This Land is…


A major new series examining on-the-ground impacts of land policy begins airing today on National Public Radio’s acclaimed afternoon news program All Things Considered.

The series, called Shifting Ground was produced by David Baron, an award-winning author and journalist who has worked in public radio for more than 20 years, previously as science and environment correspondent for NPR, and science editor for the Public Radio International-BBC program “The World.”

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy supported Baron’s work, and the series was acquired and edited by NPR. After the first installment airing Thursday, February 28 on All Things Considered, the reports will air as an occasional series in the weeks and months ahead. They will be archived and available on the website.

Baron said he hopes the series will stand out not just in substance, but in style. “Stories about land use are often technical and abstract. Zoning, setbacks, comprehensive plans — just mention the terms, and eyes glaze over,” he said. “We decided the key would be storytelling, and though the stories are place-specific, they touch on issues that listeners can relate to, wherever they live.”

One installment looks at conservation easements, a popular tool for protecting private land from development, by exploring the case of an easement at a Wyoming ranch put in place in 1993 and then undone years later. The story raises questions about society’s commitment to protecting land, and whether those protections should be flexible. Another story looks at a community in Nevada that is trying to save its rural character in the face of suburban growth, where the central character is a braying donkey who invites a lawsuit claiming violation of a noise ordinance. A verdict against the animal sparked a community uprising in defense of livestock ownership.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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