More than 7,500 acres of wetland, farms and forests in Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties were protected by conservation easements during 2016, according to the Piedmont Environmental Council.
The work was led by various land trusts and public agencies and brings the total acreage of protected land in the nine counties to 394,963 acres. Conservation easements are voluntary agreement between a landowner and a land trust to permanently protect natural, scenic and cultural resources on their land.
In Loudoun, new easements covered 1,536 acres, bringing the total of conserved land in the county to 56,375 acers. Among the properties put under easement last year was Crooked Run Farm in Purcellville.
“One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is that landowners choosing to permanently conserve their land, generally do so out of a sense of optimism about the future. They believe in the intrinsic value of the Piedmont’s farms and forest, history and beauty, and want to protect those resources for future generations,” stated Mike Kane, director of conservation at PEC. “That wonderful spirit is evident again as more than 60 families, landowners, farmers, organizations and local government conserved—in just one year—more farm and forest land in our region than the entire land area covered by the City of Charlottesville.”
Outside Loudoun, significant easements include Buck’s Elbow Mountain in Albemarle County, where owner Mitch Carr conserved 263 acres of forestland including the site of the 1959 Piedmont Airlines Flight 349 crash where remnants of the fuselage remain.
In Fauquier County, Howard and Jane Grove conserved 181 acres of their beef cattle farm in Morrisville through the Fauquier County Purchase of Development Rights program. The property was once known as Belvaderia Farm, dating back to pre-Civil War times, and an archaeological site has revealed remains of historic outbuildings and an African-American cemetery.
Approximate county-by-county conservation totals in the Piedmont region are as follows:
|County||Acres Protected in 2016 by Conservation Easements||Total Acres Protected by Conservation Easements|
In total, conservation easements in the nine counties have protected approximately:
● 1,633 miles of streams;
● 9,603 acres of wetlands;
● 186,256 acres of prime farming soils;
● 186,100 acres of forests;
● 106,184 acres along Scenic Byways;
● 118,478 acres in the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail;
● 124,734 acres in historic districts; and
● 28,626 acres of Civil War battlefields.