By Land Trust of Virginia
The protection of the natural and historic resources found throughout Virginia and, in particular, those in Loudoun and Fauquier counties, is a shared concern for a growing community of conservation organizations and like-minded individuals. The Land Trust of Virginia (LTV), based in Middleburg, has been working for more than a quarter century to help landowners permanently protect the natural and historic resources contained on their properties through the donations of conservation easements.
LTV currently holds 165 conservation easements on almost 18,000 acres in 14 counties. Those eased properties range in size from less than three acres to 850 acres. Even relatively small parcels can be of tremendous historical, scenic or strategic value in protecting our heritage. Of local importance, 105 LTV easements protect over 8,600 acres in Loudoun County, and 35 easements protect more than 4,400 acres in Fauquier County.
The Land Trust of Virginia’s slow and steady growth has been thoughtful and purposeful on the part of a very dedicated Board of Directors. LTV’s geographic expansion over the years has been tempered by their Board’s concerns for their ability to manage the stewardship responsibilities they assume with the acceptance of each new conservation easement.
“That stewardship role is at the heart of our work,” said Sally Price, LTV’s executive director. She went on to explain the time they take with each landowner to ensure that their easement donation will protect the conservation values on their property. She also emphasized LTV’s consideration of the staff time and other costs that might be required to regularly monitor the property and, if needed, to legally defend the terms of the conservation easement.
The care LTV takes with easement acceptance and their demonstrated ability to steward their easement properties enabled them to become one of the first land trusts in the country to be accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. The accreditation process is a thorough examination of a land trusts’ policies, procedures and their adherence to the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices. It includes an audit of their financial ability to permanently steward the properties in their easement portfolio. This rigorous review is a challenge for any land trust and is one that they must complete once every five years to maintain their accredited status.
In 2009, LTV became one of the first 54 land trusts (out of about 1,700 nationally) to earn their accreditation and in 2014 was one of the first 43 to successfully complete their accreditation renewal.
“Accreditation has been an important part of LTV’s maturation and growth,” remarked Chris Dematatis, LTV’s chairman. “We committed ourselves to the considerable preparation necessary for the Accreditation Commission’s review, and we are proud to have earned their trust.”
He gave credit to LTV’s Board and staff for the work that went into becoming accredited, and especially to Turner Smith, LTV’s president at the time. “Turner’s leadership and organizational talents were critical in guiding LTV through such a complex undertaking,” said Dematatis.
LTV has likewise worked hard to earn the trust of those within the conservation community and, in particular, the landowners who have donated conservation easements to them. Jacqueline Mars sought out LTV when she wanted to protect her 218-acre Meredyth Farm in 2017. When asked why she selected LTV as the organization to hold her easement, she said, “It was very comforting to work with dedicated environmental professionals who have, through their good deeds, accumulated the resources to uphold and enforce the
easements granted by property owners. Too often easements are granted with good intentions and are not enforced.”
Later in 2017, Mike Smith also chose LTV when he decided to protect Atoka Farm, his 350-property located between Upperville and Middleburg. “Working with the Land Trust of Virginia’s staff and Board was very productive and efficient,” he said of the experience of donating his easement to LTV.
Ashton Cole, LTV’s director of conservation and stewardship, observed that “for all the efforts we make to protect land, none of it would be possible without the landowners who make those easement donations. They are the reason we are here, and our land conservation successes are due to their generosity.”
The generosity of LTV’s donors was on full display at their 20th annual Garden Party. The event was held this year at Rose Marie Bogley’s Peace and Plenty at Bollingbrook and was attended by a record crowd of supporters on a beautiful day in May.
“The enthusiasm for our work that we heard that afternoon was so encouraging,” Sally Price reported. “We are in the midst of growing our capacity so that we can protect more land, and many of those who were there acknowledged the need for all of us to do as much conservation work as we can as soon as we can.”
Sally mentioned that the addition of Ana-Elisa Bryant and Seth Young to their conservation and stewardship team, during the past year, has already produced positive results.
“With Isa and Seth’s help, and with the unflagging efforts of Kerry Roszel, our development associate, we have a strong team,” she said. “We are optimistic and excited about LTV’s future. All of us look forward to helping even more landowners with their donations of conservation easements.” ML