TPL and Partners Conserve 1320 Acres Near Fort A.P. Hill (VA)

Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, 12/21/2006? Fort A.P. Hill formalized its partnership with five organizations dedicated to conservation around the installation during a signing ceremony Dec. 19 at Romenick Hall. The ceremony also celebrated the first conservation easement placed on a property adjacent to the installation via the partnership. Dozens of leaders from the State of Virginia, local communities surrounding the post and senior officials from the Department of Defense and Army gathered for the event.

Formed under the auspices of the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program, the partnership links The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the DoD.

The first easement, the 1,320-acre Portobago Creek tract, is strategically located, bordering nearly 3 miles of Fort A.P. Hill’s eastern boundary and close to important firing ranges and the impact area. The easement transaction for this first parcel was secured by The Trust for Public Land, which worked with the landowners to develop the terms of the easement. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation will hold the easement. Financial contributions came from the Department of Defense, the Army, and the state of Virginia.

“In itself, this 1,320-acre conservation easement is a major achievement, and TPL is glad to have played a role in partnership with DoD, the Army, the Commonwealth of Virginia, local government, and community and conservation leaders,” said Alan Front, senior vice president of The Trust for Public Land. “But even more, we are grateful for the “win-win” nature of this partnership, which will help to ensure the long-term future of the vital training operations at Fort A.P. Hill at the same time it protects critical community open space and wildlife habitat in an area of rapid growth and intense development pressures.”

Front added, “Senator Warner’s strong support of the effort here, and his leadership in the protection of key buffer areas at military installations across America, have taken this approach to an exciting new level. With his much-appreciated help, we are all looking forward to more good news and a bright future for A.P. Hill and the communities surrounding it.”

U.S. Senator John Warner said, “This partnership will create an important buffer for Fort A.P. Hill, and will add to the conservation of open spaces across the Commonwealth. This is truly a ‘win-win’ for Virginia and the Army.”

Preston Bryant, Jr., Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, hailed the partnership and the first easement calling it an example of the type of partnerships Virginia needs as the state pursues Gov. Tim Kaine’s stated goal of preserving 400,000 acres of land during his term in office.

Alex A. Beehler, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, noted he was glad the Commonwealth of Virginia had made preserving a buffer around Fort A.P. Hill a priority, adding that the 1,320-acre easement was the first of its type in the Chesapeake Bay region. “There will be more to come,” he said.

Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, said, “These buffers let us protect this precious resource we have…the land where we establish facilities and train. Our actions today will help preserve those lands so that America’s sons and daughters called to defend this nation will have a place to go and train.”

Davis said the real work of the Army goes on at places like Fort A.P. Hill and that programs such as ACUB support the Army’s sustainability strategy.

Lt. Col. Michael S. Graese, post commander, acknowledged Soldiers, Marines and Sailors in the crowd, who represented the military units from all branches of the armed forces that train annually at Fort A.P. Hill. “From Fort A.P. Hill’s standpoint, these men represent those who are the true beneficiaries of this conservation partnership. Their ability to train their units under realistic conditions will be preserved as this initiative grows,” Graese said.

Urban and suburban encroachment has become increasingly problematic for military installations nationwide. Incompatible land uses – primarily residential developments – close to an installation’s boundary interfere with training and other military operations. Usually, noise from the installation is the main concern for residential or commercial activity nearby.

The Fort A.P. Hill Compatible Use Buffer Coalition represents a unique partnership between the Department of Defense and non-governmental conservation groups working together to preserve open lands surrounding Fort A.P. Hill through the purchase of conservation easements from willing landowners.

Conservation easements limit future land use and development options and ensure parcels are permanently protected for conservation and open space. The landowner retains legal title to the land and the ability to maintain its current use. The military assists with funding for the easement with the conservation organization then serving as the easement holder.