Fauquier’s highest concentration of conservation easements covers the county’s northeastern corner.
Every acre of protected land is land that helps prevent water pollution, preserve natural flood controls, promote groundwater recharge, and support local agriculture and carbon sequestration.
— Chris Miller, Piedmont Environmental Council president
Private landowners in Fauquier last year placed 800 more acres under conservation easements, according to the Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council.
That brings the Fauquier total to 109,487 acres permanently protected from development — representing 26 percent of the county.
The new acreage placed under easement here in 2020 dropped to its lowest level in more than a decade. Fauquier had averaged 1,728 new acres per year from 2011 through 2019.
The county has the most acres under conservation easement among Virginia localities.
In 2020, private landowners worked with land trusts and public agencies to protect 5,287 acres in PEC’s service area: Fauquier, Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties.
Last year’s 47 new easements bring the total protected land in nine-county region to 426,657 acres, accounting now for nearly 20 percent of the region’s entire land area.
The total includes all easements in the region held collectively by PEC, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, state agencies, local governments and other land trusts.
“Despite a pandemic year when folks were understandably cautious about the personal interactions required during the easement process, the number of easement transactions remained steady and demonstrate the commitment of local landowners to preserve the integrity of the landscape as a whole and to protect water resources and scenic character,”
PEC President Chris Miller said. “Every acre of protected land is land that helps prevent water pollution, preserve natural flood controls, promote groundwater recharge, and support local agriculture and carbon sequestration.”
Loudoun County led the region’s conservation totals in 2020, with 21 landowners donating easements to preserve 2,159 acres.
The region’s largest conservation easement in 2020 covers 1,150 acres in Albemarle County’s Southern Rural Historic District, near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Highland.
Voluntary agreements between landowners and public agencies or nonprofit conservation groups, easements protect the natural, scenic and cultural resources of the land for the benefit of the public. Landowners who donate easements may be eligible to receive tax benefits for their charitable contribution.
The 426,657 acres conserved in the northern Piedmont represents an area more than twice the size of Shenandoah National Park.
New easements and totals by county
• 800 acres in Fauquier for a total of 109,487 acres.