On Jan. 26 the Land Trust of Virginia’s Board of Directors formally established the Malcolm Forbes Baldwin Fund to help pay for conservation easements to protect farm properties from development.
Plans for the fund first emerged late last year, almost immediately after the death of longtime conservationist and pioneering environmental attorney Malcolm Baldwin. Baldwin had spent a life fighting for the environment, convening the first national conference on environmental law in the then-new field, serving as senior environmental law and policy specialist at the White House Council on Environmental Quality during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, and helping local officials in Sri Lanka to establish that country’s environmental laws and policies, among other work.
In 2002, he retired to WeatherLea Farm in Loudoun, turning his energy to growing grapes, raising sheep and protecting rural lands. He co-founded Save Rural Loudoun, helped create the Lovettsville Cooperative Market, and was active with the Virginia Farm Bureau, the Loudoun County Rural Economic Development Council and on the boards of the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Land Trust of Virginia.
He also placed his own family’s WeatherLea Farm under a conservation easement managed by the Land Trust. Under a conservation easement, landowners agree to give up development rights on their property, also setting up an agreement with a qualifying organization to monitor the land and receive some tax benefits. But those easements can be costly to set up, running into tens of thousands of dollars and legal fees and other costs.
After his death in November 2018, Baldwin’s family members had the idea to honor him with a fund at the Land Trust of Virginia to help protect small farms from development, taking some of the pressure off of those farmers. People began donating to the idea immediately, even though no fund had yet been formally established.
According to Land Trust of Virginia Executive Director Sally Price, to date approximately 40 people have donated almost $10,000 to the nascent fund. She said that, along with the county’s own new grant program to help defray the cost of setting up conservation easements, should help several farmers protect their land.
The formal language adopted by the Land Trust’s Board of Directors in January says the fund is established specifically to help farmers who wish to set up a conservation easement with the Land Trust, but can’t afford it.
To contribute to the Land Trust of Virginia or the Malcolm Forbes Baldwin Fund, visit landtrustva.org/support.