Conservation Easement
Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements that landowners enter to permanently restrict the uses of their land. An interested landowner works with a conservation group (see Resources page) to craft a deed of conservation easement that lays out what’s special about the land and the restrictions that will protect it.

With a conservation easement, the landowner retains the typical rights of property ownership, such as choosing whether and what to farm, selling the land, and passing it on to heirs. To maintain the conservation values, the landowner and conservation holder determine the easement terms on topics such as division of the land, future construction, and what can take place in high-resource areas like stream corridors, historic sites, or scenic parts of a property.

A conservation easement can be achieved by entering a voluntary legal agreement (easement donation) or through an option described below.

Purchase of Development Rights
The Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program was created to preserve rural lands, water resources and environmentally sensitive lands. The program enables Stafford County to acquire conservation easements voluntarily offered by property owners as a way to ensure that Stafford’s resources are protected and efficiently used, and limits further residential development on a property. Landowners with 20 or more acres may apply to sell their development rights (the rights to develop agriculturally zoned property for use other than agricultural) in turn for placing their land in a conservation easement. Eligibility requirements and additional information can be found in Stafford County Code, Chapter 22A.

Four PDR application rounds have been held since 2009, and there are currently 1,035 acres of rural lands that have been preserved under PDR conservation easements (CONSERVED PDR PROPERTIES). The 2022 PDR application round is now closed, and an additional 328 acres are currently in the PDR process. The next application round will be announced when sufficient County funds are available. 

The Agricultural and Land Conservation Committee oversees the Purchase of Development Rights Program and works with the program administrator to promote the PDR program and review applications from landowners. The Committee also evaluates additional opportunities for the protection of open space. Over 12,000 acres of land have been protected through various means, as shown on the OPEN SPACE LANDS map.

Additional Information:
PDR Application    Sample of Deed of Easement    PDR FAQs    PDR Presentation 2022    Stafford County Code, Chapter 22A   Agricultural and Land Conservation Committee  

Transfer of Development Rights
Do you own land near Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve? If your land falls inside of the sending area delineated on this map, you may qualify for the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. The TDR program protects the rural area surrounding Crow’s Nest and encourages development closer to areas where public services and infrastructure are already in place. TDR allows by-right development to be transferred from designated sending areas to designated receiving areas through the exchange of development rights. It is a voluntary process intended to permanently conserve agricultural/ forestry and park uses of lands, reduce development densities on those and other lands, and to preserve rural open spaces and natural and scenic resources. The TDR program differs from PDR because no County funds are utilized, and the transactions are conducted between property owners.
Code of Ordinances/Stafford County, VA/Municode Library

REPI Program
Do you own land near Marine Corps Base Quantico? You may qualify for the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program. REPI is a federal program created to conserve lands adjacent to or near military installations to avoid land use conflicts that can limit or restrict military training and operations. The REPI program funds cost-sharing partnerships with local governments and private conservation groups to conserve land through easements or property acquisition. 

Land Donation
A gift of land for conservation is a generous legacy a landowner can provide to future generations, as well as to honor those who came before them. Landowners wishing to retain maximum flexibility during their lifetimes might consider a bequest, life estate, or other remainder interest for carrying out their conservation plans. Donating land can have tax benefits for the donor, including income tax, capital gains tax, and estate tax benefits. Landowners should always discuss gifts of land with their financial advisors to make sure they’ve considered all possible outcomes.

The County can acquire land through donation on a case-by-case basis, and private land trusts are also available to discuss your goals for the land, its special resources, and what steps are needed to complete a transfer of title.