Only 72 Rappahannock County acres were placed under conservation easement in 2016, albeit the total conserved land in the county now stands at a none-too-shabby 32,417 acres.
Comparably, 523 acres in Culpeper County were put in conservation last year (18,600 total acres), 1,262 acres were added in Fauquier County (a whopping 102,332 total acres), and another 844 new acres in Madison County (15,761 total acres).
“While the acreage added in new easements was relatively small in 2016, they were important, high quality easements,” John McCarthy, the Piedmont Environmental Council’s [PEC] senior advisor & director of strategic partnerships. “Rappahannock has been and remains the jurisdiction with the highest percentage of acreage in public parks and easement-protected property within the nine counties we collect data for.”
All told, the PEC reports a combined 7,595 acres were protected in Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties in 2016 by various land trusts and public agencies. This brings the total acreage of land under conservation easement in the nine counties to 394,963 acres.
“[L]andowners choosing to permanently conserve their land . . . believe in the intrinsic value of the Piedmont’s farms and forest, history and beauty, and want to protect those resources for future generations,” noted Mike Kane, director of conservation at PEC.
“That wonderful spirit is evident again as more than 60 families, landowners, farmers, organizations and local government conserved — in just one year —more farm and forest land in our region than the entire land area covered by the city of Charlottesville.”
Buck’s Elbow Mountain in Albemarle County is one of the conservation highlights from this past year. The landowner, Mitch Carr, conserved 263 acres of valuable forestland. The land is also important locally because it’s the site of the 1959 Piedmont Airlines Flight 349 crash, and remnants of the fuselage remain on site.
Another conservation success from 2016 includes farmland with ties to the Civil War. Howard and Jane Grove conserved 181 acres of their beef cattle farm in Morrisville through the Fauquier County Purchase of Development Rights program, which purchases easements to conserve working farms and farmland.
“I used the funds to buy more farmland, more family farmland, to start piecing it back together,” said Mr. Grove.
The property was once known as Belvaderia Farm, dating back to pre-Civil War times, and an archaeological site has revealed remains of historic outbuildings. Also identified was an African-American cemetery, according to Ray Pickering, the Fauquier County PDR program manager.