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May 26, 2023 7 minute READ

John and Faye Cooper: Why We Support Land Trusts

tags Local Flavor | Mast Family Favorites
locations All
This is part of a conservation easement in Valle Crucis

Even before we bought the Mast General Store, we were taken by the beauty of Valle Crucis. We’ve heard people describe the drive out Broadstone Road as traveling through a time portal. In the 1970s, fields in the river bottoms would be filled with tobacco, cabbage, or high with hay to feed cattle that were grazing in the summer pasture. 

We began to see, as the owners of the Mast Store, how important the preservation of the wonderful scenery of our area was both to making it a special place to live and to bringing tourists who appreciated the natural wonders of the High Country. We didn’t know about ways to protect the beauty of the land and its environmental impact through conservation easements until we met Michael Leonard. 

You could call Michael a hero of conservation and preservation in North Carolina, in particular, and the Southeast in a broader sense. From a young age, he was interested in the natural world, and after graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Law, he began volunteering his services for land conservation. His accomplishments include linking the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama to the Appalachian Trail and helping develop the first municipal watershed in North Carolina, which happens to be in Asheville.

The property is in a conservation easement at the Valle Crucis Conference Center. With Michael’s help, we learned how we could enter into an agreement with our local conservancy to help the land around the Mast Store maintain its rural character in perpetuity. We retained ownership of the land, but should we decide to sell it, the easement will carry forward to future owners to enforce the same restrictions.

It’s no secret that the High Country is a popular destination for second homes and relocating for a better quality of life, which makes land values increase. Many family farms have been lost to increased development, but conservancies can help mitigate rising property taxes on developable lands through easements, which will allow farming families to continue their legacy.

The work of land trusts and conservancies benefits everyone – maybe in ways you may not have considered. By protecting wetlands and open spaces, the damage caused by flood waters can be lessened, and when wildlife has preserved habitat, native plants are saved to continue contributing to the biodiversity of the area, and WE have recreational spaces to enjoy. 

Land trusts do all these things and more, and it was for these reasons we felt it was important to provide financial support personally and through the business. We are involved as board members and advocates for our local land trust, the Blue Ridge Conservancy, and have executed conservation easements on several properties we own and that are owned by the business. 

The first Saturday in June is recognized as National Trails Day, and since many of the trails we all enjoy are made possible through the efforts of land trusts, we are proud that the Mast Store hosts conservancy partners in all locations on that day to share information on their activities. This year marks the 19th time we, meaning the Mast Store, have celebrated Land Trust Day with a donation of 20% of the day’s sales on June 3 to our land trust partners in all our home communities. 

John and Faye Cooper in front of the Original Mast Store in Valle Crucis

About John and Faye Cooper
Since moving to Valle Crucis in 1980, John and Faye Cooper have been very involved in the local community as individuals and as business owners. The Coopers played an important role in the establishment of the Valle Crucis Community Park, North Carolina High Country Host, An Appalachian Summer Festival, and the re-opening of the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country in Downtown Boone. In addition, John was a member of the Watauga County Commissioners and served on the board of Hospitality House. Faye is a charter member of the Appalachian Women’s Fund and served on the board of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. Both were recognized for their service to the community as recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor. Their daughter, Lisa Cooper, is now the president of the Mast General Store and carries on their passion for conservation.

The Mast General Store celebrates Land Trust Day on Saturday, June 3, with each location hosting a local partner. At the end of the day, Mast Store will donate 20% of the day's sales to support the work of our land trust partners.

Valle Crucis (Original Mast Store, Mast Store Annex, and Rivercross Made in USA) - Blue Ridge Conservancy 
Formed in 2010 by combining the missions of two conservancies, the Blue Ridge Conservancy protects more than 22,000 acres in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey counties. Its most recent activities include creating a 3,600-acre State Game Land Preserve, helping Grandfather Mountain and Elk Knob State Parks expand their borders, protecting biodiversity with the establishment of several state natural sites, and maintaining working farmland. 

Boone - New River Conservancy 
The New River Conservancy protects waters, woodlands, and wildlife within the New River Watershed. The group emphasizes educating those who live in communities along the river’s three-state course about the importance of water quality in maintaining the river’s health and growing its economic and recreational opportunities.  

Waynesville and Asheville - Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Established in 1974, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy today protects more than 75,000 acres in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. In doing so, it’s saving unique plant and animal habitats, such as the Highlands of Roan along the Appalachian Trail, freshwater sources, farmland, and pristine, natural landscapes. 

Hendersonville - Conserving Carolina
Conserving Carolina protects 47,000 acres in Western North Carolina – from the waterfalls of DuPont State Recreational Forest to the rock cliffs of Hickory Nut Gorge. Conserving Carolina’s work has created new greenways, parks, and trails while restoring woods, meadows, and wetlands. 

Greenville - Upstate Forever  
Since 1998, the mission of Upstate Forever has been to maintain the critical natural lands and waters of Upstate South Carolina. The group has played a key role in securing and opening Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail, encouraged ecological activism and responsible community growth, and, today, protects more than 28,000 acres on 140 properties across its region. 

Knoxville - Foothills Land Conservancy
In 38 years, Foothills Land Conservancy has preserved more than 140,000 acres of land in 47 Tennessee counties and across six states in the southern Appalachian region. The agency works primarily with landowners who seek to preserve their property in a natural state or as a working farm, but it has also preserved more than 10,000 acres of land for public use.

Columbia - Congaree Land Trust 
The Congaree Land Trust protects 88,000 acres of scenic lands, open spaces, farms, forests, and natural habitats across 14 counties in the Midlands of South Carolina. For 30 years, it has promoted voluntary conservation efforts that support the regional economy, promote healthy lifestyles, safeguard clean air and water sources, and improve the local quality of life. 

Winston-Salem - Piedmont Land Conservancy 
Since 1990, Piedmont Land Conservancy has protected more than 28,000 acres of land from Central North Carolina to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Through upwards of 200 land protection projects, the group has helped create nature preserves and spaces for outdoor recreation, added significant acreage to state parks, saved Piedmont farmland from development, and preserved more than 10,000 acres of land adjacent to vital waterways. 

Roanoke - Blue Ridge Land Conservancy 
The Blue Ridge Land Conservancy protects 21,000 acres of land in Southwest Virginia, including areas containing the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Smith Mountain Lake. The agency also hosts events on preserved headwater lands to educate local students about the interconnectedness of Virginia’s waterways from the Roanoke River to the Chesapeake Bay. 

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