Annual Land Conservation Award Honors Dorsey Family

By Cathy Kuehner

Clarke County Easement Authority Specialist Alison Teetor (left) and Winkie Mackay-Smith (right) present the 2023 “Wingate Mackay-Smith Land Conservation Award” to Tupper and Wendy Dorsey. The Dorsey family recently placed its 732 acres in conservation easement, retiring 18 dwelling unit rights (DURs). The annual award comes with a whimsical, handcrafted birdhouse made in Clarke County by Fly Home Birdhouses. Photo provided by Clarke County

More than 25 percent of land in Clarke is preserved  forever  through the county’s conservation easement program. More land is preserved each year thanks to people like Tupper and Wendy Dorsey.

Since 2015, the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority (CEA) has recognized individuals and organizations that have greatly contributed to the preservation of open space for generations to come. Tupper and Wendy Dorsey and their family are the 2023 recipients of the “Wingate Mackay-Smith Land Conservation Award.” The CEA honored the Dorseys on Feb. 9 during a luncheon at the Millwood Country Club.

Tupper Dorsey is the president of Moore and Dorsey Inc., a diverse family farming operation founded in 1929 by E. Blackburn Moore and Tupper’s grandfather Ralph N. Dorsey. For many decades, the business focused on the production, packing, and shipping of apples on a global scale. When the local apple industry began to decline in the late-20th century, Moore and Dorsey, Inc. adjusted, and the Dorsey family diversified its farming to produce various trees, grain, and sod.

The Dorsey family recently placed its 732-acre farm in conservation easement, retiring 18 dwelling unit rights (DURs). “If you farm, you always appreciate your land, but you look around and see all this growth,” Dorsey said. “Now I say thank goodness Clarke County leaders had the foresight to implement sliding-scale zoning.”

The Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted sliding-scale zoning in 1980 in order to keep large parcels of land intact by allocating DURs based on the size of the tract. For example, a parcel of between 40 and 79 acres is allocated three DURs. Parcels of 1,030 acres or more are allowed 15 DURs.

In 2002, the Supervisors created the county’s Conservation Easement Purchase Program to help fund the preservation of land with significant agricultural, natural, scenic, and historic resources. The Board also established the CEA to oversee the program. The CEA recorded the county’s first easement in 2003.

Today, Moore & Dorsey Nursery grows maple, oak, cherry, elm, dogwood, and hackberry trees as well as turf grass that are sold primarily to landscapers working east of Clarke County toward Washington, D.C. Moore & Dorsey’s local legacy is also represented by the trees it provides for public spaces in the Town of Berryville and Clarke County. “We have a lot of pressure from the east and west, so we’ll have to work harder at preserving what we have in Clarke County,” Tupper Dorsey said when accepting the land conservation award. “It’s easier to do when there is a strong group of people like [the Conservation
Easement Authority].”

Dorsey believes in Clarke’s easement philosophy. “The fear with easements is you’ll give up flexibility and property value,” he said. “But in my mind, you don’t give up the value. Look a few years down the road. Open space has value now and will continue to increase in value. For people who farm, it’s also the kind of value that isn’t counted in dollars and cents. We appreciate the open space in Clarke County – it’s a
beautiful place.”

Easements are voluntary agreements negotiated between landowners and public agencies in which the landowners agree to place specific restrictions on the use and development of their property in exchange for payment and various income and estate
tax benefits.

Clarke County is 113,920 acres (178-square miles), and the CEA has so far placed 9,520 of those acres in easement. When CEA properties are included with Virginia Outdoors Foundation easements and other conservation holdings, more than 25 percent of Clarke County land — 28,695 acres — is protected permanently, and 307 DURs have been retired as of January 2024.

The CEA created the “Land Conservation Award” in 2015 to honor Wingate Mackay-Smith, who served as the CEA’s first chairperson. She developed the criteria the Authority uses to value individual easements, and she created guidelines for accepting properties into the easement program. Mackay-Smith helped negotiate the Authority’s first easement purchase — historic Greenway Court — the colonial-era home of Lord Thomas Fairfax. She stepped down from the CEA in
December 2014.

The CEA immediately renamed the award the “Wingate Mackay-Smith Clarke County Land Conservation Award,” and presents it annually to individuals, groups, and organizations that have made significant contributions to the preservation and protection of open spaces in Clarke County. The award also draws attention to the need for land conservation and the role easements play in preserving natural and
historic resources.

Previous “Wingate Mackay-Smith Clarke County Land Conservation Award” recipients are: Holy Cross Abbey (2015); G. Robert Lee, Margaret Maizel, Robert Mitchell, and A.R. “Pete” Dunning (2016); Melvin Kohn (2017); Joe and Denise Sipe (2018); J. Michael Hobert (2019); the American Battlefield Trust and Shenandoah University (2020), Charles “Chuck” Johnston (2021), and Prudence “Prue” Anderson (2022).

For more information about conservation easements, contact Clarke County Easement Authority Specialist Alison Teetor at (540) 955-5177 or Learn more at

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