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The new properties are spread out across five counties and all represent “vital” farmland in Virginia.
The HVLC’s mission statement is to “protect and preserve historic, scenic, agricultural and significant land in the lower James, York and Rappahannock watersheds.” The organization, which began in 1990 and recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary, protects more than 13,500 acres of a wide variety of land, including farmland and wetlands, in 15 counties and two cities.
As stewards of the land that it protects, the HVLC doesn’t buy properties. Instead, landowners sign a deed of conservation easement, which is a voluntary legal agreement to preserve land in perpetuity. The deed does not transfer land ownership, but instead details the landowner’s commitment to protecting the existing property, while the HVLC enforces the easement.
The conservancy fundraises for their stewardship fund, which is set aside to work with landowners to ensure compliance with easement restrictions and allowances, and operating costs. The HVLC stewards the properties annually.
Among the sites added to the HVLC is a century-old cattle farm in New Kent County, which Executive Director Patrice Sadler calls “very representative of some of the original reason for the conservation programs.”
“That farm in particular has been worked for over a century,” she said. “… It’s really in the midst of quite of a lot of development … (so) that New Kent cattle farm in particular is very representative of a break in rising growth in the county. So there’s a good balance.”
In addition to the environmental and aesthetic benefits afforded by land conservation, Sadler says that the HVLC is also helping to stimulate economic growth.
“From an economic standpoint, it’s something that attracts business and increases property values and of course makes it a wonderful and attractive place to live, work and play,” she said.
One of the biggest reasons that people choose to protect their land with the HVLC is the desire to give something to generations to come.
“I think most of them are people who love the land,” Sadler said. “They are living the land, they are working their own land, they’re enjoying the benefits of not only what they’ve always enjoyed but knowing that the same values that are being protected for themselves will be passed down for generations and that will be enjoyed and hopefully those values will deepen. That really adds the balance for the rest of us.
“We are all as a community grateful for those landowners that want to make that decision and want to use that protection tool and we are more than happy to talk to anyone out there that feels like they want to pass down these values.”