Virginia Outdoors Foundation Protected 39,000 Acres of Open Space in 2011

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation permanently protected 39,000 acres of open space through 215 conservation easements in 2011, or roughly four acres every hour. That is a 50-percent increase from 2010.

VOF recorded easements in 66 localities, including its first easement in Mecklenburg County — a 121-acre farm that has been in the same family for more than a century.

Bath County had the most open space protected with 2,655 acres on eight easements.

VOF now protects about 650,000 acres across 106 localities — an area half the size of Delaware. Of the nearly 800,000 acres of open space protected in Virginia since 2000 by all federal, state, local, and private entities, approximately two-thirds have been protected by VOF easements.

To see how much open space VOF protects in each locality, visit virginiaoutdoorsfoundation.org/stats.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between private landowners and a qualified land trust such as VOF that restrict future development while allowing compatible uses such as farming, forestry, and recreation. Because of the public benefits of protecting open space, habitat, water quality, and other conservation values, landowners who donate easements can receive state and federal tax incentives.

In its recent “Review of the Effectiveness of Virginia Tax Preferences” at http://jlarc.virginia.gov/reports.html, Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission deemed the commonwealth’s Land Preservation Tax Credit Program to be one of the most effective and cost-efficient of all state tax incentive programs.

VOF was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1966 to encourage the preservation of the commonwealth’s natural and cultural heritage lands. It operates seven regional offices in Virginia and holds more conservation easements than any land trust in the nation.

Jason McGarvey is VOF's communications and outreach manager. He is based in the Richmond office.