85-year-old conservation group protects its Warren County property with VOF easement

One of Warren County’s oldest conservation groups recently protected its 150-acre property with a conservation easement donated to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.

For nearly 85 years, the Warren County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America has been promoting clean air, soil, woods, waters, and wildlife in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

The chapter’s property is used for outdoor recreation, education and wildlife habitat. Buildings on the grounds date back more than 100 years, including the chapter house where members meet once a month.

The chapter encourages youth groups to utilize the park’s facilities. Space is available for camping, and nature walks introduce visitors to a variety of rare wildflowers. Other youth programs teach archery, fly casting and other types of fishing skills. Every spring the chapter hosts a trout rodeo.

“Future conservationists will not exist if our youth do not know and love the outdoors,” said chapter president, Harry Reed Jr. “I hope to make the general public aware of the beautiful area in which we live and feel strongly that this property needs to be preserved for future generations.”

Four times a year members volunteer to clean up Browntown Road. Last month, the chapter received an award from the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District for improvements made to Happy Creek, which members clean biannually. The chapter’s Save Our Streams program conducts biological sampling in streams to monitor stream health.

The VOF easement limits future development on the property. Much of the land is visible from outlooks on Skyline Drive and parts of the Appalachian Trail. The property shares a half-mile boundary with Shenandoah National Park and contains more than a half mile of Gooney Run, a native brook trout stream.

Protections along Gooney Run qualified the project to receive an $8,000 grant from Trout Unlimited’s Coldwater Land Conservancy Fund to help cover the legal and appraisal costs of recording the easement.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements with landowners that permanently protect the land’s natural, scenic, historic, recreational, and open-space values from intense development while keeping the property in private ownership. Land owners who donate easements may be eligible for federal and state tax benefits.

In addition to the Izaak Walton League easement, VOF recorded two other easements in Warren County this year on 730 acres. One property fronts the Shenandoah River for more than one mile, and both properties are located in the Rockland Rural Historic District. VOF protects a total of about 6,500 acres in Warren County and about 700,000 acres statewide.

Amanda Colocho is a communications intern studying public relations at Virginia Commonwealth University.