In 2021, private landowners partnered with PEC and other conservation agencies to permanently protect 6,474 more acres of land in Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties. Conserved lands provide important public benefits of clean air and drinking water, natural flood controls, scenic views that attract millions to the region, wildlife habitat, and strong agricultural, forestry and recreational economies. Fifty-five new conservation easements closed last year, bringing the total permanently protected land in PEC’s nine-county region close to 433,132 acres.
The largest property conserved in 2021 was the 761-acre Horseshoe Farm in Culpeper County. Owned by Sheldon Clark since 2019, Horseshoe Farm sits at the confluence of the Robinson and Rapidan rivers, which supply drinking water to Fredericksburg and other downstream communities. The farm’s extensive frontage on both rivers, plus its proximity to other conserved land on the Orange and Madison sides of these waterways, gives this easement significant water quality importance, said PEC Director of Land Conservation Mike Kane. Held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, this easement also protects several wetland areas, a historic Greek revival home, and a property with historical significance from the Revolutionary War through World War II.
Looking at the region as a whole, Kane said the amount of land conserved in Loudoun, one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, was remarkable. For the second consecutive year, Loudoun led the region’s conservation totals, with 3,507 acres, “significantly more than what we typically see in Loudoun in a single year.” Loudoun’s totals included a 35-acre easement near Lincoln, donated by Patrick and Susan Holden.
In addition to nonprofit conservation groups, a number of counties operate programs that acquire conservation easements, either through purchase or donation. The Clarke County Easement Authority conserved over 244 acres, including a heavily forested 181-acre property along the Virginia Scenic Byway Mt. Carmel Road. Conservation of this property ensures the long-term protection of the property’s sensitive natural and scenic resources.
“We are thankful that so many families continue to recognize the important role they can play in balancing personal and public conservation goals. The cumulative impact over the past 50 years is that 25 percent of public and private lands within our service area are permanently protected. That’s halfway toward PEC’s vision of working with landowners and partners to see 50 percent of the region’s rural areas preserved,” said PEC President Chris Miller.
Approximate county-by-county conservation totals in the Piedmont region:
|Acres Protected in 2021 by Conservation Easements *||Total Acres Protected by Conservation Easements *|