Easements help preserve beauty of Augusta County



When Taylor Cole looks out his back window Monday afternoon he can make out the 500 acres of land he’s set aside for conservation by where the snow fades from the mountains and where the trees get thick at the edge of the pens where he keeps 26 cows.


Cole has owned the farm, which is about three miles outside of downtown Deerfield, since 1989. In 2004 and again in 2013 he decided he wanted to conserve a portion of the land he owns so future generations can enjoy the area which will never be subdivided or developed and where wildlife habitats will be preserved.


“The longer you live you become aware of how special it is and how important it is to protect it,” he said. “We need to take and preserve areas like this while we can.”


Cole was one of five families in Augusta County to protect 1,255 acres of land through easements in 2013 through the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.


Cole, who was a banker for many years and is now the vice-chairman of the planning commission for Augusta County as well as a land conservation specialist, wants to make sure the beauty of Virginia is protected as the population continues to rise.


Easements recorded in 2013 share more than two miles of boundaries with the George Washington National Forest and help to protect nearly five miles of frontage along the Calfpasture River —where Cole lives with his wife Lois — Long Glade Creek, Hamilton Branch and Mossy Creek.


Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between private landowners and a qualified land trust such as the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, that restrict future development while keeping land in private ownership to be farmed, forested and enjoyed by landowners. Landowners who donate easements can receive state and federal tax benefits.


While easements can vary in restrictiveness, Cole’s agreement is a particularly specific one. He keeps 100 foot or more buffers around Calfpasture River, and wildlife habitats to promote a wide variety of animal life. He said with the exception of quails, the land sees everything from eagles, rabbits, bears, bobcats, deer and wood ducks.


The closest family to the Coles are three-quarters of a mile away. The solitude is peaceful, Cole said. Although he enjoys having visitors to the farm to share in the beauty.


Taylor and Lois married five years ago, and the best part of living in such a beautiful area, is having someone to share it with, Cole said.


“But there isn’t anything bad about living here either,” he said with a laugh. “There is a way of life to it.”

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