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Virginia's Largest Conservation Easement

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Governor Timothy M. Kaine today (September 2009) announced that the City of Roanoke has completed the donation of a two-part conservation easement in Roanoke and Botetourt counties that permanently protects 11,363 acres of open space, making it the largest publicly-held easement in the state. The first part, 6,185 acres, was placed under easement in 2008 and the remaining 5,178 acres were placed under easement last week.

“The latest easement is the culmination of a decade and a half of efforts by the local land preservation leaders, state agencies, and local elected officials,” Governor Kaine said. “It exemplifies the spirit of partnership that makes Virginia’s land conservation program so successful, and is a testament to the foresight of Roanoke’s citizens to protect this critical resource for generations to come.”

The easement, co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) and the Western Virginia Land Trust, is on the Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, the second-largest municipal park in the nation (recreation map of Carvins Cove). The property is owned by the City of Roanoke and surrounds Carvins Cove Reservoir, the largest source of public drinking water for several municipalities in the Roanoke Valley, including the City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, and the Town of Vinton. The Western Virginia Water Authority owns the reservoir and water treatment plant, which are not included in the easement. The Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is managed for watershed protection and public recreation, including hiking, fishing, boating, and equestrian use.

The property is located near Interstate 81 and borders 14 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The rock outcrop at nearby McAfee’s Knob, which overlooks the conserved property, is one of the most frequently visited and photographed panoramas on the Appalachian Trail.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Natural Heritage has identified rare biological communities on the property, which the easement will protect by limiting future development. “From wildlife habitat to public recreation to drinking water for thousands of citizens, no VOF easement protects as many public values as these 11,000 forested acres,” said Roanoke resident and VOF trustee, Dr. M. Rupert Cutler, who also is a member of Roanoke City Council.

At its fall Conservation Celebration held on the campus of Hollins University today, the Western Virginia Land Trust presented Governor Kaine with its A. Victor Thomas Environmental Stewardship Award for his commitment to open space preservation in Virginia. This award is given annually by the Land Trust, and recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the preservation of the natural heritage of western Virginia. The award’s namesake, the late conservationist Vic Thomas, was a Roanoke native and a 30-year member of the House of Delegates.

VOF now protects more than 20,000 acres in Botetourt and Roanoke counties, and nearly 550,000 acres of natural, scenic, historic, open-space, and recreational lands statewide, including more than 4,000 miles of streams and 200,000 acres of farmland. The Western Virginia Land Trust, a private non-profit land conservancy, has helped to preserve more than 76,000 acres of land and 30 miles of streams in southwest Virginia since 1996.

Today’s announcement comes as Governor Kaine continues to advance his “Renew Virginia” initiative—an effort to promote renewable energy, create green jobs, and encourage preservation of the environment. During his administration, Governor Kaine has incentivized the production of cleaner energy, surveyed the emissions of facilities previously grandfathered out of the Clean Air act, dedicated over a billion dollars to Chesapeake Bay cleanup, protected nearly 350,000 acres of open space, and led the effort to promote regional cooperation to combat climate change.

 


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