Land conservation is a Virginia tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the Commonwealth. Thomas Jefferson encountered Natural Bridge, in his words "the most sublime of nature’s works,” and assumed its stewardship by purchasing 157 acres in 1757 to preserve it. When James Madison noted the rampant cutting of Virginia’s native forests, he set aside a wood lot on his own estate, which still stands today as a rare example of old growth forest in the East. The modern conservation movement in Virginia began in 1966 when the Virginia Open Space Land Act created a way for landowners to permanently protect the places they care about, by granting conservation easements. Public investments in parks, forests, preserves, wildlife management areas, and other public lands work together with private conservation easements to preserve the landscapes that make Virginia great. Today, Virginians have protected over 1 million acres of private land and 3.5 million acres of public land.
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