Letter: RCCA joins the Krebser Fund

After months of study, legal inquiry and deliberation, the Rappahannock County Conservation Alliance Board (RCCA), has decided to close its doors and combine with the Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County Conservation.

Many county residents and supporters may have wondered, “What has happened to RCCA?” Our most noticeable absence from community life in the last two years was our major, annual fundraiser, “The Evening View,” an event that attracted 200 or more supporters from Rappahannock and nearby areas.

For 15 years, our members and volunteers have given time and creativity to raise substantial funds mostly dedicated to the Farmland Preservation Program (FPP) in partnership with the county. To date, RCCA has contributed $140,000 to the FPP, money that has been matched by the state, the county and other supporters.

Also, our board members and volunteers have developed and offered educational events, printed materials, promotions, personal outreach to land holders and web guidance about the importance of conservation easements and how to qualify for approval. In recent years, RCCA has given grants to encourage applicants and help offset the legal costs of qualifying for an easement.

Since its inception, RCCA’s primary mission has been to preserve and protect our environment, scenic beauty and rural character by encouraging the donation of conservation easements on open space and farmland. Today, over 30,000 acres of private land in Rappahannock County are in conservation easement.

You may be asking why we decided to dissolve. The current board, as did previous boards, questioned whether future effort would give the same returns to its supporters, donors and members, or to the county. To use an overused phrase: “The low-hanging fruit” had been harvested.

Interest among landowners and farmers had dropped off dramatically for a variety of reasons which the board judged could not be reversed and were likely continue for years to come. Also, there were other organizations in the region, like the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Land Trust of Virginia and the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection who would continue to promote conservation easements.

The RCCA board has many people to acknowledge for its success — too many to fully list here, though it is fitting to shine a bright light on principal founder Bob Dennis, who passed away this year. Those of you who served on the board over the years and others who gave their time as volunteers on committees and preparing for The Evening View should also feel proud of your contributions to preserve our county and its scenic beauty.

While this may close one door, the Krebser Fund, established under the auspices of the Piedmont Foundation to promote land conservation in Rappahannock County, has opened another one for RCCA. Both organizations had been discussing separately what they might do more proactively to enhance conservation and environmental improvement more broadly than through easements alone. When we discovered we had similar concerns and interests, we began to consider a consolidation of the two organizations.

Since the Krebser Fund has a similar mission, we believe this consolidation will strengthen our combined abilities to serve the county’s residents, farmers and landowners in this regard. Two RCCA board members have joined the Krebser Board to continue RCCA’s tradition of supporting conservation and protecting our rural space and its scenic beauty. This also will bring us in closer association with the PEC and, through this consolidation, potentially open up more opportunities, resources and support for our allied missions.

Ralph Bates
RCCA board member

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