The Open Space Lands Act (10.1, Chapter 17) provides the authority for Soil and Water Conservation Districts to hold open-space easements. Under this authority, the TJSWCD holds open-space easements to protect and enhance water quality. The District has been focusing its efforts on securing riparian easements to preserve forested buffers along waterways. All easements held by the TJSWCD contribute to the protection of water resources in your community. The District's Easement Program is intended to fill a void by holding easements that other easement-holding entities are unable to hold.
The TJSWCD currently holds 16 easements. Twelve of those are riparian forest buffer easements, while four are "whole tract" easements. In total 557 acres are permanently preserved, including 121 acres of permanent riparian forest buffers along 43,812 linear feet of streams. TJSWCD Easement Pamphlet
Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation (Foundation): Founded by the TJSWCD in 2003, the Foundation provides the resources to ensure that the District will be able to meet the long term administrative and custodial duties of holding easements in perpetuity. The Foundation is governed by its own Board of Directors who are appointed by the local governing bodies of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson Counties, the City of Charlottesville and by the TJSWCD Board of Directors. The financial resources of the Foundation, acquired through easement holding fees and other contributions, are set aside in investments to support the TJSWCD Easement Program well into the future. Easement Foundation InformationWhat is the purpose of the TJSWCD Easement Program?
The primary purpose of the TJSWCD Easement Program is to protect water resources. As such, the program focuses on the protection of:
-riparian forest buffers
-groundwater recharge areas
Three Categories of Easements
Regulatory-Based Easements fulfill federal, state or local requirements intended to protect water quality for new development. The developer or owner offers to permanently protect a stream buffer or other resource area in lieu of more expensive Best Management Practices and pays the full custodial fees associated with these easements.
Stewardship Easements are offered voluntarily by the landowner to the District in perpetuity. The landowners are encouraged to donate funds adequate to pay for putting the land under easement and maintaing the easement in perpetuity.
StreamKeeper Properties have not yet had a deed of easement filed because funds are not available to pay for the expenses involved. Owners have willingly enrolled their properties into the StreamKeeper program because they want to see the land protected. These properties will become Stewardship Easements, if and when funding becomes available to cover the custodial fee.
A Proffer Alternative: Proffers are often offered by developers to mitigate impacts from a development. These may include offers of funding for new roads that are needed to handle increased traffic or funding for schools to provide for increases in school-age populations. The Foundation will accept financial proffers from developers who wish to mitigate the loss of trees or riparian habitat caused by their developments. Proffered funds will be used to enable the TJSWCD to accept voluntarily donated easements, providing permanent protection of trees and riparian areas on off-site properties.
A Stormwater Management Tool: Permanent protection of opens space, especially open space along riparian areas, is a recognized tool for management both the quality and quantity of stormwater runoff.
Why should the TJSWCD hold your easement?
- The TJSWCD has been protecting precious soil and water resources in Albemarle, Nelson, Louisa, and Fluvanna counties for over sixty-five years.
- The TJSWCD will hold easements on small, isolated parcels of land, which may be ineligible for other easement programs.
- As a locally based organization, TJSWCD will make certain your wishes for the land, as documented in the deed of easement, are carried on forever. Periodic staff visits ensure the land is being properly managed.
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What is an Easement?
- An easement with the TJSWCD is a legal agreement between the District and a landowner to permanently preserve and protect the land in an undeveloped state.
- Easements are tailored to reflect the conservation values of the property and the goals of the landowner. The terms of an easement are negotiable.
- Easements allow you to permanently protect all or a portion of your land without giving up ownership. The land is yours to live on and enjoy, to sell, or to pass on to heirs.
- Easements do not grant the public access to your land.
- Easements might include an entire parcel or farm. Others might be only 200 feet wide, extending just 100 feet from the center of the stream.
Benefits of Easements
- An easement provides the security of mind that your wishes for the land will be honored forever. You decide the terms and conditions of your permanent easement.
- An easement guarantees that the beauty and natural resources you enjoy on your land will be there for your children.
- Easements enhance habitat with a diversity of plants and animals and provide a great opportunity for bird watchers or other wildlife enthusiasts.
- The trees and other vegetation in a protected area filter pollutants, reduce erosion and maintain cooler water temperatures.
- An easement may lower the estate tax due on the land, making it possible to keep the property in the family generation after generation.
- A donation of an easement may qualify as a deduction on your federal income taxes or for a state tax credit.
- TJSWCD easements may fulfill required stormwater regulations in lieu of other practices such as stormwater retention basins.
Steps in Donating an Easement
- Contact the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District at (434) 975-0224.
- A staff person from the District visits you on your property to discuss easement options.
- The TJWRP Foundation Board of Directors considers preliminary approval of the proposed easement.
- If preliminary approval is granted, the staff person works with you and your attorney to create an easement that best suits your goals for the land.
- TJSWCD staff calculate a fee associated with the easement that covers set-up costs and monitoring in perpetuity.
- The TJWRP Foundation Board of Directors and the TJSWCD Board of Directors consider final approval of the easement boundaries and provisions.
- Donation of the easement is complete when it is signed by the TJSWCD and the landowner and it is recorded in the Clerk’s office of the Circuit Court.
- If you wish to take advantage of one of the financial incentives available to those who make a charitable donation, you must obtain an appraisal for the value of the land under easement.
