What do you love about the Shenandoah Valley? Is it the pastures with grazing cows and sheep, or the apple and peach orchards? The rolling fields of hay? The hardwood forests, streams, or the beautiful Shenandoah River?

Unfortunately, these natural places that protect water quality, wildlife habitat, local scenery, and rural culture are threatened. Encroaching sprawl and unplanned development threaten the healthy lands of the Shenandoah Valley, lands that produce some of the cleanest waters in the region.

Landowners have the power to take action in a big way through conservation easements. 

Through our Land Protection program, Potomac Conservancy helps protect water quality from future threats by permanently protecting land in the Potomac's headwaters. We work one-on-one with landowners in Virginia and West Virginia to protect water resources, forestland, wildlife habitat, and agricultural lands.

To date, Potomac Conservancy has permanently protected more than 14,900 acres through 76 conservation easements, including Island Ford Farm, pictured here.

Photos of island Ford Farm in Virginia, protected with a conservation easement by the Vance family.


What is a conservation easement? 

A conservation easement is a private legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust, such as Potomac Conservancy, that protects land and its conservation values permanently. The landowner and land trust together write the easement to protect the natural and scenic qualities of the land. The landowner retains title and continues to own, use, and enjoy the property, subject to the terms written in the conservation easement. 

Hear landowners and professionals answer frequently asked questions in a video series >

Read more on the basics of conservation easements >

Why donate a conservation easement?

  • Preserve your land’s special qualities
  • Make a gift to your children or grandchildren
  • Prevent future landowners from harming the land or “un-doing” your work to improve your property
  • Help maintain the landscape that defines your community
  • Enjoy the property tax, state income tax, and federal estate and income tax benefits associated with an easement donation

What do conservation easements do?

  • Protects the conservation values of land in perpetuity
  • Limits the number and size of structures
  • Prohibits industrial/commercial uses (except agriculture, forestry, ecotourism, small-scale enterprises, etc.)
  • Requires a Forest Management or Conservation Plan for some activities
  • Limits other activities based on your desired use(s) of the land


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In 2010, Potomac Conservancy was officially accredited by The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. Accreditation publicly validates the high caliber of the Conservancy's land protection work and demonstrates that it meets the industry’s best practices related to governance and management. The Conservancy is one of just 238 of the more than 1,700 land trusts nationwide to be approved since 2008.