Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund

Rappahannock River winds through Fauquier County in summer. Photo by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program.

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.

More About the Fund

The Fauquier Fund evolved from the Julian W. Scheer Cedar Run Fund, a Piedmont Environmental Council fund established in 2003 to protect land in the Cedar Run watershed. 

It is named in memory of former PEC Board Vice Chairman Julian W. Scheer, of Catlett. Mr. Scheer was a dedicated conservationist, who helped spearhead the efforts to oppose the Disney Corporation’s proposed development of 3,000 acres in Haymarket. He successfully broadened the awareness of the need to protect and preserve the historic Piedmont countryside.

The Fauquier Fund adds to the land protection efforts of local and state governments and other private land trusts to ensure our local natural resources are protected for future generations. 

Where there are key properties that are owned by landowners who cannot afford to donate a conservation easement outright, PEC’s  Fauquier Fund, in partnership with other organizations can assist with some of the costs of completing an easement. The Fauquier Fund assists by providing funds to purchase conservation easements and works with landowners to help cover the costs of donating an easement. A special focus of the Fauquier Fund is to work with Fauquier County Agricultural Development’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program to conserve farmland that supports Fauquier County’s agricultural economy.

The Fauquier Fund is managed by the Piedmont Foundation a 509(a)(3) supporting organization established to hold and manage specifically dedicated funds of The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC). 

How the Fund Helps

a group shot of 11 people standing on grass with trees in the background
PEC staff and volunteers at a riparian tree planting at Bonny Brook Farm along Cedar Run. Credit Pete Smith.

Conservation easement assistance:

  • Financial assistance: for environmental stewardship on working farmland: The Fauquier Fund offers support on a case-by-case basis to support environmental stewardship practices on either public or private lands through grants, loans, technical support, financial reimbursements and/or incentives. Specifically, the fund seeks to encourage water quality protections through assistance with stream exclusion fencing and alternative watering systems on working farmland. 
  • Technical Support: PEC staff and the fund’s advisory committee members provide information about conservation easements to interested landowners. PEC staff are available to advise landowners on the steps for conservation easement transactions, and will walk a landowner through the entire process–start to finish– to complete an easement.

Hosting educational workshops:

  • PEC annually hosts workshops to educate landowners about land conservation and stewardship options that are available to landowners in the county. Featuring guest speakers from partner organizations, these workshops offer information about the Fauquier County Purchase of Development Rights Program, Agricultural and Forestal Best Management Practice Cost-Share Programs available through the Virginia Department of Forestry, the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, and/or the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

PEC’s Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund Project Criteria:

PEC volunteers planting trees along Cedar Run at Bonny Brook Farm . Credit Pete Smith.

A Fauquier Fund advisory committee meets periodically throughout the year to recommend projects to the PEC Board of Directors. Project selection is based on guidelines adopted by the PEC Board of Directors for the use of the Fauquier Fund and include the following:   

  • Funds may be used to help landowners with the upfront costs of donating an easement, such as legal, survey, and appraisal costs. Assistance to these landowners may be in the form of a no-interest loan or a cost-share of expenses.
  • Funds may be used to support landowners in the implementation of environmental stewardship practices on either public or private lands through grants, loans, technical support, financial reimbursements and/or incentives. 
  • Funds may be used to support research and pilot projects that promote improved environmental management of land and water.
  • Funds may be used to provide resources and opportunities for education of agricultural and forestry managers, operators, and owners.
  • Funds may be used to support environmental education for youth or adults. 
  • Funds may be used to support government-sponsored environmental initiatives
  • Funds in the JSFCF will be used to secure options on property, to purchase (or facilitate the purchase of) property and/or easements, and pay for the legal, due diligence, marketing and other costs directly associated with transactions.

Fauquier Fund Advisory Committee

The Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund Advisory Committee is composed of Fauquier County residents and conservation partners. Many of the committee members have preserved their property with a conservation easement and are happy to discuss their tried and true experience and to provide advice.

  • Sue Scheer
  • Hilary Gerhardt
  • Margrete Stevens
  • Hope Porter
  • Jocelyn Sladen
  • Lili (Jocelyn) Alexander
  • Ray Pickering
  • Ken Smith

Maggi Blomstrom, PEC’s Rappahannock-Rapidan Conservation Initiative Coordinator, serves as the staff liaison between the advisory board and PEC. All projects require approval by the PEC Board of Directors and the Piedmont Foundation.

Contact Us

For information on the Fauquier Fund and more information on land protection and stewardship, contact Maggi Blomstrom (mblomstrom@pecva.org) or by phone at 540-347-2334 ext. 7067.

Make a Donation

Contributions to the Fauquier Fund are tax-deductible and will be used for land conservation in Fauquier County. If you are interested in making a donation, please contact Director of Advancement Nora Seilheimer at nseilheimer@pecva.org or (434) 977-2033 x7008.

