Clarke County is one of eight localities that will receive funding to place lands under permanent conservation easement. The announcement was made Thursday January 6th by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). A total of $100,000 in grants will be distributed to the eight Virginia localities. The funds must be used to preserve farmland within boundaries of each of the localities through local purchase of development rights (PDR) programs. These programs compensate landowners who permanently preserve their land by voluntarily placing a perpetual conservation easement on it.
Twenty-two local PDR programs exist in Virginia, fifteen of which have some level of local funding currently available. This is the fourth time that the Commonwealth of Virginia has provided state matching funds for certified local PDR programs. A total of $5.25 million has been allocated since February 2008. To date, 4,047 acres on 27 farms in 11 localities have been permanently protected in part with these funds. Another 511 acres on six farms have been approved and are currently awaiting closing. Additional easements are expected to close using these funds over the next two years.
For the FY 2011 allocation round, each of the following eight localities received $12,500: The counties of Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, Isle of Wight, New Kent, Northampton, and Spotsylvania plus the City of Virginia Beach. Grant applicants had to report how much funding was available for their local PDR programs as of October 22, 2010, and the state funds matched that amount up to $12,500 per locality. Currently, these eight localities report more than $17 million available in local matching funds ($3,524,331 for FY 2011, and $13,803,474 from previous years) available for their PDR programs, but state matching funds for FY 2011 are limited to $100,000.
“Local governments are a key component in preserving working farmland,” said Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner of VDACS, the agency that administers the state’s farmland preservation program. “Preserving working farms not only keeps the land from development or disuse,” he added, “but also maintains the Commonwealth’s number one industry, agriculture. At the same time, we are taking steps to ensure the continuation of a reliable food supply for the future within our own borders.
Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority member George Ohrstrom commented on the grants saying, “I’m happy to say that the funding from them is a huge help to The Easement Authority. The money we get from both Federal (Farmland and Ranchland Protection funding among others) and State funding (VDACS, VA Land Preservation Trust Fund among others) really helps us leverage our effect and broaden the impact that our county funding helps us achieve. “