Written by Bill Kent | Photos by Dillon Keen Photography
For landowners and conservation enthusiasts alike, meet Hunt Country’s newest nonprofit: the Piedmont Fox Hounds Conservation Fund.
“We want to hear from every property owner, be it one acre or a hundred,” says Dulany Morison, direct descendant of the founder of America’s oldest hunt and board chair of the namesake PFH Conservation Fund. “This incredible, beautiful place we live in did not happen by accident. We want to be the go-to resource for preservation and conservation and anyone who is interested in our equestrian traditions.”
Conceived in 2021, founded in 2022, and active as of this year, PFHCF aims to fill a gap among other regional nonprofits engaged in protecting Hunt Country from overdevelopment and environmentally caustic land use, in that it seeks to inspire through direct experience of Hunt Country’s equestrian lifestyle. Morison, who sits on the boards of a half-dozen other local nonprofits, says the new PFH Conservation Fund “seeks to engage the wider Piedmont community with the protected landscapes, teach stewardship of the land, and educate how conservation practices not only preserve our equestrian heritage, but they benefit everyone.”
Katy Carter, PFHCF’s program director, says, “It can be as simple as not cutting down an old tree that is a vital part of the ecosystem, or not raking up your leaves. These can be important microhabitats beneficial for wildlife whose presence contributes intricately to the landscape we hunt on.”
In order to demonstrate that, PFHCF recently took 50 people on a half-day trail ride across protected farms off Rokeby Road. In addition to experiencing one of Hunt Country’s most scenic vistas from a saddle, participants also received a gentle lesson in land management, conservation easements, and the kinds of subtle environmental features (fences that horses can jump, for example, compared to those they can’t) that can make a major difference.
“The intention is to provide a textured, layered experience that speaks for itself,” says PFHCF Secretary Laurie Ambrose.
PFHCF then pairs landowners who may have specific questions with legal, environmental, agricultural, and equestrian experts who can answer them. Among those are Ashton Cole, executive director of the Land Trust of Virginia; Mike Kane, director of conservation of the Piedmont Environmental Council; Travis Shaw, director of education of the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area; and Leah Chaldres, program and communication coordinator of the Goose Creek Association.
Beyond providing the community with educational resources, PFHCF also offers financial support. Earlier this year, when a Hunt Country landowner was inspired to apply for a conservation easement but could not afford the expense, PFHCF agreed to cover a portion of the cost.
The fund also sponsors the Andrew Donovan Looney “Passion and Dreams” Scholarship, which provides summer internship opportunities for high school students who want to get a hands-on appreciation of the work that keeps Hunt Country’s hunts alive.
Those interested in getting involved or touring the local landscape can email [email protected], and for more information on internships and scholarships, visit pfhconservationfund.org. ML
Posted on: April 21, 2023