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February 5, 2018

Conservation easements here total 2,541 acres in ’17

The Piedmont Environmental Council’s map depicts 2017 easements in orange and previous easements in green.
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation holds easements on most of the protected land in Fauquier.
Fauquier County landowners placed another 2,541 acres under permanent conservation easements last year, according to the Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council.

That brings the county’s total easements on private land to 104,873 acres, the most for any Virginia jurisdiction. The total represents about one-quarter of Fauquier.

“Conservation easements help protect our local food supply, secure sources of water for the future, provide areas for wildlife habitat and preserve important historic and cultural sites,” PEC President Chris Miller said. “People love the rural character of the region and protecting the land is a way for them to take action and ensure that future generations will enjoy the same benefits.”

PEC holds some easements and helps landowners navigate the technical aspects of the preservation tool, which has significant potential tax benefits for participants.

The nonprofit organization’s annual tally of easements puts the total at 401,200 acres the nine counties it serves: Fauquier, Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock.

The total includes 6,237 acres added in 2017. Land trusts and public agencies, including the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors, hold the voluntary easements that control future use of the property, including construction of homes and farm structures.

Easement holders conduct annual inspections to ensure compliance, protecting natural, scenic and cultural resources.

“The success of conservation in the Piedmont reflects the appreciation hundreds of families and other landowners have for this region, which is demonstrated through a true commitment to the long-term protection of the resources that make this a special place,” PEC Director of Conservation Michael said. “Fortunately, through programs like Virginia’s Land Preservation Tax Credit, there is a set of financial incentives that make it possible for landowners across the state to act on their love of the land through the donation of a conservation easement.”  

Fauquier’s Purchase of Development Rights program provides an option for landowners who want to protect their farm properties. Under the program, the county pays owners $25,000 per potential home building lot extinguished on farmland. A committee scores each application, based on its agricultural value.

“It was a good year; we protected approximately 1,200 acres,” said said Ray Pickering, the county’s director of agricultural development. “The farmers’ interest continues to be there, as we had more applications than dollars available last year, and we’re about to approve three more applications soon.”

The Messick family last year conserved the 308 acres of farmland between Bealeton and Midland. The property includes Messick’s Farm Market on Route 28.

“It’s a good one that adjoins the Bealeton Service District,” Mr. Pickering said. “This was the family’s second PDR project with us. They did another one down by Remington a few years ago.”

The conservation easements added in 2017:

• 775 acres in Albemarle for a total of 99,574.

• 308 acres in Clarke for a total of 25,247.

• 317 acres in Culpeper for a total of 18,917.

• 2,541 in Fauquier for a total of 104,873.

• None in Greene, which has a total of 10,448 acres.

• 1,174 in Loudoun for a total of 57,549.

• 126 acres in Madison for a total of 15,887.

• 669 in Orange for a total of 35,961.

• 327 in Rappahannock for a total of 32,744.
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