Local Land Conservation Surpasses 12,000 acres in 2019

*Press Release*

Mike Kane
The Piedmont Environmental Council

Conserved Land Now Totals 421,370

WARRENTON, VA. (Jan. 27, 2020) – In 2019, private landowners, working together with land trusts and public agencies, protected 12,475 acres of land in Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties. The 2019 conservation easements bring the total protected land in The Piedmont Environmental Council’s (PEC) nine-county region to 421,415 acres, accounting now for nearly 20 percent of the entire land area in the nine counties.

“It was a big year for conservation in the PEC region,” said Piedmont Environmental Council President Chris Miller. “The 12,475 acres conserved in 2019 represents the most land conserved in a year since 2009. We commend these landowners for their vision and courage in conserving not just the land, but also all that its preservation offers the people, communities, local economies, wildlife and wellbeing of the northern Piedmont.”

“When we protect public and private lands from urban and suburban sprawl, we prevent impervious surfaces that are one of the main sources of pollution in our drinking water supplies, streams, rivers and bays. When we preserve undeveloped land, we preserve its natural flood control capacity and allow groundwater to recharge. When we protect working farmland, we invest in our food supply. When we maintain open spaces in forest and pasture that absorb carbon from our atmosphere, we play our part in addressing climate change issues. And for those millions of visitors to the Shenandoah National Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Monticello, Montpelier, and other historic landscapes in the northern Piedmont, land conservation preserves the spectacular views, the character, and quality of life of this region,” Miller said.

In partnership with The Piedmont Environmental Council, the National Trust for Historic Preservation this year permanently protected 1,024 acres of historically-significant land at James Madison’s Montpelier, adding to its previously conserved 915 acres in Orange County. The permanent conservation easement provides additional protections to Montpelier’s beautiful landscapes, as well as agricultural and forest areas, scenic open space and wildlife habitat on the property, which all serve as a living classroom for the visiting public.

“The amount of conservation in the northern Piedmont demonstrates the tremendous appreciation landowners hold for the character and quality of this region. In many ways, their commitment to long-term land protection makes this a very special place for every one of us,” said Mike Kane, Piedmont Environmental Council’s director of land conservation.

The 12,430 acres conserved in 2019 represents the most land conserved in a year since 2009

In Albemarle County, the James C. Justice family donated to the Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority an easement protecting 4,500 acres near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It is the largest conservation easement in Albemarle County history. By limiting development on the entire property and preserving its current forestal and agricultural activities, the easement donation limits future threats to public drinking water supplies and preserves the spectacular scenic views enjoyed by visitors to Monticello and residents of the region.

A catalyst for land protection in 2019 has been a $500,000 grant from The Volgenau Foundation to accelerate the pace of farmland conservation in Upper Rappahannock River watershed. Through enhanced outreach and education by The Piedmont Environmental Council to landowners in the watershed, dozens of landowners have expressed interest in ensuring the long-term protection of their land through permanent conservation. The Volgenau Foundation grant set the stage for the protection of 2,079 acres in the PEC region in 2019.

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a public agency or a nonprofit conservation group, such as The Piedmont Environmental Council. By limiting development on the land, easements provide various financial benefits to landowners while also protecting the natural, scenic and cultural resources of the land for the benefit of the public. The 421,415 acres conserved in the northern Piedmont area is more than twice the size of Shenandoah National Park.

“In our region and throughout the Commonwealth, we are fortunate to have a history of state and local leaders who understand the critical value of open space and have implemented incentives and programs that assist landowners with the cost of donating conservation easements. The Piedmont Environmental Council is here and happy to educate and guide landowners through the process,” Kane said.

County maps detailing conservation easement totals and easements added in the year 2019 within the Piedmont Environmental Council region can be downloaded here.

In total, conservation easements in the nine counties have protected approximately:

  • 1,742 miles of streams;
  • 10,308 acres of wetlands;
  • 26,455 acres adjacent to scenic rivers;
  • 199,256 acres of prime farmland soils;
  • 198,442 acres of forests;
  • 111,502 acres along scenic byways;
  • 126,432 acres in the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail;
  • 130,886 acres in historic districts;
  • and 29,848 acres of Civil War battlefields.

Approximate county-by-county conservation totals are as follows: 

CountyAcres Protected in 2019 by Conservation Easements*Total Acres Protected by Conservation Easements*

*Totals do not sum due to rounding


View the online map library of land conserved in the Piedmont in 2019