More than 160 acres of Roanoke County woodlands will be protected from future construction and development, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Forestry. Mr. and Mrs. John Connor entered into an agreement with VDOF to protect some of their land on the eastern slope of Catawba Mountain.
The easement ensures the preservation of the property’s contents, including its unique trees and rock outcrops. The woodlands also hold almost 3,000 feet of Mason Creek, which is a source of drinking water to some downstream communities.
Here is the VDOF news release:
Mr. and Mrs. John Connor have granted the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) a working forest conservation easement that protects 163 acres of land in Roanoke County. The easement combines two tax parcels into no more than two future divisions whose development is restricted, conserving a large block of forestland in perpetuity.
The Connor’s conservation easement is the first VDOF easement in Roanoke County and marks 1,174 acres conserved in easements with VDOF since Jan. 1, 2013.
The Conner Family Roanoke Property lies on the eastern slope and summit of Catawba Mountain. It shares approximately 1,500 feet of property line with The Havens Wildlife Management Area. The property is 100 percent forested, the management of which is guided by a Forest Stewardship Management Plan. All of the woodland is considered high conservation value by the VDOF based on forest quality and productivity, water quality and wildlife habitat. A rare and unique forest type made up of Chestnut Oak, Pitch Pine and Virginia Pine occupies the mid and upper slopes of the property. Abundant rock outcrops add to the aesthetic value of the property.
More than 2,800 feet of Mason Creek are either within the property or bordered by it. Mason Creek provides a source of drinking water to downstream communities. The easement will help protect water quality and aquatic habitat in the watershed, as well as mitigate potential downstream flooding.
Mike Santucci, VDOF’s assistant director of forestland conservation, said, “I cannot express enough my appreciation to the Connors for their donation. They are committed to active and planned forest management, and a well-established working relationship with the VDOF. We are thankful for the opportunity to help the family ensure the woodland legacy they have worked so hard to establish.”
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or a non-profit conservation organization that protects the conservation values of a property. The landowner continues to own, use and control the land. A working forest easement protects forest values and benefits by assuring sustainable forest management practices will run with the property in perpetuity, providing continuous supplies of forest products and natural benefits, such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat and scenic values.
The Connor easement is another addition to the growing number of protected private forestland in Virginia. More than 373,600 family forest landowners control 10.1 million acres of forestland in the Commonwealth. Santucci said, “These working forestlands are critical in determining a sustainable flow of natural benefits and timber products, which contribute to the quality of life enjoyed by all Virginians.”
The VDOF conservation easement program is the only one in the state that focuses primarily on protecting working forests. To be considered, a property must be at least 50 acres in size, 75 percent forested, and the landowner must be willing to have a forest stewardship management plan prepared. Landowners who want to ensure that their land will be forever maintained as forest may consider a VDOF easement.
For additional information on the VDOF conservation easement program, contact Mike Santucci, assistant director of forestland conservation, at 434.220.9182, or visit the VDOF website at www.dof.virginia.gov.
The Virginia Department of Forestry protects and develops healthy, sustainable forest resources for Virginians. Headquartered in Charlottesville, the Agency has forestry staff members assigned to every county to provide citizen service and public safety protection across the Commonwealth. VDOF is an equal opportunity provider.
With nearly 16 million acres of forestland and more than 144,000 Virginians employed in forestry, forest products and related industries, Virginia forests provide more than $27.5 Billion annually in benefits to the Commonwealth.