With Virginia’s population nearly doubling in 50 years, saving land is more important than ever.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Virginia has grown rapidly, from 4.6 million in 1970 to more than 8.6 million in 2021. With this growth comes enormous development pressure. Conservation easements, a private legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified entity, such as the Land Trust of Virginia (LTV), that protects land and its conservation values permanently, are the most effective tool to ensure open space remains for all Virginians to enjoy. Here are several ways they help us all:
Good for the economy
Conservation easements preserve a variety of open spaces, including those with public access, those being used for farming or forestry, and historic sites, all of which are significant to Virginia’s economy. In 2016, The Trust for Public Land conducted a study that found that for every public $1 invested in land conservation, $4 in natural goods and services are returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to the 2017 Virginia Outdoors Demand Survey, the most popular recreational activity in the state is visiting natural areas. ConserveVirginia stated in 2020 that outdoor recreation generates $13.6 billion in consumer spending and $923 million in state and local tax revenues. Heritage tourism generates almost $7.7 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by Preservation Virginia.
Conservation easements preserve farmland, thus protecting the agriculture industry, Virginia’s largest industry by far according to Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). ConserveVirginia’s data indicates that Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries generate more than 450,000 jobs throughout the Commonwealth. Furthermore, every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy. Agricultural commodities produced in Virginia are highly diverse and include, beer, wine, wood products, seafood, livestock, and more and are enjoyed internationally.
About the Land Trust of Virginia
The Land Trust of Virginia is a nonprofit organization that partners with private landowners who voluntarily protect and preserve properties with significant historic, scenic, or ecological value. LTV has worked with 219 families, conserving a total of 26,109 acres in 24 counties in Virginia. While LTV charges landowners for their services, the fees charged only cover about 28% of LTV’s actual costs, so fundraising is essential to our mission.