2023 Land Conservation Totals

In 2023, 6,315 acres of land in Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties were permanently protected with 52 conservation easements. The new conservation easements in 2023 bring the total amount of land protected in PEC’s nine-county region to 446,096 acres.

“This is a positive step toward the ambitious goal, set in our 2023-2028 Strategic Plan, of conserving 100,000 new acres by 2030, a critical threshold for sustainability, biodiversity and climate resilience. Longer term, we’d like to see 1 million acres conserved, a milestone we believe is achievable through continued strong partnership with landowners and preservation allies using a combination of public and private conservation tools,” said Mike Kane, PEC conservation director.

“PEC’s 50-year practice of community-based conservation knits together many individual projects into a much broader, composite picture across the region. Each single conservation project is motivated by the unique perspectives of diverse landowners with varied properties, and by caring about the people and places of this region, we’re able to build a collective mosaic of conserved lands that results in many public benefits, including cleaner waters, greater biodiversity, and increased public access to nature,” said PEC President Chris Miller.

easement map showing green space in nine counties
Credit Watsun Randolph/PEC

In Orange County’s town of Gordonsville, two small conservation easements, held by PEC, reflect the value of urban conservation in improving access to outdoor recreation and nature in the built environment. As part of a community-wide effort to improve historic Verling Park, PEC purchased and conserved two lots, about an acre each, with the help of a Preservation Trust Fund grant from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, before donating them to the town. The parcels will allow the town to expand the 70-year-old park’s footprint, connecting it to Firemen’s Fairgrounds and surrounding neighborhoods. An enlarged park will make way for new and improved tennis courts and other park features, including a regulation sized swimming pool that will replace what was, in its heyday, one of the only integrated public pools between Charlottesville and Fredericksburg, enabling all children from five rural counties to learn to swim.

Virginia’s Piedmont is a unique place for residents and visitors alike, with its exceptional natural resources, productive farms and forests, and a landscape steeped in history. The abundant public benefits of these irreplaceable resources are multifaceted — individual, regional, global, economic, ecological, recreational and climatic.

This article appeared in the 2024 spring edition of The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit pecva.org/join.