September 11, 2006 [LINK / comment]

Conserving land in the Valley

I recently noticed some huge brown signs along the side of I-81, the kind that announce things like parks and historical sites, but this one was advertising the availability of Augusta County for industrial development. "Heritage shmeritage!?" I gather that this is part of the Board of Supervisors' campaign to attract industrial developers to the proposed "mega-site" near the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyer's Cave. See my blog post of May 15, which highlights the environment- friendly attitude of Augusta County supervisors Kay Frye (a Republican) and Nancy Sorrells.

Worried that not enough people are doing their part to urge our local leaders to "Whoa down!," on Friday I paid a visit to the Valley Conservation Council, in downtown Staunton, and I learned a lot in a short time. The organization's primary policy tool for protecting land and water against pollution and other environmental harm is through "conservation easements," which are voluntary, perpetual obligations to set aside certain tracts of privately-owned land for the benefit of all. In return, the property owners get a substatial tax reduction. Another tool is the establishment of "agricultural / forestal districts" within which no non-agricultural use will take place. These voluntary agreements have a term of between four and ten years. In my mind, those are exactly the kind of enlightened, practical steps that are necessary. I only hope that enough residents of Augusta County wake up and push their leaders to adopt a more restrained, far-sighted development policy.