Project Examples / Conservation Project Highlights

Annual Farmer/Landowner Information Dinners

The Fauquier Fund hosts free informational annual land conservation dinners for working farmers and landowners annually. Land conservation experts share the latest information on how landowners can protect their property.  

Annual Bluebell Walk along Cedar Run

Each spring, the Fauquier Fund hosts a spring bluebell walk at Bonny Brook Farm in Catlett. This event takes a casual stroll through picturesque farm fields that have been preserved forever with a conservation easement on your way to the bluebell covered banks of Cedar Run.

Fauquier County Purchase of Development Rights Program

The Fauquier County Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program is a voluntary program that pays landowners to protect the farmland and natural resource assets of their property. The PDR Program allows landowners to enter into agreements to sell the development potential of qualifying property to the County while maintaining the right to continue to own and use the property. The purpose of the PDR Program is to protect farmland and retain the agricultural industry’s critical mass, in particular, farm parcels that are economically viable operations. 

The Fauquier Fund assists with promotion of the County’s PDR Program, and at times, contributes to the purchase of development rights on farms. For more information on the Fauquier PDR Program, visit their website

Wilson Family Farm

Cows at Wilson family farm
Photo by Katherine Vance.

In 2009, the Cedar Run Fund (now the Fauquier Fund) leveraged $55,000 in funding with Fauquier County’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program to protect a 270-acre cattle farm near Catlett. The farm is a rolling expanse of pastures, with lines of cedar trees growing along the fencerows and distant views of blue mountains. Eleanor and Herbert Wilson started farming there over 65 years ago and now their son, Mike Wilson, raises crops and beef cattle on the land.

Nissley Farm

In 2006 PEC and the Cedar Run Fund teamed up with the Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program to purchase a conservation easement on over 700 acres of forests and farmland on the banks of Cedar Run in southern Fauquier County. This action by public and private partners–including the landowner, who donated a portion of the easement’s value- permanently protected this working farm from development and other heavy uses. 

The Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program helped to fund the easement primarily because of the land’s agricultural value, with almost 60% of its soils classified as prime farmland. Additionally, the property contains miles of frontage along Cedar Run and other streams. Forested buffers will be maintained along these streams, to prevent erosion and water pollution. The easement helps to fulfill numerous goals of the Fauquier County Comprehensive Plan, including the preservation of farmland, water quality, open space, and scenic views. The property also provides valuable habitat for wildlife.

Short Term Loan to Enhance Water Quality on Agricultural Land  

In 2020, PEC’s Fauquier Fund made available a short term loan of $28,000 to assist the Lunsford family implement stream exclusion fencing and other Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their 246 acre farm along Summerduck Run in southern Fauquier County. The loan provided the up-front funding needed to install BMPs, such as fencing and a livestock watering system, that enhanced water quality by excluding cattle from more than 6,500 linear feet of Summerduck Run and tributaries.  The project also protected 65 acres of adjacent riparian areas.  The Lunsford family repaid the loan when the project was completed in June 2020 after they received reimbursement of $31,789 from the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District (JMSWCD) for enrolling in the Commonwealth’s BMP cost-share program.

The Fauquier Fund loan to the Lunsford family reflects the growing collaboration between PEC and the JMSWCD to uncover new approaches that can accelerate the pace of water quality improvements in Fauquier County.  By providing the loan, the Fauquier Fund helped overcome a significant barrier to broader participation in BMP cost share programs, which is that landowners lack the funds to cover the up-front costs of installing fencing, watering systems, and other BMPs that can improve water quality.  The loan to the Lunsford family follows a successful pilot project with the Elgin family in Fauquier County that was profiled by the Land Trust Alliance.  

Eskridge Farm

The Eskridge sisters applied for Fauquier’s PDR funding to conserve their family farm, which has been kept in the family for generations. The Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund contributed $50,000 for the conservation easemsent’s transaction costs. 

The Eskridge property is located on Elk Run Road/Route 806 and is adjacent to the Village of Bristersburg and the Bristersburg Historic District. The property has nearly 1 mile of frontage for Elk Run and its tributaries, over 113 forested acres and over 80% of Prime Farmland and Soils of Statewide Importance on 497 acres total. There are several historic structures, including a 1830s cabin and family farmhouse and cemetery also protected within the property’s conservation easement.

Conservation Funds

The Piedmont Environmental Council manages 11 donor-designated funds created for on-the-ground conservation and restoration projects in specific geographic areas within PEC’s service territory. The majority of the funds are held by the Piedmont Foundation, a separate 509(a)(3) charitable organization, established to hold and manage special funds in support of PEC’s mission.

The conservation funds operate with an advisory committee that helps identify projects and provide information to landowners. These funds all provide cost assistance for protecting land with a conservation easement or through a fee simple purchase. They also offer short-term loans for landowners interested in working with their local soil and water conservation district on land management cost-share programs.

For more information on the Fauquier Fund or other PEC conservation funds, give us a call or email conservation@pecva.org.