Editorial: Land preservation under attack

If there is one single thing that uniquely defines Rappahannock County, it is our unspoiled open spaces and lack of development. For that one thing, thanks are due at least in part to the Shenandoah National Park and all the local landowners who’ve put their properties in conservation easement. And yet…

As the 2015 session of the Virginia General Assembly convenes next week, on Jan. 14, some legislators are apparently considering cuts to land conservation programs as a way to alleviate the commonwealth’s projected budget shortfall.

In particular, members of the house appropriations committee have apparently suggested that the Land Preservation Tax Credit account should be cut in half. But it is precisely these tax credits — and the ability to sell them — that provides cash-poor farmers and other landowners a viable financial alternative to subdividing their property.

Even worse, some legislators have threatened to introduce bills that will limit or prevent landowners from voluntarily protecting their land at all. Specific proposals include requiring easements to be temporary, limiting the percent of land in a county that can be in conservation easement and eliminating landowner choice on easement holders.

Our man in Richmond, representing the 18th District, is Michael J. Webert. On his website, he boosts: “The 18th is by far the most beautiful district in the commonwealth. The physical beauty is something that people from all across the country come to experience.”

To help keep it beautiful, ask Delegate Webert to resist any efforts to gut Virginia’s Land Preservation Tax Credit. He can be reached at his home office in Marshall (540-999-8218) or in Richmond (804-698-1018).  His email address is DelMWebert@house.virginia.gov

Walter Nicklin