Land Trust of Virginia Celebrates 20th Annual Garden Party

The Land Trust of Virginia (LTV), which protects and preserves open land, held its 20th annual Garden Party, welcoming more than 350 guests to “Peace and Plenty” at Bollingbrook, a quintessential hunt country estate in Upperville, Virginia.

Jim and Rebecca McDermott joined the festivities as sponsors and supporters of LTV. The Garden Party featured a “wet paint” auction where artists created unique artworks from select locations on the farm. Party guests bid on these artworks as well as an eclectic array of other silent auction items. Funds raised benefit LTV, which has protected almost 18,000 acres of land across 14 Virginia counties, through conservation easements within the last quarter century.

What is a Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary, private legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust, such as the Land Trust of Virginia, that protects land and its conservation values permanently. Together the landowner and the land trust craft the easement document that protects the significant natural and cultural attributes of the land.

Conservation easements protect open space, farms, forests, rivers, streams, battlefields, vistas and historic sites in perpetuity. When a landowner donates a conservation easement, they maintain ownership of their land and are able to sell it or pass it on to heirs. What changes is that the land itself is protected from development forever.

How do Conservation Easements benefit us?

Rapid population growth, as being experienced in Northern Virginia, has lead to expansive commercial and residential development. Thousands of acres of open space, forests, wetlands, wildlife habitats and other natural resources have been lost to development within the last thirty years. Growth is only expected to continue, putting precious open space at further risk to development and once land is lost, it is lost forever.

Not only do conservation easements protect open space at risk of development, they help protect and improve water quality, safeguard biodiversity, preserve cultural and historic sites, and ensure a supply of land for future farming and forestry. Less development also means local taxpayers will not have to pay for expensive public services that a new residential development would demand – services such as schools, roads, police, fire, and rescue.

Conserving land is good for tourism as well. People venture out to the countryside to explore Civil War sites, hike the Appalachian Trail, enjoy outdoor recreation and marvel at the natural scenic vistas. All of this enhances our quality of life.

And for land owners who donate a conservation easement, there can be significant tax advantages, translating into substantial savings on their federal, state and local tax bills. Virginia offers a state tax credit program to the landowner that they can take either advantage of or sell to other taxpayers. There are also several federal tax advantages. The federal estate tax benefits provided by the American Farm and Ranch Protection Act may make it possible for many families to pass their properties on with significant savings on inheritance taxes or take the value of the easement donation as a charitable gift deduction over the course of multiple years.

If you are interested in learning more about protecting your land from development – no matter the size – and all the benefits associated with a conservation easement, please contact the Land Trust of Virginia: