Mike Kane, Director of Land Conservation
The Piedmont Environmental Council
email@example.com; 540-347-2337, x7063
WARRENTON, VA. (Feb. 12, 2021) – In 2020, private landowners worked together with land trusts and public agencies to protect 5,287 acres of land in Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties. Forty-seven total conservation easements in 2020 bring the total protected land in The Piedmont Environmental Council’s (PEC) nine-county region to 426,657 acres, accounting now for nearly 20 percent of the region’s entire land area. These easement totals include all easements within the region held collectively by PEC, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, state agencies, local governments and other land trusts.
“Despite a pandemic year when folks were understandably cautious about the personal interactions required during the easement process, the number of easement transactions remained steady and demonstrate the commitment of local landowners to preserve the integrity of the landscape as a whole and to protect water resources and scenic character. Every acre of protected land is land that helps prevent water pollution, preserve natural flood controls, promote groundwater recharge, and support local agriculture and carbon sequestration,” said Chris Miller, president of The Piedmont Environmental Council.
Loudoun County led the region’s conservation totals in 2020, with 21 landowners donating conservation easements to preserve 2,159 acres. “To see so many individual properties protected within one of the nation’s fastest growing counties is exciting. We hope that Loudoun County’s pursuit of programs that encourage conservation easements, including its easement assistance program and purchase of development rights program, will spur additional land protections here,” said PEC Director of Conservation Mike Kane.
Just west of Lucketts on the Catoctin ridge in Loudoun County, Heidi Seibentritt and her siblings placed their late parents’ 29-acre property under easement with PEC. With 20 acres of forest surrounding two headwater streams, the family’s decision to conserve the land is a great example of the outsized public benefits of conservation,” Kane said. “They are protecting streams where they begin, helping to give the streams a good clean start as they flow downstream across dozens of properties on their way to the Potomac River. The easement ensures protection of these forests and streams, particularly important in this case because the streams lead to areas with sensitive Limestone geology where water pollution can be a hazard to ensuring the safety and availability of water for people and livestock,” he said.
The largest conservation easement in 2020 was that of 1,150 acres in Albemarle County’s Southern Rural Historic District, near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Munroe’s Highland. Held by the Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority, the easement protects this property, which is adjacent to the previously conserved, historic Morven Farm, from a potential of 74 dwellings. This property, along with 194 acres at Mountain Grove that protects an outstanding example of a Federal-style Palladian dwelling dating to 1804, were among the 12 properties conserving 2,028 acres in Albemarle in 2020.
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 protect the natural, scenic and cultural resources of the land for the benefit of the public. Landowners who donate these easements may be eligible to receive tax benefits for their charitable contribution. The 426,657 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 about land conservation options and benefits,” Kane said.
County-by-county maps detailing conservation easement totals and easements added in the year 2020 within the Piedmont Environmental Council region can be downloaded here.
Approximate county-by-county conservation totals are as follows:
|Acres Protected in 2020 by Conservation Easements *||Total Acres Protected by Conservation Easements *|
In total, conservation easements in these nine counties have protected approximately:
- 10,431 acres of wetlands;
- 201,461 acres of forests;
- 30,585 acres of Civil War battlefields;
- 132,949 acres in historic districts
- 1,766 miles of streams;
- 127,117 acres in the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail;
- 201,496 acres of prime farmland soils;
- 26,836 acres adjacent to scenic rivers; and
- 111,935 acres along scenic byways.
Since 1972, The Piedmont Environmental Council has proudly promoted and protected the natural resources, rural economy, history and beauty of the Virginia Piedmont. PEC empowers residents to protect what makes the Piedmont a wonderful place, and works with citizens to conserve land, improve air and water quality and build thriving communities. PEC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and accredited land trust. Learn more at www.pecva.org