PRESS RELEASE: June 7, 2017

CONTACT: Elizabeth Friel, Executive Director   804-462-0929

Conservation Group to Protect

Land in Essex County

The Northern Neck Land Conservancy has begun work to protect farmland and open space in Essex County at the invitation of property owners in the county. The land conservancy’s board voted recently to expand to Essex after landowners there asked the board to write conservation easements for their properties.

“Essex already has more acres protected in conservation easements than any other county in the coastal plain and demand for new easements is growing,” said land conservancy president Lawrence Latane´.  “It is an honor to have been invited to work in Essex and to have the confidence of conservation-minded landowners, not only on the Northern Neck, but on the other side of the Rappahannock, as well.”

Essex landowners have placed more than 23,250 acres in conservation easements to date.  The easements are legal instruments which surrender development rights in exchange for tax credits that can be applied against state and federal taxes or sold for cash. While easements sever most development rights, landowners retain all other property rights and are under no obligation to allow public access to their properties.

“Essex is10th in the state for the amount of conserved acreage,” Latane´ said.  “The ranking is a testament to the numerous county landowners and farm families who regard easements as the surest way to preserve farmland for future generations and to protect the county’s rural beauty, wildlife and way of life.” The land preservation movement in Essex has been led by the Essex County Countryside Alliance, which has promoted farmland preservation for environmental protection and economic development to strengthen local agriculture.  The alliance is an advocacy group but does not write or hold conservation easements.

The Northern Neck Land Conservancy earned national accreditation two years ago and holds easements in the five counties of the Northern Neck where interest in preserving private land is also growing.  The conservancy is led by a volunteer board of directors and is staffed by Executive Director Elizabeth Friel and Office Manager Barbara Mait.

The conservancy added about 300 acres of easements last year, including a property in Westmoreland County that buffers Westmoreland State Park and comprises part of the view that tourists see on the approach to Stratford Hall.  The conservancy wrote an easement for a 51-acre property last year that was named a “Virginia Treasure” by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.  The land fronts the Chesapeake Bay in Lancaster County and represents what the department called a rare example of Chesapeake Bay maritime forest.

All told, almost 32,000 acres of land are under various conservation easements in the five counties of the Northern Neck.

More information about the land conservancy can be found at, or by calling Elizabeth Friel at 804-462-0979.