W.J. Davis left his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia, for rural Madison County when he purchased his farm in 1967. At over 500 acres, W.J.’s farm allows him to raise beef cattle and lease cropland to other farmers. It also includes a 21-acre wetland that provides habitat to geese and ducks.
While W.J. was interested in conserving a portion of his property, it was not until he read about the Natural Resources Conservation Service in an agricultural magazine that he realized the agency funds wetland restoration on farms like his in exchange for land rights that will protect the habitat.
In 2014, W.J. enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and began work with a team of wetland planners. Over the course of a year, these wetland planners walked W.J. through the necessary paperwork and the development of a restoration plan. Over the next year, W.J.’s wetland was built. W.J. speaks highly of the wetland planners he worked with. “They were easy to get along with,” he said. “[The NRCS] sent qualified people that had the same thoughts as I did in terms of conservation.”
“I think the coolest thing is to see geese and ducks swimming around, knowing that nothing is going to bother them.”
- W.J. Davis
In the years since his wetland was restored, W.J. has loved watching the wildlife that visits his property. He leases hunting rights to allow for the recreational hunting of deer, rabbit and squirrel, but doesn’t let anyone hunt the birds. The birds are W.J.’s favorite visitors, and he is glad his property provides a protected space for waterfowl.
While the NRCS funded the restoration work and compensated W.J. for the rights to his property’s permanent easement, W. J. insists the financial incentives were not what motivated him to pursue wetland restoration. For him, it’s always been about the conservation. “I love the beauty of it,” he explained. “It’s hard to put in words.”