The following text is based off of a January 2017 joint letter from the Valley Conservation Council, Shenandoah Valley Network and The Piedmont Environmental Council. The letter was mailed to conservation easement holders, but the content is relevant to all Virginians.
A decision is being considered that could have a profound and lasting effect on the integrity of conservation easement programs in Virginia.
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) is being aggressively pressured by Dominion Resources, Inc. to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to cross a block of properties held in conservation easement. The ACP is a high-pressure gas pipeline that would extend across Virginia, from West Virginia to North Carolina. If allowed, this pipeline would be the largest intrusion onto protected properties in the 50-year history of Virginia’s conservation easement program.
On February 9, 2017, VOF is scheduled to consider Dominion’s application to permanently impair conservation values on 10 VOF easements in exchange for other conservation lands. Virginia state code (Va. Code Ann. §10.1-1704) provides very narrow provisions for such exchanges, requiring that the proposed project be “in accordance with the official comprehensive plan for the locality” and “essential to the orderly development and growth of the locality.” The proposed gas transmission pipeline meets neither requirement.
Please join with conservation easement landowners in the Shenandoah Valley who have already submitted comment, urging VOF to:
- support the clean water, wildlife habitat, working farmland, rural character, and scenic views protected by the conservation easements,
- preserve the essential trust that exists between landowners and VOF, critical to the future of land conservation in Virginia, and
- deny Dominion’s unprecedented and irresponsible request to permanently impair conservation values on 10 conserved properties.
Send your comment by mail, email or fax prior to the February 9, 2017 VOF board meeting. Include your mailing address and phone number, and address your comment to:
Ms. Stephanie Ridder
Chairman Virginia Outdoors Foundation
39 Garrett Street, Suite 200
Warrenton, VA 20186
By fax: (540) 347-7711
We also encourage you to attend the meeting and make your comment in person. The public comment opportunity begins at 10 AM, and the meeting will be held at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 7870 Villa Park Drive, Suite 400, Henrico, VA. See www.virginiaoutdoorsfoundation.org for details.
UPDATE from the evening of February 9, 2017: At their public meeting today, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) deferred action on Dominion's request to take land under conservation easement after they expressed concern about the impacts of the route.
About 40 people gave testimony, including landowners, PEC and staff from other land trusts and the message was clear: VOF has an obligation to protect the conservation values on the easements they hold. We're not sure when VOF plans to take up the issue again, but we'll make sure to keep you updated.