Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced Monday that the Virginia Outdoors Foundation permanently protected 64,840 acres across 64 localities through conservation easements in 2008, making it the second-biggest year in VOF’s 42-year history, surpassed only by the 71,227 acres recorded in 2006.
VOF now protects roughly 525,000 acres across 102 cities and counties, an area two-and-a-half times the size of Shenandoah National Park and more than half the size of Rhode Island.
“The Virginia Outdoors Foundation has protected more land since 2004 than it had in the previous four decades,” says Kaine. “This accomplishment demonstrates that Virginians care deeply about the preservation of open space and that the Commonwealth has one of the strongest land conservation programs in the nation.”
VOF Board Chairman Hank Hartz, a resident of Goochland, noted that many of the easements donated to VOF protect working farms and forest lands. Together, the agriculture and forestry industries contribute $79 billion to Virginia’s economy each year.
“These economic benefits, combined with the scenic, recreational, and open-space benefits of donated easements, underscore the importance of sustaining land conservation in Virginia,” says Hartz.
Conservation easements guarantee that a property will be permanently protected from development while keeping the land in private ownership. Easements are a voluntary way to protect land and are tailored to individual properties.
State tax incentives have increased the benefits of gifts of easement, especially for landowners of modest means. Virginia’s Land Preservation Tax Credit for a conservation easement is 40 percent of the appraised value of the easement.
Amelia County was the leader in acres recorded in 2008 with 6,999 acres placed in easement, all donated by local timber man Ronnie Pembelton and his partners.
Rockbridge was a close second, with 6,472 acres, followed by Botetourt and Bath counties with 3,962 and 3,693 acres respectively. The Botetourt acreage included a portion of 6,200 acres donated by the City of Roanoke in Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, the second-largest municipal park in the nation.
VOF was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1966 to encourage the preservation of the Commonwealth’s open space. It currently holds more conservation easements than any other public land trust in the nation. It also holds the title to 3,516 acres of public land, including 2,500 acres in the Bull Run Mountains.
Seven regional VOF offices across the Commonwealth assist landowners with recording easements, and also fulfill the long-term commitment of stewardship and easement monitoring.
For more information on conservation easements and other land protection options, as well as localized information on easements recorded in your area, contact the Virginia Outdoors Foundation at (804) 786-9603 or online at the link below.
Monday’s announcement is part of Kaine’s Renew Virginia initiative. Renew Virginia is Kaine's year-long initiative to promote renewable energy, green jobs, and environmental protection. For more information on Renew Virginia, please click on the link below.