‘Salt-of-the-earth’ couple preserves a gem

MacLellans voluntarily protect 135 acres in Columbiana County.

One time was enough for Bruce MacLellan.

When the retired Ohio Bell Telephone Co. employee and his wife, Debbi, sold a 7-acre tract in Bruce’s Trumbull County hometown of Liberty, they did so with the understanding that just a few single-family homes would be built on the property.  Instead, he says, a developer carved up the land and rolled out plans for a higher-density subdivision.

It was a lesson for the MacLellans, who had moved to rural Columbiana County.

“I did not want anything like that to happen down here,” Bruce MacLellan says.

So the MacLellans did something extraordinary. They voluntarily placed a conservation easement on their 135-acre property near Lisbon, permanently protecting its beautiful upland forests, hemlock gorges and nearly two miles of high-quality streams that feed into Little Beaver Creek, a State Wild and Scenic River – and they did so without seeking any tax or financial relief.

As a result of their unselfish act, the MacLellans were awarded one of the Land Conservancy’s highest honors, The Grimm Family Conservation Medal. The medal is awarded to “a conservationist, possessed of a deep and abiding passion for our mission, who has preserved land in a charitable manner, who views land as a precious resource and not as a commodity, and who has forgone significant financial value to preserve land.”

Land Conservancy Trustee Dick Grimm, in awarding the medal to the couple, said, “This salt-of-the-earth family preserved their land solely for the sake of the land, for the love of their land.”

This was the Land Conservancy’s first project in Columbiana County and its first partnership with the Little Beaver Creek Land Foundation. The Land Conservancy and LBCLF co-hold the conservation easement, which is an agreement in which a property owner permanently protects his or her land by prohibiting or limiting future development.

Today, the MacLellans enjoy walking the heavily wooded land with dogs May, Coal and Tugs.  Bruce likes to plant daffodils in just about every nook of the property (“When you cut them, it’s like putting sunshine on your counter,” he says), while Debbi, who grew up in Columbiana County, enjoys gardening, quilting and crafting.  Both are at home around farm equipment.

“We work together,” Bruce says, “on everything.”