Like a Good Neighbor

Stewarding Land Along Shenandoah’s Borders

Nature doesn’t recognize borders. Wildlife crosses in and out of protected and private land; invasive plants and pests ride on wind, cars, and boots across boundaries; wildfires spread through brush regardless of property lines.  

With a park as long and skinny as Shenandoah, bordered by hundreds of privately owned properties in eight counties, what affects one entity inevitably (and quickly) affects the rest. From trailheads on private property to light and sound pollution to encroaching development, decisions made outside the park have a direct impact on the wilderness and public land just on the other side of the invisible line.  

In response to the recent increase of attention around land management, invasive species, and development across Virginia, we developed the Good Neighbors Program. Through this initiative, we hope to address our community’s need for collaboration and shared knowledge concerning land stewardship along the borders of Shenandoah National Park. 

Collaborative efforts with park neighbors will have myriad positive effects on the visitor experience in Shenandoah and conservation efforts across the region. These benefits include, but are by no means limited to:  

  • Protecting habitat for wildlife and plants 
  • Preserving access to trailheads on private property 
  • Preventing encroaching development that would disrupt the natural viewsheds and soundscapes that make visitors feel truly immersed in nature 
  • Mitigating light pollution that affects night skies 
  • Improving climate resilience through collective forest management 
  • Combatting the spread of invasive species  

In Fall 2023, the Quaker Run fire made the need for collective community action with the park a priority.

On February 1st, Elizabeth Mizell joined SNPT as the Good Neighbors Program Manager. Beth brings extensive experience navigating the complexities of land management. Before joining our team, she worked as a Land Steward with The Nature Conservancy for 14 years, started a small native plant consulting business, and served as the Executive Director for Blue Ridge PRISM. 

“I wanted to reconnect with the land resource,” she said. “This job piqued my interest as an opportunity to get back to the land and pursue professional objectives around land protection. I love Shenandoah National Park, and this is a great opportunity to get to contribute and protect that resource!” 

Mizell has already started building goals, strategies, and resources for collaborative land management around Shenandoah. 

While she is currently developing goals and strategies for the program, Beth already has a two-fold vision: 

  1. To help people be the best stewards of their land that they can be by providing them access to resources, assistance, and connections to other land management groups and programs. 
  1. To develop a pipeline for land donation that will eventually become part of the park; to work with willing landowners that want to commit to conservation on another level and leave a legacy in Shenandoah. 

“We want to work with everyone – landowners, communities, and individuals,” Beth clarified. “Land conservation isn’t only in the hands of landowners, and I think that individuals in a community shouldn’t experience boundaries to land conservation because they don’t own land.” 

For Beth, that work will include… 

  • Working with SNPT and SNP to develop a lands outreach program and foster relationships with park neighbors and property owners 
  • Conducting surveys and research to build knowledge and a coalition around the importance of a healthy park boundary 
  • Developing a resource guide for stewardship of adjacent private and public lands based on community outreach 
  • Assisting in the development of processes and plans for land donations to SNPT from interested donors and sellers 

“Collaboration amongst neighbors is important because nature knows no boundaries, and we have to create spaces for plants, animals, forests, wild spaces – these things that we depend on – to thrive, so we can thrive as well,” Beth concluded. “Land is not truly protected until it is well managed.” 

If you’re interested in learning more about stewarding your land, want to be included in conversations around land management, or are curious about selling or donating your park-adjacent property, reach out to Beth at 

Thank you to Dana Milbank for writing the article that sparked conversation around land stewardship and inspired our letter to the editor and, consequently, the name of the Good Neighbors Program.  

Support Shenandoah

Preserving national parks is made possible by people like you.
Consider supporting Shenandoah today.