The James C. Justice Companies, owned by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, recently donated a conservation easement on 4,500 acres in Albemarle County, Virginia. (Image: Emily Hayes/Charlottesville Tomorrow)

Not far from Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, the James C. Justice Companies, Inc. own 4,500 acres in Albemarle County, Virginia. Interestingly, the owner of the companies is West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. 

Justice has now donated a conservation easement on the 4,500 acres to the Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority. The easement was officially recorded in July. This brings the total acreage under conservation easements in Albemarle County to over 100,000 acres, about a fifth of the county. 

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports the easement allows continued forestry and agricultural operations, requires use of Virginia Department of Forestry best management practices, and reserves the ability to develop up to ten dwellings on the property. The Daily Progress also notes that “buildings of more than 1,000 square feet that are visible from Monticello will be subject to screening and architectural requirements to minimize visibility.” 

Past press reports note that since the property was acquired by Justice from MeadWestvaco Corporation in 2010 there was some public concern about how development of the property might impact the region and Monticello. 

A press release issued by the Justice Companies quotes Leslie Greene Bowman, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation which owns Monticello, as writing “the Foundation is ‘grateful and pleased’ that the company is recording the conservation easement, going on to say ‘If left unprotected, this extensive land holding has the potential to accommodate as many as 460 residential buildings. Subdivision and development of the land to that extent would have a devasting impact on the viewshed from Monticello and would negatively impact the historic setting experienced by our visitors.'”

The release further notes the Justice family worked collaboratively with a number of local and state conservation groups to make the easement happen. In addition to Albemarle County these include the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. 

Albemarle County, in Virginia’s Piedmont, is entirely within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Protection of this property is another step in conserving the values that sustain the quality of life in the county, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Chesapeake watershed.

Lightning Update is a regular communication of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions of the Partnership or member organizations.
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