Valley Conservation Council Had a Good Year in 2022 with Land Protection Efforts


The Valley Conservation Council has announced the results of its land protection efforts in 2022.  It was a good year, with 2023 looking to be even better.

Adam Schellhammer is the Executive Director of the Valley Conservation Council.

“We had a very strong year in land protection,” says Schellhammer.  “So, we helped sixteen land owners protect their land across our eleven county service area.  Those sixteen properties amounted to over 1,900 acres of land, 10 miles of protected streams and rivers and it was just very exciting.  So, it was a really productive year for us, based on a lot of momentum and relationships that had spanned sometimes ten and twenty years, and a lot of things came together to make for a very exciting year for VCC and land protection in the valley.”

Schellhammer says funding is available to help landowners offset some of the cost for the process of protecting their land.   He says Valley Conservation Council has about twenty projects in the works, so he doesn’t see any slowdown in the near future.

“We are an accredited land trust in the state of Virginia,” says Schellhammer.  “In the simplest terms, we protect land in the Shenandoah Valley.  We have eleven counties in our service area, which brings us north to Frederick, south to Botetourt, and everything in between the Blue Ridge and the West Virginia line.  We work with farmers and other landowners to protect properties that have attributes like productive farming soil, productive agricultural land or forested land, other areas that would protect water quality and the rivers and streams in the area.  So, really those are the two things that we are looking at.  We’re looking to protect agricultural land and improve and protect water quality in the area.”

When land is protected under an easement, the land is maintained and protected in perpetuity according to the terms of the easement.  The landowner retains full ownership, management, and use of the property.

“We mostly work through a tool known as a conservation easement,” says Schellhammer.  “So, a landowner will work with us and they will forego development rights on their property.  So, they will donate the value of development rights on their property.  So there will be an appraisal and whatever the value before and after, with and without the development rights would be , that’s an actual donated value.   Landowners can either use that donated amount cost on some of their tax burdens or in the state of Virginia there is a very powerful state income tax program where they can actually sell those credits and receive income from it, if their income isn’t high enough to benefit from those tax credits.  So the conservation easement is currently the best tool in our toolbox and it’s been very effective for quite a lot of years and Virginia does a lot to support that work in a number of ways.”

Since becoming an accredited land trust, Valley Conservation Council has secured 69 easements and protected over 8,500 acres throughout the Shenandoah Valley.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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