewardship projects (such as invasive plant removal, native plants landscaping, trail design & construction). These are on private and public land throughout the southeast, but primarily the mountains. I specialize in finding & protecting rare species, old growth forests, and other high quality natural resources and working WITH these resources. The ‘nature of the land' - if considered prior to any development - becomes the BASIS of land & home-site planning, not just a backdrop for a house.

Many inventories are for fully-protected conservation-easement lands with land trusts, however, I work with many "conservation developments" that subdivide small, clustered but very private homesite while setting aside large protected lands. Damage still occurs - don't be fooled. But while traditional developers cut sprawling roads & home sites onto the land with no knowledge or interest in rare species, ancient forests, historic homesteads or orchards, etc., - I find & map these features, helping turn them into ASSETS rather than unknown casualties. They then define home-sites and give a truer sense of place.

Combined with home-site location on suitable slopes, soil types, and previously impacted (clearcut, farmed, grazed, etc.) areas - and also avoiding key wildlife breeding times, rescuing and relocating native plants and soils both onsite (what I call "native landscape restoration") - and you have great examples of Eco-friendly housing. Speaking of landscape restoration - that's definitely another topic- so much has been lost that cannot be returned for example: the American Chestnut, the Carolina Parakeet, eastern Bison, wolves & cougars, the long-since drained swamp forests, canebrakes, bogs, and beaver ponds of the river valleys - lives and dynamics that aren't even a memory to the oldest among us.

There are worlds upon worlds of subtlety, creativity, and efficiency in nature that continually astound me, and they are worth of our notice & protection in our actions - and its not so hard to do that.  Likewise - the process of carefully observing nature, and planning and designing with nature in mind is also amazing, and I hope to discuss it further with you in the future (when I'm not in the woods!)








Comments (27)

Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Kevin:

Welcome aboard, an ecologist is just what this crew(Eco- Green Scene members) needs. I would like to think that you are in a growth industry and that more developers will see the benefit( for themselves and the environment) in using your services. I will certainly promote your services to anyone willing to listen!   Look forward to seing some pictures as well.

May 09, 2007 05:57 AM
Corey Atherton
Suncadia Real Estate Sales Company - Cle Elum, WA
Great post and thanks for joining us at ActiveRain.  You'll be a great addition.  Keep up the great work and the more new developments using a conservation business model the better. 
May 09, 2007 06:47 AM
Rich Schiffer
Swarthmore, PA
Referral Agent, e-PRO

Nice to have you here in the Rain, Kevin.

For tips on putting photos in your posts, check out How to Add Pictures in Your Blog I am sure we would love to see some of them.

May 09, 2007 07:44 AM
Roberta Murphy
San Diego Previews Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad Real Estate and Homes
Kevin: Welcome to Active Rain--and we look forward to seeing some wonderful articles and photography from you! (no presssure intended;-)
May 09, 2007 10:36 AM
JudyAnn Lorenz
Bar JD Communications - Mansfield, MO
Virtual Marketing Consultant
Kevin, Welcome to Active Rain!  I repeat what Roberta said.  Your additional information will benefit all of us.
May 10, 2007 03:37 AM
Kevin Caldwell
Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc. - Marshall, NC

Terrible as this sounds, I don't know how to comment to each of you individually, but will here shortly when I figure it out...pardon the medievalism, but I'll be coming around to it soon. Thanks for all the great support!


May 10, 2007 03:42 PM
CONTACT janeAnne365@gmail.com

 Kevin~To respond to each person who  wrote you a comment, just do what you did with the comment above... start a new comment window and put the person's name in it...like I did here...


CONGRATULATIONS, Today...You have won the Welcome as the Flowers in May-
 Gold Star
Your photo essay with your own photos/graphics and original text ·1)   invites audience connection,·2)      educates, inspires,·3) delivers humor, wit, enthusiasm...·4) generates discussion,·5) recognizes "giving back", "paying forward" "  responsible stewardship", ·6)       AND ***  tells a story .from the  perspective of a day-in-the-life of- a REALTOR®   (or real estate related occupation.)

Here's an example of an article that makes me look forward to dropping in for a visit at Active Rain...and staying for a while!

May 13, 2007 12:49 PM
Kevin Caldwell
Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc. - Marshall, NC

Hi Arlene -

Pardon the delay - wow, if you're 10 year old grandson can sift through this, I'll take him on as my field intern! 


