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Conservation easement to protect land next to Shenandoah National Park

A woman looks through binoculars at a view overlooking Shenandoah National Park.
Randi B. Hagi
The project will protect some of the forested mountains and valleys visible from Skyline Drive and I-64.

The Southern Shenandoah Borderlands Project recently got $7 million in federal funding to protect the land through the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy program.

The program is administered through the agency, who partners with state agencies to help encourage protection of privately-owned forest lands through conservation easements or land purchases, according to Gwen Mason, public affairs officer for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.

"A conservation easement is a perpetual legal agreement written as a deed, so it protects land in perpetuity," Mason said.

In a statement, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner praised the federal funding amount.

"Protecting our beautiful landscapes is critical to help ensure Virginians can enjoy them for generations to come. We're glad this funding will preserve thousands of acres of scenic land and boost outdoor recreation, a critical part of the local economy.

The land included in the project is made up of four tracts between Waynesboro and Crozet, which border the national park. Of the four tracts, one is municipally owned by the city of Charlottesville, while the other three are privately owned.

According to Mason, the three privately owned tracts are "large enough to contain multiple mountain peaks and ridges in the viewshed of Skyline Drive and Interstate 64."

The Forest Service collaborated on this initiative with the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Virginia Department of Forestry.