Pocahontas County Family Moves to
Protect Land, Caves
Conservation easement will protect most private property along Cass Scenic Railroad lines
Thanks to the generous donation of Pocahontas County landowners George and Mickey Deike, visitors who ride the Cass Scenic Railroad will always enjoy the natural view along the mountainside. More than three miles of land along the railroad is permanently protected from development, saving important woodlands, farmlands and an extensive cave system.
The Deikes donated a conservation easement over their 884-acre Shalimar Farm to The Nature Conservancy and the West Virginia Agricultural Land Protection Authority to co-hold. The donation will allow the couple to maintain their equestrian retreat on the property while protecting important natural areas. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses, such as development, from taking place on property now and in the future, while protecting the property’s ecological or open-space values and allowing the landowner to continue to own and use the land.
“This generous donation is an exciting opportunity for The Nature Conservancy and the West Virginia Agricultural Land Protection Authority to ensure the conservation of valuable natural resources that are a priority for our organizations,” said Ashton Berdine, private lands manager for The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia.
The property that will be protected through this agreement includes:
- Much of the 4.4 miles of passages of Cass Cave, which is listed by the state of West Virginia and the Conservancy as one of the most important private caves in the state
- More than 200 acres of farmland and pastureland and the thriving agri-tourism facility, Shalimar Equestrian Retreat
- Forestlands and a swift mountain stream, Leatherbark Run, that parallels Cass Scenic Railroad through the property and supports a quality brook trout fishery and is the water source for the town of Cass
- A border along the Monongahela National Forest and a portion of the Cheat Mountain landscape that has been identified as a conservation priority in the Central Appalachian Mountains
- Approximately three miles of scenery where the Cass Scenic Railroad crosses Shalimar Farm on its way to Whitaker Station
- A diverse habitat for plants and animals in the region
“The Deikes have made a contribution that will provide future generations with opportunities to experience more than great scenic views from the cars of the trains at Cass,” said Bob Baird, chairman of the West Virginia Agricultural Land Protection Authority. “At the same time, the family will be able to continue with agriculture that is important to Pocahontas County and their premier equestrian retreat tourism business while at the same time protecting their property in perpetuity.”
The donation is ecologically significant as well. For Cass Cave alone, it will mean protection for one federally endangered bat species, three globally rare subterranean invertebrate species and one state rare subterranean invertebrate species. Sinking streams and sinkholes on the property feed the subterranean cave system and contribute significantly to its ecological value.
Because the property borders the Monongahela National Forest for more than one mile, it provides a buffer for the protection of the largest Central Appalachian red spruce forest, which is a critical habitat for the West Virginia northern flying squirrel and the federally threatened Cheat Mountain salamander.
"The Deikes generous donation of a conservation easement will provide significant protection to Leatherbark Run — a quality trout stream — and to a biologically significant cave system," said Frank Jezioro, Director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. "We are thankful that conservation of this land will help to protect the views that thousands of West Virginians and visitors enjoy every year as they ride the Cass Scenic Railroad.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.