So who among us has seen historical markers along highways? Most of us! But how many have seen markers celebrating a moment in conservation history? Well, now you can.

Last month a new marker was placed by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in Goochland County commemorating the first donation of a conservation easement to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation — in June 1968. The easement on a 104 acre property owned by James M. Ball, Jr. was also the first recorded conservation easement in the Commonwealth.

Thanks to Parker Agelasto, Executive Director of the Capital Region Land Conservancy, for bringing this bit of conservation history to our attention. Parker notes: “While merely a sign along the side of the road to some passersby, I trust all of you will see the incredible benefit of acknowledging our 50-year history of land conservation in Virginia and the visionary leadership of individuals like Mr. Ball. In a letter from FitzGerald Bemiss dated January 21, 1969, he writes to Mr. Ball that the ‘Commission (of Outdoor Recreation) is aware that you were the original pioneer of this idea (open space easement). It took someone who was both generous and capable of taking the long view to make this move and to set an example which others will increasingly understand and want to follow. All of us on the Commission want to express our gratitude and respect for this great contribution, not only to our immediate area but to the whole State.'”

Today, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, a member of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, protects nearly 850,000 acres in 109 counties, the vast majority through conservation easements. This makes VOF one of the largest land conservation organizations in the nation. But, it all began with one individual making a donation. And the importance of individual action for conserving our quality of life continues to a driving force of land conservation today.

A new historical marker was dedicated last month in Goochland County, Virginia, marking the first donation of a conservation easement to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation — 51 years ago in 1968. (Image: Parker Agelasto)