Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Former US Sen. Paul Trible Conserves 508 Acres of Family Land

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) recorded the agency’s first forestland conservation easement in Northumberland County when former US Sen. Paul Trible developed a conservation easement on 508 acres of his family land, Gascony Farm.

When landowners are contemplating a conservation easement and the perpetual protection it offers from future development, it is most often a family matter.

“My family and I have owned Gascony for almost 100 years and love the rich natural beauty and history of the property. We want future generations to be able to know and love and experience this property as we do,” Senator Trible said.

The Trible family has managed the forest on this tract of land for many years with the help of the VDOF Area Forester Rich Steensma. “I admire Paul for his ability and willingness to gather lands back together,” Steensma said. “Several years ago, when others were eager to subdivide and maximize profit through parcelization, Paul was following in his father’s footsteps of stewardship by continually working to bring subdivided parcels of land back together, into one whole working landscape of forest and farmland.”

The VDOF has been serving Virginia’s forest landowners for nearly 100 years, and over time has developed a high level of confidence and trust with local landowners.

Senator Trible said, “My father and I have worked with the Department of Forestry for many years and have great respect for the outstanding public service provided by the department. We are very confident that the Department of Forestry is the right partner for us to protect and preserve these lands that we cherish.”

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or land trust that permanently limits development of the land subsequently protecting such conservation values as forestry, agriculture, open space and wildlife habitat. The terms of the easement are developed between the landowner and the organization that will hold the easement – in this case, the Virginia Department of Forestry. The terms of the easement are perpetual and apply to all future landowners. No change to ownership of the property occurs. Landowners continue to own, use and control their land, and can sell it or pass it on to heirs. Easement agreements do not require landowners to provide public access.

VDOF Forestland Conservation Specialist Rob Suydam said, “The Department of Forestry was very excited when Senator Trible contacted us about helping him develop a conservation easement on his family’s land. This beautiful piece of forestland protects the conservation values of forest, farm and open space. In addition, because this property is so close to the Chesapeake Bay, the watershed and wildlife habitat protection this easement provides is outstanding.”

Virginia loses 16,000 acres of forestland each year. Often, forest converted to other uses, such as residential development, is the result of choices made by individual landowners, who own nearly 80 percent of the forestland in Virginia. VDOF is committed to slowing the loss of valuable forestland to conversion by working with landowners to help them keep their land in forest. For landowners who feel that permanent protection is the right thing for them, their family and their land, VDOF offers its services to help them develop a conservation easement.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has established itself as a leader in land conservation by providing transferable state income tax credits as incentives for landowners interested in protecting their land from development. Because this state tax credit is transferable, many landowners often sell their credits and convert them to cash.

For more information about VDOF’s land conservation program, please contact Rob Suydam at 804.328.3031.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Easements Continue to Conserve Forestland

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) recorded 24 easements for 8,005 acres in 2011. This figure brings the program total to just under 20,000 acres conserved in five years.

In Halifax County, Blue Wing LLC granted VDOF a conservation easement that protects 1,029 acres of working forestland. Located two miles west of Virgilina, the Blue Wing easement is now almost entirely forested. Bisected by Blue Wing Creek, a major tributary of the Hyco River, the property contains more than nine miles of stream frontage. The forested nature of the property helps protect the water quality and aquatic habitat in the watershed, affording flood control, recreational opportunities and drinking water for downstream communities.

The Blue Wing donation was the second VDOF easement recorded in Halifax County in 2011, both of which are greater than 1,000 acres. VDOF now holds four easements covering 3,649 acres in Halifax County.

In Fluvanna County, Robert and Graciela Lum granted VDOF a working forest conservation easement that protects 205 acres of land. The Lum’s conservation easement is the first VDOF easement in the county.

Located south of Palmyra, the property contains 172 acres of loblolly pine stands, hardwood woodlands and riparian forests managed under a Forest Stewardship Management Plan. The Lum easement was the fifth to receive funding under the VDOF’s Forests to Faucets (F2F) Program. First introduced in 2010, the F2F program focuses on protecting water quality within the Rivanna River basin.

The property borders nearly a half-mile of Raccoon Creek and a short stretch of the Rivanna River, and contains 13 acres of forested floodplain. In addition to being a state-designated scenic river, the Rivanna provides a source of drinking water to downstream communities.

In Albemarle County, Benjamin, Terry and Thomas Warthen granted the VDOF a working forest conservation easement that protects 223 acres of land. The Warthens’ conservation easement is the second VDOF easement recorded in Albemarle County in 2011.

Located just southwest of Charlottesville on the upper slopes and summit of Piney Mountain, nearly the entire property is covered with hardwood forests that are actively managed under the guidance of a Forest Stewardship Management Plan. The easement is within the viewshed of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and future Biscuit Run State Park, helping maintain the scenic vistas that support their historic sense of place.

The property contains the headwaters of several large streams that flow into Biscuit Run, which, in turn, is a major tributary of the Rivanna River. The Warthen easement received funding under the F2F Program.
VDOF will continue to offer the F2F program to other interested landowners through August of 2012 or until funding is exhausted.

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or a non-profit conservation organization that protects the conservation values of a property. The landowner continues to own, use and control the land. The VDOF conservation easement program is the only one in the state that focuses primarily on protecting working forests. To be considered, a property must be at least 50 acres in size, 75 percent forested, and the landowner must be willing to have a forest stewardship management plan prepared. Landowners who want to ensure that their land will be forever maintained as forest may consider a VDOF easement.

For additional information on the VDOF conservation easement program or the conservation easement portion of the F2F Program, contact Mike Santucci, forest conservation specialist, at (434) 220-9182, or visit the VDOF website at www.dof.virginia.gov.