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  • Writer's pictureTony Buffington

Preserving Virginia's Rural Heritage; An Introduction to Conservation Easements

Updated: Feb 14


Virginia, known for its picturesque landscapes and natural beauty, has long been a focal point for conservation efforts. One of the most effective methods for preserving this natural splendor is through the use of conservation easements. These legal agreements play a crucial role in safeguarding the environment and ensuring that the scenic beauty of the Old Dominion State endures for generations to come. In this blog post, we'll delve into what conservation easements are, how they are implemented in Virginia, and provide statistics showcasing their impact.

What Are Conservation Easements?

Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements between landowners and conservation organizations or governmental agencies. These agreements are designed to restrict certain land uses and development activities on a property while allowing the land to remain in private ownership. By doing so, conservation easements help protect the land's natural, scenic, or historic values. These agreements can be tailored to the specific needs and desires of the landowner, making them a flexible tool for conservation.

Conservation Easements in Virginia

Virginia has a rich history of embracing conservation easements as a means of preserving its natural heritage. The implementation of these easements is overseen by several organizations, including the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) and local land trusts.

Here's how they work in the state:

  1. Voluntary Agreements: Landowners in Virginia can voluntarily enter into conservation easements. This means that the decision to protect the land is entirely up to the property owner.

  2. Perpetual Commitment: Most conservation easements in Virginia are perpetual, meaning they last indefinitely and apply to future property owners. This ensures that the conservation goals persist over time.

  3. Tailored Agreements: Conservation easements are flexible and can be tailored to meet the specific conservation objectives of the landowner and the organization holding the easement. This could include protecting farmland, forests, scenic vistas, or historic sites.

  4. Tax Benefits: Landowners who donate conservation easements may be eligible for tax incentives, including federal income tax deductions and potential state tax credits.

Impact of Conservation Easements in Virginia

Conservation easements have made a substantial impact in preserving Virginia's natural landscapes. Here are some statistics that illustrate their significance:

  1. Number of Easements: As of late 2021, the Virginia Department of Forestry's easement portfolio includes more than 87,565 acres through more than 196 easements in more than 60 counties and cities across the Commonwealth.

  2. Total Land Protected: These easements have protected over [number] acres of land across the state.

  3. Diverse Conservation: Virginia's conservation easements cover a wide range of landscapes, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay watershed, ensuring the protection of various ecosystems and habitats.

  4. Partnerships: Numerous land trusts, local governments, and state agencies collaborate to facilitate these agreements, demonstrating a collective commitment to conservation.


Conservation easements play a vital role in preserving the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Virginia. These voluntary agreements allow landowners to make a lasting contribution to environmental conservation, while also providing them with potential tax benefits. With thousands of acres already protected, Virginia continues to be a shining example of how individuals and organizations can work together to safeguard the state's natural treasures for future generations.

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