Little Mountain Ranch

Lounging along the northwestern slope of Little Mountain in Highland County, Virginia, the property stretches from the ridge top to the valley floor along the Jackson River.  This rich landscape offers views from a rocky ridge, trails through forested slopes, and wide open meadows in a fertile floodplain.  Field Sport Concepts Ltd. produced a master plan for Little Mountain Ranch devised to enhance the existing natural resources and landforms, preserve wildlife habitat, and introduce opportunities for rural recreational pursuits.

In order to enable the owner to put the entire property under easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, McKee Carson, the FSC land planning affiliate, formulated a “by-right” development plan illustrating the traditional rural lot allowance for this land.  This plan was employed to appraise the post development value of the property and, thereby, to determine allowable conservation tax credits.

In contrast, the Field Sport Concepts master plan which was adopted includes design recommendations intended to recognize and celebrate the richness of Little Mountain Ranch – its topography, wildlife and natural resources, while creating a family retreat.  In this plan, FSC identified three site design elements.

1) Interventions such as an entrance meadow and road alignment, a home site taking advantage of valley views, and locations for camping cabins as well as the replacement of fescue with native grasses and wildflowers. All proposed plantings include native trees and shrubs with an eye to preserving existing and creating new wildlife habitat.

2) Discoveries including a cave which, with minor improvement and a healthier bat population, provides opportunities for exploration as well as existing logging roads which offer possibilities for an exciting network of ATV trails.  FSC proposed both loop and destination trails using American Motorcycle Association (AMA) trail rating system.  Trail amenities may include a shelter, drinking water sources, and selective overlook clearings to open up as well as to frame views.

3) Stewardship to address needed changes in the long term management strategies of wildlife ponds and springs, meadows and forests with a clear cut plan to maintain and preserve in perpetuity the ecological diversity of the site. Mike Sprague of Trout Headwaters, also an FSC affiliate, was retained to investigate the repair and restoration of the riparian buffer of the Jackson River banks which had been eroded over time due to agricultural practices.

As Little Mountain Ranch looks to the future, it now has an established land use plan in place to help maximize the accessibility and sustainability of the natural beauty of this varied landscape.

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