Eight properties in Clarke County totaling almost 700 acres were protected by conservation easements in 2011. This brings the total of easement protected land in the county to over 20,700 acres, or 18% of the total land in the County.
Among the properties protected in 2011 was a 103-acre tract of highly productive farmland owned by Bev McKay. The easement, held by PEC and completed in partnership with the USDA, ensures that this property, which has been in the McKay family for over 200 years, will continue to be available for farming. McKay says, “It makes me feel good to know that in the future, if the land is sold, there won’t be condos going up on it. It’ll be cows, not condos.”
Don Loock, Clarke County Land Conservation staff for PEC, says, “This property really exemplifies how conservation easements can be used to protect multiple important resources on the same property. While the primary focus of the easement was insuring that this rich farmland is always available for production, it also protects scenic views from Red Gate Road and the Historic Long Branch House and Farm, a National Historic Registry Property. And it helps create a block of over 8,700 acres of protected land in the Greenway Rural Historic District.”
The Clarke County Easement Authority had another strong year, completing seven conservation easements in 2011. These projects included a 60-acre farm on the Shenandoah River and a 244-acre farm that connects to other conservation lands that extend along a mile and a half of Pyletown Road, a State Scenic Byway.
Loock says, “Once again, the Clarke County Easement Authority was able to leverage a small amount of county funds with federal and state grants and landowner donations to complete some great projects. PEC has already begun to partner with the CCEA on some projects that should make 2012 another exciting year for conservation.”
In total, conservation easements in Clarke County now protect approximately 52 miles of streams and rivers, 8,800 acres of prime farmland, 6,700 acres of forests, 11,900 acres along Scenic Byways, 14,900 acres in the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail, 850 acres of Civil War battlefields, and 10,500 acres in historic districts. These resources make Clarke County a great place to live and are fundamental to the local and state economies. A recent study by PEC found that nine environmental benefits, such as recreation, farm products, and water quality, contribute $21.8 billion to Virginia’s economy every year.
PEC, which celebrates its 40 th anniversary in 2012, has been promoting private, voluntary land conservation in Virginia’s northern Piedmont since 1972, contributing to this region’s outstanding success. In the nine-county region where PEC works, approximately 12,100 acres were protected by conservation easements in 2011, contributing to a total of over 348,000 acres or 15% of the total land in the region.
A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a land trust (such as a public agency or a non-profit conservation group) to permanently protect natural, scenic, and cultural resources on their land.
This article was submitted by the Piedmont Environmental Council