For immediate release: January 15, 2013
The Piedmont Environmental Council
Vice President, Conservation and Rural Programs
Over 2,100 acres in Fauquier County were protected by conservation easements* in 2012 -- adding to a total of approximately 96,600 acres, or 23% of the total land in the County.
“Fauquier County has long been a leader in recognizing the importance of protecting its natural, scenic and cultural resources,” says Heather Richards, Vice President for Conservation and Rural Programs at The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC). “The conservation values protected by easements in 2012 include the working farms that drive our economic engine and the scenic vistas that continue to draw tourists, year after year.”
In total, conservation easements in Fauquier County now protect over 390 miles of streams and rivers, 49,875 acres of prime farming soils, more than 38,950 acres of forests, 33,770 acres along Scenic Byways, 25,258 acres in historic districts, and over 9,500 acres of historic battlefields. These resources not only make Fauquier County a great place to live, but they are fundamental to the local and state economies. A recent study by PEC found that nine environmental benefits -- such as recreation, farm products, and water quality -- contribute about $21.8 billion to Virginia’s economy every year.
The 481-acre Ovoka Farm was among the properties protected in 2012. PEC purchased this land in 2000, with the aim of eventually protecting the property with conservation easements. The property was permanently protected with an easement last May -- ensuring that the vista that George Washington enjoyed each morning as he left his cabin in Paris remains rural and open for generations to come.
Three Fauquier County Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) easements were completed in 2012, protecting nearly 380 acres of land. One significant PDR project protected the 168-acre Noland family farm in the Cedar Run watershed. PEC, through the Julian Scheer Cedar Run Land Conservation Fund, has worked for years to protect the farmland within this watershed in partnership with Fauquier County and others. Cedar Run is a major tributary of the Occoquan River, which provides drinking water for large portions of Northern Virginia. Today, there are more than 11,900 acres of land - or 9.5% of the watershed - protected by conservation easements in the Cedar Run watershed.
PEC is an accredited land trust, and it celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012. PEC has been promoting private, voluntary land conservation in Virginia’s northern Piedmont since 1972, contributing to this region’s outstanding success. In PEC’s nine-county region, more than 9,500 acres were protected by conservation easements in 2012 -- contributing to a total of over 357,600 acres, or 16.8% of the total land in the region.
In 2012, PEC accepted easements on three properties -- taking on the responsibility to protect nearly 840 acres in perpetuity. PEC now holds a total of 46 easements, more than 6,600 acres, throughout our nine-county region. PEC has also accepted the donation of 177 acres of fee-simple property in Rappahannock and Albemarle Counties.
PEC protects over 3,000 acres in Fauquier County by holding three easements and co-holding 17 easements in the County.
“Looking ahead,” says Richards, “we expect landowners to continue to donate easements and protect land in their community at a strong pace. Landowners who donate a conservation easement in 2013 will enjoy an enhanced federal income tax deduction, in addition to the Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit.”
PEC works with numerous conservation partners, including state agencies such as the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Fauquier County and the Land Trust of Virginia.
*A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a land trust (such as a public agency or a non-profit conservation group) to permanently protect natural, scenic, and cultural resources on their land.
Background information: how do conservation easements work?