Essex County Countryside Alliance

Farmland lost is farmland lost forever

VOF Reports - 2012

Estie Thomas reports from Virginia Outdoor Foundation

Rappahannock River Special Project Area

Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) may occasionally designate certain areas in the Virginia Commonwealth as Special Project Areas, which are particular geographic regions where protection through easements is especially warranted and where VOF expects to concentrate resources. Several factors are used to determine Special Project Areas: the area must be of statewide natural, scenic, historic, open-space or recreational significance; local landowners have indicated their support; a local land trust, conservation group, other organization, or state or federal agency has expressed an interest in working with VOF to encourage protection of the area, or the local government has indicated an interest in the protection of the area through easements.

Special Project Area designation will help make the case for the high conservation value of proposed easement projects and will be an important factor for prioritizing lands for VOF easement program efforts. Special Project Area designation will become an important factor in determining the conservation value of lands within the area. Designation will be one among several factors determining if VOF will work on a particular project, including conservation value/public benefit, degree of protection (proposed restrictions), acreage, readiness of the landowner to proceed, regional development pressures, and VOF staff capacity.

VOF and ECCA are currently working together to have the Upper Rappahannock River designated as a Special Project Area. Together we hope to preserve the natural habitats, open spaces, and productive farmlands in this area. Once the Rappahannock River has been designated a Special Project Area, it will be prioritized as having a high conservation value.

Oil and Gas Exploration

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) is aware of recent activity and interest in exploration for oil and natural gas in the area known as the Taylorsville basin, which includes Essex, Caroline, Westmoreland, and King George counties. VOF is studying the methodology, as well as the impact, of such extraction and is attempting to determine whether such activity can be compatible with, or permitted on, easement properties. In the meantime, we are requesting that landowners with easements on their properties not enter into contracts or lease agreements for exploration, drilling, or extraction without first giving VOF the opportunity to determine if such activities can be compatible with, or permitted on, the easement. VOF and ECCA hope to help landowners to make informed decisions regarding their land while protecting the conservation values and purposes of open-space easements.

Furthermore, we ask landowners to be cautious because the contracts for these leases can be extremely vague and broad, with the potential to commit landowners to more than they intended. Such leases could greatly impact the land and how it is managed and used for activities such as forestry, hunting, and other purposes.