January 24, 2011. PEC Press Release


For immediate release:

Jan. 24, 2011

Contact Information:

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Communications Specialist
The Piedmont Environmental Council
(434) 977-2033

Press Release:

Conservation Easements Protect 15% of Piedmont Land—336,000 Acres

The numbers are in.  New conservation totals show that in 2010, landowners in nine counties of Virginia’s northern Piedmont permanently protected over 10,500 acres of land, bringing the total amount of private conservation land in this region to more than 336,000 acres, which represents 15% of the total land.  Public lands in Shenandoah National Park and Wildlife Management Areas add another 186,000 acres—or 8%—to the region’s tally of conservation lands.  

Voluntary conservation easements are an important tool for protecting rural landscapes, including working farms and forests. Landowners who protect their land with a conservation easement give up some of their rights to develop the property, in order to preserve resources that include productive farmland and forests, wildlife habitat, streams and rivers, historic sites and scenic views.

In many places throughout the Piedmont, conservation easements are adding up to substantially protect whole landscapes and major resources.

For instance:

  • In the Goose Creek watershed in Loudoun and Fauquier, about 89,000 acres, or 36% of the land is protected, counting both public and private conservation lands. Goose Creek is a source of public water supplies for the City of Fairfax and for portions of Loudoun and Fairfax Counties.
  • In the South Fork of the Rivanna Watershed—the drinking source for Charlottesville and the Albemarle Growth Area—about 47,400 acres, or 28% of the land, is protected through public and private land conservation.
  • In the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District in Albemarle County and the contiguous Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District in Orange County, nearly 29,000 acres are protected by conservation easements—approximately 40% of the districts.
  • Throughout the nine-county region served by PEC, approximately 21,800 acres of Civil War Battlefields are protected by conservation easements, including significant portions of Mine Run in Orange; Brandy Station in Culpeper; Rappahannock Station in Fauquier; and Middleburg, Upperville, and Unison in Loudoun.
  • In the nine counties served by PEC, conservation easements protect approximately 157,800 acres of prime farmland, 153,100 acres of forests, 1,400 miles of streams and rivers, 7,900 acres of wetlands, 94,400 acres visible from Virginia Scenic Byways and 99,200 acres visible from the Appalachian Trail.

Most landowners who protected their land in 2010 did so in spite of financial uncertainty.  State and federal tax incentives partially offset the financial sacrifices that landowners make when they give up part of the development potential of their land, but in 2010, Congress did not vote to maintain the expanded federal tax incentive until December. With the expanded federal tax incentive in place through 2011, this is a particularly good year for landowners who want to donate a conservation easement.

PEC’s Director of Land Conservation, Heather Richards, says, “The dedication of landowners to preserving the natural and cultural resources of the Piedmont is remarkable.  These Piedmont families have made lasting decisions that will enable future generations of Virginians to drink clean water from local streams, eat healthy food grown on neighboring farms, and experience the culture and history that were the basis for our great nation.”

PEC Map of Protected Lands