May 16, 2007 04:04 PM
Kevin Caldwell
Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc. - Marshall, NC

Bill -

Thanks for taking a look and commenting, though I suppose it helps that I met you a few months back.  I hope Rebecca's talk on conservation easements has you fired up now -


May 16, 2007 04:05 PM
Kevin Caldwell
Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc. - Marshall, NC


I think I sent you an email directly but thought I'd post in the blog to boot - lets try to get together soon since you're just around the corner...if I can keep out of the woods! Busy the next few weeks, as I'm sure you are, but be sure to get out in the woods.

May 16, 2007 04:07 PM
Kevin Caldwell
Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc. - Marshall, NC

Rich -

I appreciate the photo tip...its painful too becuuse we're on dial up out here...back to the 90's, until we get a satellite connection. I'm hoping to get a few pics up but I did get them going on my personal info page (have a look).



May 16, 2007 04:09 PM
Kevin Caldwell
Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc. - Marshall, NC

Roberta -

Thanks for the warm welcome and reminder to get some pics up.  Honestly, I can pop off about 250 - 300 shots in a day, most of which I toss looking for the best so I'll try to get some up...have just been strapped on time lately.  More soon!

May 16, 2007 04:10 PM
Kevin Caldwell
Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc. - Marshall, NC

JudyAnn -

Also thanks for the welcome.  I'd planned on blog #2 but will have to wait til the weekend.  More to come.


May 16, 2007 04:11 PM
Kevin Caldwell
Mountains-to-Sea Conservation, Inc. - Marshall, NC

janeAnne -

Gold star - jeez, aren't there any platinum ones left?  Alright - I'll take the gold star and thanks for that - please be safe and peaceful on your trip up north. 



May 16, 2007 04:12 PM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

HI Kevin:

Yes I enjoyed Rebeccas presentation alot. I think finding buyers for large pieces of land to put in conservation easments is a fantastic thing to do!

May 17, 2007 12:08 AM
Corey Atherton
Suncadia Real Estate Sales Company - Cle Elum, WA
Just give me a call any time and I look forward to meeting up with you.  So, where were you fishing in your profile picture?
May 17, 2007 03:02 AM
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP
Hi Kevin, I am so glad you joined!  I can't wait to hear about everything.  You are a wonderful addition to our ECO family!
Jun 14, 2007 03:45 PM
Kevin Caldwell
Thanks Stephanie - I'm happy to chime in on this as I think the eco-realty crew is pretty much going to be one of the major sways for people to consider the ecology of the land before they build on it or do anything.  We're in a unique place that developments in the western NC region would not only consider the plants & wildlife & forests that bring people here, but make them centerpieces of and foundations for the community design. Its not the majority but its at least happening - and that beats traditinoal development hands down. 
Jun 15, 2007 01:11 AM
Rick & Ines - Miami Beach Real Estate
Majestic Properties - Miami Beach, FL

"this information will benefit us" is an understatement.  It's really incredible to see the different types of land developers, they are usually separated into 2 main categories - the ones that only care about the profit, and the ones that care about the impact of their construction on the land together with the quality of construction.

In Miami there's protected land areas like the Redlands and the Everglades - and you can see when someone cares about what they build when they relocate Native Trees and don't just clear the land before construction.  Yesterday, my mom visited a friend in Davie and a family of owls had created an underground nest infront of their properties.  The whole neighborhood was celebrating the event and it was incredible to see.

You guys are doing a superb job!

Jul 01, 2007 03:09 AM
Kevin Caldwell

Rick & Ines -

 Thanks for the comments.  I couldn't encourage you enough to meet the local ecologists, biologists, & such in your area (and landscape architects who care enough to plan based on ecology) and start working with them.  In the least we can sharply minimize our impacts without nearly the effort it takes to destroy much of nature in much faster time.  Most people, like you just noted, are pretty happy and surprised to see and learn of birds like burrowing owls but we're largely lost in a fantasy land of tv, music, and us & us and our things, that these wild & fascinating creature are sometimes only accessible or intersting when actually portrayed in the media.  The more we're portrayed as caring they exist and planning our homes & lives around them in the media - the more it will sink in:  "there are other forms of life here that are not dying because they're not intelligent, but because of us."  At least...this is my opinion on it!


Jul 02, 2007 09:03 AM