Conservation Easements Protect 1,000 Acres from Financial and Development Threats

When Brenda and Moyler Pond protected more than 1,000 acres on their family farms through conservation easements, they had two very good reasons for doing so.  Two proposed industrial and transportation development projects – both now set aside – had made them feel their farms were under threat, and the benefits of placing the easements offered a financial planning alternative to possibly selling land.

Wheat plants in a field

Wheat, planted late last fall, is green and growing even in mid-February. (Conservation Partners Photo by Sherri Tombarge)

The two farms, more than 630 acres in Surry County, Virginia, inherited by Moyler Pond and more than 430 in nearby Sussex County inherited by Brenda Pond, are located near Dendron, which looked for a while as though it would become the location of a 1,500-megawatt power station – the largest coal-fired power plant in Virginia, had it become a reality. More recently, a Virginia Department of Transportation proposal to build a four-lane Route 460 bypass – eventually deemed too costly – would have been disturbingly close by.

With easements now protecting their farms, the Ponds feel more comfortable.  “It will make it a lot more difficult,” said Brenda, for these kinds of projects to threaten their land.

A longleaf pine branch

The Ponds have planted 18 acres of native, slow-growing longleaf pines, part of an effort to restore the species, which once covered more than a million acres in Virginia. (Conservation Partners Photo by Sherri Tombarge)

A conservation easement is an agreement the landowner crafts with a partner agency – in this case the Virginia Outdoors Foundation – that protects the conservation values of the land while allowing the building of certain additional structures that will contribute to its value as a working farm.

The Ponds grow peanuts, cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, and rye, and like many family farmers across the nation, Moyler has found that “disaster years,” as he calls them, are a real, abiding threat.  Those years caused Moyler, like many others, to borrow from the government, loans that he needed to repay either by selling farmland or finding another way.

The conservation easement was that other way.

Conservation easements, which may be treated as charitable contributions, can generate significant tax benefits, including transferable state income tax credits that may be sold for cash, cash that can be used to clear debt, allowing farmers to continue to farm, passing that way of life on to coming generations.  The Ponds’ son, Eddie, who lives with his family in the farm’s historic home place, now works the farm full time.

Large tree in front of two white buildings

The Ponds’ farms feature a number of historic buildings, including the one-room schoolhouse at left. (Conservation Partners Photo by Sherri Tombarge)

Creating a conservation easement can be a long process requiring the work of a range of professionals.  In fact, for the Ponds, an earlier round of planning for an easement had to be aborted because of complications. This time, though, Conservation Partners was there to coordinate the work until it was complete and their benefits secured.

“Conservation Partners made it easier,” said Brenda.  “They had the expertise to see that it could be completed.”

“I really appreciate Taylor Cole [Conservation Partners’s Director of Landowner Services],” added Moyler.  “He knew the right people to go to to move this thing along.”

To talk with Conservation Partners about protecting your land, contact us at 540-464-1899 or