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Date: October 08, 2004

Virginia records first CREP conservation easement

(RICHMOND, Va.) - The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) recently completed the first conservation easement under the state's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), permanently protecting 95 acres of stream buffers in Albemarle County from development, farming or commercial use.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), under an agreement with DCR and in partnership with the local U.S. Department of Agriculture office, worked with the landowner to complete the easement.

The easement, which will protect 100-foot riparian buffers on both sides of three streams flowing into Middle Branch, a tributary of the Hardware River, was officially recorded late last month in Albemarle land records. Conservation easements are permanent deed conditions voluntarily agreed upon by a landowner that protect environmentally sensitive property from development or other inappropriate use. The landowner can sell, mortgage or otherwise transfer the property in every normal fashion, but the restrictions of the easement convey with the property. A CREP easement does not grant public access to the riparian buffer or the stream protected by the easement.

"The conservation easement portion of Virginia's CREP agreement is an innovative tool for permanently protecting important buffer areas, said DCR Director Joseph H. Maroon. "Our partnership with organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is also a tremendous asset when approaching potential landowners."

"The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is very excited to be a partner with the state in the CREP easement program," said Roy A. Hoagland, CBF Virginia executive director. "We look forward to working with many more Virginia landowners to permanently protect habitat and water quality on their properties."

CREP is a federal and state cost-share program that works to improve water quality and protect environmentally sensitive areas by promoting the voluntary establishment and restoration of forested streamside buffers, filter strips and wetlands. Landowners can receive cost-share and incentive payments to cover the cost of installing streamside fencing; providing alternative water facilities for livestock; limiting stream access; constructing stream crossings, low-level dikes and water control structures; planting trees; and doing site preparation. Landowners have the option of enrolling eligible land in CREP for 10 or 15 years, for which they also receive annual rental payments for the duration of their contracts.

Through DCR, Virginia also offers a CREP easement option that pays the landowner an additional $500 per acre for placing a permanent conservation easement on their CREP acreage.

For more information about CREP contact a local USDA service center. For more information about CREP conservation easements on completed CREP projects, contact Libby Norris at CBF (804) 780-1392 or Gary Moore at DCR (804) 692-0070.

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