More Southside landowners embracing conservation easements

  • A 7,312-acre easement in Halifax County on the John H. Kerr Reservoir.

Nowhere is the demand for conservation easements more evident than in Southside—a region stretching along the Virginia-North Carolina border from Patrick to Dinwiddie.

Approximately 40 percent of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s new easement acreage in 2013 was recorded in Southside. Halifax County led the state last year with 9,140 newly protected acres of farmland, forest, and other open space.

The largest easement, in both Halifax and the state, was donated by the Rowland family on Falkland Farms, a 7,312-acre farm near Scottsburg. It is one of the largest contiguous private properties in Virginia east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and contains nearly 10 miles of frontage along the headwaters of the John H. Kerr Reservoir, and the Dan, Bannister, and Hyco rivers.

A second Halifax easement was donated by Delegate James Edmunds on his 872-acre farm, Elm Hill, in South Boston. About 82 percent of the farm’s soils are designated as prime farming soils by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and 39 percent of the timber is classified as having a “High Forest Conservation Value” by the Virginia Department of Forestry. The property fronts a designated Scenic Byway for nearly two miles and Birch Creek for more than a mile.

“Elm Hill is part of an original land grant to Nicholas Edmunds, my ancestor, and now most of that parcel is back together and in the Edmunds’ ownership,” says Del. Edmunds, who is a long-time supporter of conservation easements. “This farm means a great deal to me, and it gives me great peace in knowing that it will be preserved in its original farming state forever. The easement was an easy decision and provided the perfect tool to keep the land in its current state for my children, grandchildren, and descendents for years to come.”

Noting the region’s trend, VOF’s Sherry Buttrick says, “Southside is rich in open space and natural resources, and as more people in the region become familiar with the easement program and the tax benefits of land conservation, we are seeing them protect more of their land for farming, forestry, and other rural land uses.”

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