Thirty years ago, the world was a different place than it is today. Eric L. Fitzgerald, chair of the board of Valley Conservation Council, describes it as “…a time of unprecedented change in our world. Germany was reunified, Poland began its exit from the Soviet Bloc, and the Hubble Telescope was launched. The World Wide Web was in its infancy and the Shenandoah Valley was experiencing growth that few residents had ever envisioned.” Thirty years ago, a small group of forward thinkers gathered together to find ways of protecting the valley land they loved and of preserving both its productive beauty and its resources. From their vision, Valley Conservation Council was born and, as a result, tens of thousands of acres of valuable farm and forestland, streams and rivers, and historical landscapes are now protected.
With a mission of promoting land use that sustains the farms, forests, open spaces, and cultural heritage of the greater Shenandoah Valley Region, VCC continues its work of three decades – conserving land and water, preserving working farms and forests, promoting sensible development, and protecting the health of this regional and iconic ecosystem.
Botetourt County is part of VCC’s 11-county service area. Twenty-five years ago, shortly after moving to the area, Genevieve Goss met one of VCC’s founders, Faye Cooper, at the Fincastle Festival. As Goss describes it, “I was pleased to be in Botetourt County and grateful to find an organization actively working in conserving this beautiful place.” So, Goss joined VCC as a member and volunteer, later becoming a board member and then contractor, and still continues her service to the region as VCC’s Upper James Program Director. She works throughout the Upper James watershed providing assistance with land conservation and educational outreach.
As an accredited land trust, VCC follows the highest legal, environmental, and financial standards in holding and promoting conservation easements which are often used to protect working farms and forests, to improve water quality by creating riparian buffers along nearby water bodies, and to guard viewsheds and corridors of natural, historic or scenic value. In addition to protecting a property in perpetuity, these easements may offer tax benefits for the landowner.
Membership in Valley Conservation Council does not require being an owner of large tracts of land under conservation easement. VCC has many members who support the educational outreach that the organization does and who want VCC to continue land conservation efforts for generations to come.
As VCC Executive Director John D. Hutchinson V described its founding, “Valley Conservation Council…still partners with landowners and others to conserve land, focusing on conservation easements. Today we all reap the rewards of seeds sown three decades ago. It is an honor to carry forward the mission of this organization in which I believe.”
VCC hopes to continue to help landowners turn their visions into reality. For more information about the work VCC does, membership, or to donate in support of VCC, visit valleyconservation.org or find Valley Conservation Council on Facebook.