Stories in Virginia

Land Protection at VVCR

Protecting land on the Eastern Shore through acquisition and conservation easements.

The mirror like surface of a large pond reflects the tall pine trees and limbless, bleached snags that line its edge.

The Nature Conservancy’s land protection program at the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve (VVCR) includes purchasing land directly, assisting local, state and federal conservation partners with land acquisition, and helping private owners protect their land with conservation easements.

Each year VVCR staff members monitor the 33,000 acres of land owned by TNC, as well as 70 private conservation easement properties that protect more than 13,000 acres.

A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement that protects land for future generations. An easement may limit certain types of uses or prevent development from taking place on the land in perpetuity while the land remains in private hands.

An easement selectively targets only those rights necessary to protect specific conservation values, such as water quality or migration routes, and is individually tailored to meet a landowner's needs.

Because the land remains in private ownership, with the remainder of the rights intact, an easement property continues to provide economic benefits for the area in the form of jobs, economic activity and property taxes.

Positive Economic Impacts

Summary highlighting the positive economic impact of conserved land on the Eastern Shore.


Making a Positive Impact

A study released in 2017 from George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis and Urban Analytics, Inc. highlighted the positive impact conserved land has on the economies of both Northampton and Accomack Counties in Virginia. The study was commissioned by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Zone Management Program to inform decision-making at the county and state levels. Read the full report.

The study shows conserved lands on Virginia's Eastern Shore were associated with more than $230 million in economic activity in the region in 2016. The study looked at three sources of economic activity—organizations involved in land conservation; the aquaculture industry; and tourism focused on outdoor recreation.

TNC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Commonwealth of Virginia and other partners have invested more than $100 million since 1969 to protect and restore 133,000 acres of coastal and mainland habitats.

Conservation Partners

Through the Virginia Eastern Shore Conservation Alliance, VVCR staff works with local, state and federal partners, as well as private organizations, to conserve land in Accomack and Northampton counties.

Over the years TNC has assisted Virginia’s departments of Conservation and Recreation, Wildlife Resources and the Coastal Zone Management Program, to identify and conserve natural areas for wildlife and public access.

We have partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add property to the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, and helped develop the Cape Charles Bike and Hike Trail.

One private partner, Virginia’s Eastern Shore Land Trust (VESLT), was established in 2003 to protect local farms, forests and wetlands. VESLT holds 76 conservation easements on 14,000 acres of land, including 1,037 acres that are co-held by The Nature Conservancy. TNC and VESLT also partner in outreach and education efforts, including an annual 2nd grade field trip to Virginia's Brownsville Preserve.


Ben Nettleton, Land Protection Manager
Phone: (757) 442-3605