Since 1968, more than 2.5 percent of all the land area in Virginia has been put off limits from development using conservation easements.
That’s 687,117 acres under easement out of 27.3 million acres in the state, according to data from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. (And it doesn’t include other kinds of protected lands, like national parks, national forests, state parks, wildlife refuges and so on.)
The tally toward Kaine’s goal was about 352,000 acres as of September. Only thing is, as Rex and I discovered in analyzing the data on over 4,000 easements on record with the DCR, Kaine is including almost 50,000 acres put under easements during the last six months of 2005 — when Mark Warner was governor.
Kaine’s people say they include that period because it’s the first half of the fiscal year, which runs from July 2005 through June 2006. But by that reasoning, they should have stopped counting toward Kaine’s goal on June 30, 2009, and they haven’t. So, really, Kaine is giving himself a 4-and-a-half year window, when his term as governor is only four years.
Still, it’s a major achievement, and one of the most significant of Kaine’s tenure. The number of acres protected by easements has nearly doubled during Kaine’s time in the mansion. Easements added during Kaine’s term add up to something nearly twice the size of Roanoke County.
Even Kaine’s nemesis, House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) called that a good thing – through while knocking Kaine for mathematical chicanery.
Where are all these easements? How convenient you should ask. In the process of working on Rex’s story, I developed a couple of maps that didn’t make it into the paper. I thought I’d share them here.
Here’s a density map colored by how many acres are under easement in each city and county. The numbers in the legend are numbers of acres. Note that the lightest color is for localities that have no easements.
Less useful, but just so you can see it, is this map, showing where the easements are. There are more than 4,000 easements, and zoomed out this far, they all run together, but you can still get an idea of where they are just by the density of them. That clump up there in Northern Virginia is on the border of Fauquier and Loudon counties.