Stafford County and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are helping to preserve that legacy by protecting a portion of the original farm, known as the Huffman Tract, from future residential development. The county has now placed 122 acres in a perpetual conservation easement through its Purchase of Development Rights Program (PDR), working with the current landowners. NRCS provided matching funds through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to purchase the easement.
This collaboration underscores the land's agricultural and environmental significance. NRCS has classified 90 percent of the property as "prime soils(*)" and "soils of statewide importance." The wetlands portion is a Critical Resource Protection Area for Chesapeake Bay water quality. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation also designated a section of the property as a Natural Heritage Site to protect Virginia's native plant and animal life and ecosystems.
"The conservation easement will preserve not only critical cultural resources but also provide environmental benefits through preservation of forests, wildlife habitats, wetlands and waterways," said Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez, NRCS state conservationist. "The fields and forest support a varied population of wildlife, and recent and planned management activities will help protect habitat for quail and various pollinator species for years to come."
The owners hope that the preservation of their land, designated a Virginia Century Farm in 2017, will encourage other landowners in their part of the county to consider placing easements on their properties to preserve the rural character of the area and to maintain Hartwood's particular sense of place. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the state Department of Historic Resources cited the property as "a good example of a small farm complex that could at one time be found throughout the county, and that is today a rarity."
While the owners are reserving their right to build one dwelling per 100 acres per the PDR program, the total protected acreage had a development potential of 36 traditional three-acre lots or approximately 38 clustered lots. With the Huffman Tract, Stafford County has now protected 11 farms and 980 acres and retired 259 development rights through the PDR program.
"Spotted Tavern is an incredible historical and cultural resource, and we are delighted that the Harris family wants to preserve this one," said Chairman of the Stafford Board of Supervisors Crystal Vanuch. "Our Board has worked hard over the last couple of years to manage growth in the county. We hope more landowners will join the PDR program."
NRCS Conservation Easements
NRCS is the USDA's primary private lands conservation agency, working with producers and communities to meet their unique conservation and business goals while protecting the health of natural resources and the long-term sustainability of American agriculture. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/about/?cid=nrcseprd1406013
Virginia farm and forest landowners can learn more about ACEP and conservation easements by contacting their local NRCS field office or Easement Program Manager Diane Dunaway by phone (804) 287-1634 or e-mail at email@example.com.
Stafford's Purchase of Development Rights Program
The Purchase of Development Rights Program enables Stafford to acquire conservation easements voluntarily offered by property owners to ensure that Stafford's resources are protected and efficiently used and limits further residential development on a property. To find out more, visit: www.staffordcountyva.gov/1085/Purchase-of-Development-Rights-Program.