Rappahannock landowners protect 825+ acres in 2013

Last year was another successful one for conservation in Rappahannock, as four properties totaling 826 acres were protected by conservation easements in 2013. More than 31,250 acres are now in easement in Rappahannock — almost equal to the amount of county land protected by Shenandoah National Park (approximately 31,856 acres).

Detail of the 31,000 acres of Rappahannock County now under conservation easement.
Detail of the 31,000 acres of Rappahannock County now under conservation easement.

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 and cultural resources on their land.

Along with longtime residents of Rappahannock who continued a legacy of conservation by donating new acreage to existing easements — originally donated by them and their family in previous years — new landowners also took steps to protect the community in 2013.

“It is incredibly rewarding to work with landowners who have already been through the process of protecting their property once, come back and want to do more,” said Don Loock, land conservation officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC).

“It’s really a testament to the fact that placing your land in conservation easement is one of the most substantial forms of stewardship that a landowner can participate in, helping ensure that the natural resources they’ve tended and stewarded will be respected for generations to come.”  

One such dedicated landowner is Georgia Romine, who worked with the Virginia Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service to protect an additional 261 acres of her forest property in Laurel Mills. Romaine’s entire 354-acre property is now protected, which ensures that over 3,200 feet of the Thornton River and forestry soils will be responsibly stewarded for years to come.

Chris Parrish, who owns and operates Thornton River Farm, also decided to place an additional piece of his property in easement last year. The newly protected 100 acres includes a mile along the Thornton River and highly productive farmland soils, and adjoins two additional easements donated by Parrish’s sisters, Laura and Carol, in 2009. His third sister Merrill also donated an easement in 2013 on her farm in Orange County.

Rappahannock farmer Chris Parrish placed another 100 acres of his Thornton River Farm into easement in 2013.
Rappahannock farmer Chris Parrish placed another 100 acres of his Thornton River Farm into easement in 2013. Courtesy photo

Parrish credits the state and federal tax incentives as a huge help in making it possible to protect his farm. “The transferable Virginia tax credit and the enhanced federal deductions have made it possible for landowners like me, especially farmers, to preserve the legacy of their farms with conservation easements, helping ensure that we have land to farm into the future,” he said.    

In total, conservation easements in Rappahannock County now protect approximately 145 miles of streams and rivers, 8,640 acres of prime farming soils, 19,234 acres of forests, more than 10,000 acres along scenic byways and 7,543 acres in the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail.

In 2013, PEC accepted easements on a total of five properties — taking on the responsibility to protect the 963 acres in perpetuity. PEC now holds a total of 51 easements (protecting 7,588 acres) throughout a nine-county region, which includes Loudoun, Clarke, Fauquier, Culpeper, Madison, Rappahannock, Orange, Albemarle and Greene counties. PEC also accepted the donation of 141 acres of fee-simple property in Loudoun County in 2013, bringing the total amount of protected land to 369,240 acres.

“The landowners’ love for their land and their community was once again proven by another strong year of land conservation in the Piedmont,” said Heather Richards, PEC vice-president for conservation and rural programs.

“The dedication of these landowners, who have provided an incredible gift of permanent conservation to their community, should be applauded by all who live in the area. The conservation easements in 2013 complement the strong planning in our region, allowing the areas around our cities and towns to grow, while preserving the countryside that makes the Piedmont a remarkably special place.”

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  1. Question: why is it that a said land owner places part of his land in an conservation easement, thus allowing said landowner to pay less tax on their current and future real estate to their local governing municipality…. BUT, the same said landowner will march down to their local county board meeting to dispute the prospect that their county needs to raise the tax rate to meet the counties needs due to less money coming in due in part to said land being placed into these conservation easements? This sounds much like one having ones cake and wanting to eat it too.
    Please don’t get me wrong, land conservation is a wonderful, wonderful thing for folks to do. But do keep in mind that your local school, fire, and safety departments need money to operate – of which operating costs continue to rise each year.
    My point being that if said property owner is benefiting from land conservation easements (meaning less property value and less tax payment), don’t be the one to gripe when your local county needs to raise taxes to accomplish their needs due in part to less tax being paid in by said property owner.
    Lets all share the cake. Thank you, Mary

  2. In theory,the answer is “No!” That’s the whole purpose of an easement: to protect the land in perpetuity.

  3. Uplifting and promising news. I’m curious though, if the property is sold at a later date, can the new owners renege on the land trust arrangement?

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