The Piedmont Environmental Council reports that a combined total of 11,585 acres were protected in Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock Counties, last year.

"Almost 60 landowners and families last year made an investment in their communities by donating conservation easements that will ensure future generations be able to experience the history and beauty of our rural landscape," said Michael Kane, director of conservation at The Piedmont Environmental Council.

See maps of protected lands in Virginia's northern Piedmont >>

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 like PEC) to permanently protect natural, scenic and cultural resources on their land.

One of the conservation highlights in 2015 was The Ellis Mine easement in Culpeper County. The 1,219-acre forested property borders the Rappahannock River, and it was named after the significant gold mining that occurred there in the late 1800’s. In addition to the land’s rich forestal values, the easement protects 1.5 miles of frontage and 25 acres of floodplain along the river.

“This large working forest easement was particularly desirable for conservation because in addition to providing the common woodland benefits of wildlife habitat and wood products, it protects the water supply of Fredericksburg and several historic sites and structures,” said Larry Mikkelson, acquisition and easement coordinator for the Virginia Department of Forestry.

This past December, Congress passed legislation that makes permanent the enhanced federal tax incentive for the donation of a conservation easement. The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who donate an easement. Such agreements permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Though, landowners retain the right to farm, hunt, lease and sell the conserved property, subject to the terms of the easement. As private land, property under easement remains on county tax rolls, supporting local public services.

“Whether to protect the best farm soils, protect water quality or preserve important historic sites, land conservation has proven to be an effective and efficient program,” said Chris Miller, The Piedmont Environmental Council President.

Approximate county-by-county conservation totals in the Piedmont region are as follows:
 

County Acres Protected in 2015 by Conservation Easements Total Acres Protected by Conservation Easements
Albemarle 4,177 97,063
Clarke 50 23,729
Culpeper 1,318 18,077
Fauquier 1,685 101,070
Greene 68 10,448
Loudoun 2,037 54,839
Madison 533 14,917
Orange 738 34,880
Rappahannock 979 32,345
REGIONAL 11,585 387,368

In total, conservation easements in Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock Counties protect approximately:

  • 1,608 miles of streams;
  • 9,381 acres of wetlands;
  • 181,974 acres of prime farming soils;
  • 182,087 acres of forests;
  • 105,500 acres along Scenic Byways;
  • 115,763 acres in the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail;
  • 123,485 acres in historic districts; and
  • 27,786 acres of Civil War battlefields.

More information on Conservation Easements >>

*PEC’s service area includes Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties.