Land Conservation

PEC has helped landowners permanently protect over 357,000 acres of rural or natural land. Conservation Easements help ensure that the Virginia Piedmont is always characterized by its open spaces, healthy environment, and cultural resources.

Action Alert: Protecting Farmland Now and For the Future

Action Alert: Protecting Farmland Now and For the Future

Farmland lost is farmland lost forever. Budget amendment 97 #2h (Gooditis) would provide an additional $2 million to the Farmland Preservation Fund grant program (current funding is only $250,000), providing much-needed matching funds and encouraging other localities to adopt Purchase of Development Rights programs of their own.

Support SB 1199 and Reject the Proposed Floor Substitute

Good news! On Tuesday, January 26, Senator Stuart’s attempt at a floor substitute for SB 1199 was defeated. This allowed the bill that came out of full committee to proceed to a floor vote. On Wednesday, January 27, SB 1199 was read a third time and passed the Senate on a 25-14 vote. You can see the full vote count here:

The bill’s house companion, HB 1760 (Webert / Gooditis), passed the house 100-0, putting the legislation on the path to final passage (barring any unforeseen mischief).

aerial image of farmland in the goose creek watershed
Aerial image of farmland in the Goose Creek watershed in Loudoun County, VA. Photo by Hugh Kenny.

A troubling development occurred Friday afternoon on the Senate floor. Our priority land conservation legislation (SB 1199 Petersen) was derailed by the introduction of an unfriendly substitute from Senator Stuart. If accepted, this change would entirely defeat the purpose of the bill. The Senate will consider the substitute during Monday’s floor session. Please ask your state senator to reject the proposed substitute and support the original legislation as passed by the full committee. 

Conservation easements are one of the most effective ways to protect farmland, forests, water quality, scenic and historic resources for current and future generations. SB 1199 preserves the integrity of all existing conservation easements, ensuring that disputes over terms are decided in favor of the conservation purpose of the easement, reflecting the intent of the original easement donor. 

Send a Letter to Your Senator

Ask your state senator to stop this substitute and support SB 1199. Take action ASAP!

More information

Read the briefing paper that PEC’s Dan Holmes wrote with Nikki Rovner from The Nature Conservancy in the Virginia Conservation Network’s Legislative Briefing Book, about the need for this legislation. Sunset over farmland in Greene County photo by Harlow Chandler.

Conservation easements are one of the most effective ways to protect farmland, forests, water quality, scenic and historic resources for current and future generations. Private landowners work with state and federal agencies, along with nonprofit land trusts, on easement terms that protect the public values laid out in the Virginia Conservation Easement Act and the Open-Space Land Act.

These easements are legally binding agreements that stay with the land in perpetuity, ensuring that their natural and cultural resources are protected even if the property is sold. Although rare, there have been several recent legal cases in which new landowners dispute the land uses that are and are not permitted under the conservation easement.

A 2016 Virginia Supreme Court ruling made clear that legislation is needed to clarify how courts should handle these disputes. The introduced bills SB 1199 (Petersen) and HB 1760 (Webert/Gooditis) would direct the courts to interpret the easement terms based on the original intent of the conservation easement donation and their protection of public benefits.

Video: Wrapping up 2020 at the Community Farm

We had an incredible 2020 season at the Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows! Thanks to the tireless work of over 470 volunteers, we donated more than 25,000 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce to our partners at Loudoun Hunger Relief!

What was expected to be a slow and steady increase in production this year turned into something much more, as PEC worked to respond to the local impacts of Covid-19. We increased production by 4x what it was in 2019!

We need your support as we plan for the fast-approaching 2021 season. Make a donation today.

Read more about this season at the farm and the rest of PEC’s Farm to Food Pantry Initiatives

What Does 2021 Hold for Conservation?

The 2020 Special Session, focused on resolving budget issues stemming from Covid and addressing police and criminal justice reform, has ended just in time for the holidays. But as in the movie Groundhog Day, now we prepare to do it all over again. Virginia’s 2021 legislative session opens on Jan 13 and will prove no less challenging than the special session. At this moment, details are still fluid, but here is what we know.

Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund

The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund (the “Fauquier Fund”) is dedicated to protecting land with important natural, historic, scenic, and agricultural resources in Fauquier County, Virginia. An advisory committee, composed of local residents and PEC staff, helps identify potential projects and provide information to landowners about protecting their land.