The Virginia Outdoors Foundation protected 26,375 acres of open space through 127 conservation easements in 2012.
The Virginia General Assembly established the foundation in 1966 to encourage the preservation of the commonwealth’s natural and cultural heritage lands. It holds more conservation easements than any land trust in the nation.
Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between private landowners and a qualified land trust that restrict future development while allowing compatible uses such as farming, forestry and recreation. Landowners who donate easements can receive state and federal tax benefits.
Last year, the foundation recorded easements in 53 localities, including its first two easements in Covington bordering the George Washington National Forest. The easements protect nearly a mile of a state-designated native brook trout stream and portions of a public hiking trail, and border the George Washington National Forest.
Smyth County had the most open space protected with 2,569 acres on five easements.
The 2012 easements include about 120 miles of streams, 11,000 acres of U.S. Department of Agriculture-designated high quality farm soils, and 1,700 acres along state-designated scenic roads and rivers, among other conservation values.
The foundation now protects about 675,000 acres— more than 1,000 square miles—across 107 localities. Roughly 75 percent of the acreage lies within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
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