Terms of the Deed of Easement
- Each deed of easement is unique and reflects the interests of the landowner, but all TJSWCD easements cover several basic restrictions to protect the defined water resource area. The District restricts
- Cutting of brush and vegetation in proximity to the water resource
- Allowable impervious surfaces - total square feet of roof and driveway
- Soil disturbances such as grading, mining or blasting
- Landowners are required to give the TJSWCD a 60 day notification of sale or transfer of the land.
- With due notification, inspections are made of the property to ensure that the terms of the easement are being kept.
- Upon any breach or threatened potential breach of the agreement, the TJSWCD may, after reasonable notice to Grantor, take such action as the Grantee determines to be necessary or appropriate to enforce the covenants and restrictions set forth in this Easement.
1. Stewardship Easement: Riparian BufferMatthews Property: This easement consists of two areas on the property of George and Joy Mathews, protecting 3,150 feet of stream. The first consists of a buffer along 2,500 of a portion of Buck Mountain Creek, a major tributary to the South Fork of the Rivanna River (which contributes to the Charlottesville Reservoir, the primary source of water for the City of Charlottesville). The second consists of 650 feet on a tributary to Buck Mountain Creek located in heavily forested land. This scenic property has mixed forest and mowed fields, and trees have been planted in un-forested portions of the buffer.
2. Stewardship Easement: "Whole Property"
3. Regulation-Based Easement: Riparian BufferAdvance Mills: The easement in the Advance Mills Subdivision in Albemarle County consists of a 200-foot riparian buffer on the western bank of the North Fork of the Rivanna River. This is a scenic site which consists of mixed forest and fields that had been cut for hay, rolling hills and some steep cliffs. Portions of the easement which had previously been mowed are now being allowed to proceed through a natural succession to form a deep forested buffer along the river. In addition to protecting the water quality of the Rivanna River, this 4,600-foot easement will encourage a diverse range of wildlife. Return to Top
The StreamKeeper Program is intended for landowners who would like to protect their property in perpetuity, but do not have the financial resources available to pay the fees associated with conveying a permanent easement to the TJSWCD. Riparian forest buffers, critical slopes, springs, wetlands, and groundwater recharge areas are considered desirable resources to enroll in this program because these landscape features help ensure that overall regional water quality is protected. Once a property is designated a StreamKeeper Property, a landowner agrees to direct building and development away from the significant resource, and to maintain sensitive areas in permanent forest.
The StreamKeeper designation is awarded by the TJSWCD. A "whole" property may be nominated or just the portion which protects the water resource, such as a riparian forest buffer area. Interested owners work with the District’s staff and the Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation to evaluate a piece of land and to draft a deed of easement. (The Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation was developed by the TJSWCD to administer their Easement Program.) A deed of easement sets basic management guidelines that ensure protection of the water resources in perpetuity. Once a property is designated a StreamKeeper property, staff works with the landowner to obtain funding to pay the easement-holding fees. When all the fees are paid and a deed of easement is filed, the StreamKeeper property becomes a TJSWCD Stewardship Easement. The ultimate goal of the StreamKeeper program is to have all properties protected under an open-space easement.
Help make permanent protection for these properties possible by making a donation to the TJWRPF. Funding can be accepted for a particular easement in the StreamKeepers queue, (an “adopted” easement), or for general funding of the queue. Gifts can be made to the Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation, a 501(C) 3 organization. All gifts to this Foundation are charitable contributions and are tax deductible as allowed by the law.
Steps to StreamKeeper Designation and a Finalized Easement
- The landowner contacts the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District (TJSWCD) by email or at (434) 975-0224.
- District staff reviews topographical and tax maps, and aerial photos.
- Thomas Jefferson Water Resources Protection Foundation gives preliminary approval for a deed of easement.
- Staff conducts site visit, evaluates water resource value of property and reviews a draft deed of easement.
- Thomas Jefferson Water Resource Protection Foundation grants StreamKeepers designation.
- Foundation and property owners work together to raise funds to pay the costs associated with filing an easement.
- A final deed of easement is approved, a baseline report is created, and an easement is filed.
- The TJSWCD begins long term monitoring and promises to take action if there is any activity that threatens the water quality value of the property.
Links to Other Easement-Holding Organizations
Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) Program for Albemarle County
The ACE (Acquisition of Conservation Easements) Program is a voluntary land protection program developed by the County to purchase easements on family farms and rural properties owned by landowners of modest means - those who would receive little or no financial benefit from a donated easement.
A C.R.E.P. (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) land conservation easement is an option after the landowner installs riparian buffer protection on agricultural land, coordinated by the US Natural Resources Conservation Service or a Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. The easement is held by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Call DCR: 804-786-7717.
Historic Green Springs
Historic Green Springs, Inc., is a land trust that holds easements in the US Park Service designated National Historic Landmark District in Louisa County. Contact them at P.O. Box 1685,Louisa, VA 23093-1685 or phone (540) 967-1099.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.Through its science-based planning, the Conservancy has identified five watersheds and 22 examples of large contiguous native forests in the Virginia Piedmont Region as priority sites for protection.
Piedmont Environmental Council
The Piedmont Environmental Council promotes and protects the Virginia Piedmonts rural economy, natural resources, history and beauty. They promote the donations of conservation and open-space easements and offer assistance in the process.
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation was established in 1966 by the General Assembly to conserve and protect Virginia’s scenic, natural, historic, recreational, scientific, and open-space areas for the benefit of the public. The primary mechanism for accomplishing this mission is its open-space easement program.