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Greene and Madison Counties
A Focus 
for Land Conservation

January 2002 Update

The Nation

According to the National Resource Inventory, in the 15 years from 1982 to 1997, 25 million acres have been converted to development throughout the nation, more than any other change in land use. This represents a 34% increase in developed land. During that same period range land, crop land and pasture have together decreased by 34 million acres.


During the same 15 years from 1982 to 1997, Virginia converted 784,000 acres for development which is an increase of 43%, 9% more than the national average. The American Farmland Trust considers the Piedmont one of the most threatened region in the country for continuing loss of farms. 

Greene and Madison Counties

Within the northern Piedmont area of Virginia are the counties of Greene and Madison. They have their western boundaries anchored by the Blue Ridge Mountains with sizeable acreage in the Shenandoah National Park. This close proximity to the mountains and the park is central to the history of the counties, resulting in more isolation than territory further east where access and commerce were easier. The counties have no interstate highways, navigable rivers or significant rail lines.

The topography provides magnificent mountain views, farms, rivers and rolling foothills, a serene retreat from today's hectic urban setting. Because these counties  are located nearly two hours from the Washington, D.C. area and 30 minutes from Charlottesville and Culpeper, they have largely remained rural in character until the past two decades when growth from these population centers and the Virginia Piedmont in general began having an impact.

While other surrounding counties have received more active land conservation attention, there have been only incidental efforts in Greene and Madison. Green ranks seventh and Madison ranks sixth of the seven northern Piedmont counties in land under conservation easement. That is why the Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy has made these two counties a focus for land conservation.

More on Greene and Madison Counties

Greene County -
Greene County consists of 102,000 acres, 19,000 of which are in the Shenandoah National Park. Sixty six percent of Greene County is forested. Over the ten year census the population increased from 10,297 to 15,244, a 48% increase, making Greene the sixth fastest growing entity in the State. This directly relates to the fact that from 1982 to1997, Greene Country lost 17.5 % of its farmland. During that same period the number of farmers under 35 dropped from 17 to 7: over half of the farm landowners are well over 55 years in age so that succession of a number of the remaining farms will likely occur in the next two decades.

Greene's Origin -
Greene County was formed in 1838 by an act of the General Assembly having previously been a part of Orange County to the east. The prevailing reason for the division was the long time it took for residents nearer the mountains to travel to the county seat of Orange to conduct official business, often a day each way, or more. The county was named for the Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene and at the time of its formation, a businessman, Robert Stanard, provided land for a court house in the new county. The town and county seat bare his name, Stanardsville.

Greene's Historic and Scenic Interests -

Greene County Courthouse 
The Lafayette Hotel
Locust Grove 
Octonia Stone 
Stanardsville with many pre Civil War buildings 
Blue Ridge School Chapel
Route 33, a gateway to the Shenandoah National Park 
Greene's Agriculture and Forestal Districts   -
Greene County has had an Agriculture and Forestal District program since 1982. This program, authorized by Virginia State Law, allows agriculture and forested lands to be placed into districts that commit the land to remaining in its current farming/forested state, but only for a set period of time -  ten years in the case of Greene. There are currently nine Districts in Greene County and the change in land under this program is as follows:
1982 -  25,315 acres (when program started).
2000 -  14,312 acres( A 43 % drop in acreage in 28 years).
2001 -  14,724 acres, 412 acres added through Blue Ridge 
                        Foothills Conservancy effort 
Land under Conservation Easement -
Prior to 2000  -     3 properties, 412 acres
As of Jan 2002  -  8 properties, 998 acres, four new properties 
                         added through BRFC effort. 
Three properties are contiguous and form the core of the South River Conservation Area. Three other properties are contiguous and form the core of the Parker Mountain Conservation Area. The Blue Ridge
Foothills Conservancy has identified four areas in  Greene County for particular conservation attention: the South River Conservation Area, the Parker Mountain Conservation Area, the Route 810 corridor including Snow  Mountain Conservation Area that has one 291 acre property under easement, and the Amicus Conservation Area that has one 147 acre property under easement.

Madison County -
Madison County consists of 209,000 acres, 32,000 of which are in the Shenandoah National Park. Eighty one percent of Madison County is forested. Over the ten year census the population increased from 11,949 to 12,520, a 5% increase. From 1982 to 1997 Madison County lost 9% of its farmland. From 1982 to 1997 the number of farmers under 35 years of age dropped from 35 to 14; over half of the farm landowners are well over 55 years of age so that succession of a number of the remaining farms will, like Greene County, also occur over the next two decades.

Madison's Origin -
Madison County was formed in 1798 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly and the county and the county seat are both named for James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and author of the Bill of Rights. 

Madison's Historic and Scenic Highlights -

George T. Corbin Cabin
Hebron Lutheran Church
The Homeplace 
Madison County Courthouse
Virginia Scenic Byway, Route 231
Shanandoah National Park 
          with Big Meadows and Camp Hoover
The historic town of Madison 
          with many pre Civil War Buildings
Agricultural and Forestal District -
Madison does not have an A & F District program

Land Under Conservation Easement -

Prior to 2000     -  6 properties, 1,393 acres
As of Jan 2001  -  8 properties, 1,643 acres, 
        two new properties added through BRFC effort
The Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy has identified several areas for particular land conservation effort in Madison: the Hughes River Watershed, Hidden Valley, the Gaar Mountain/Ruth Road area, Hebron Valley, Rapidan River, Madison Road, and the Virginia Byway 231 Corridor. One property of 400 acres forms the core of the Gaar Mountain/ Ruth Road Conservation Area. A property of 70  acres in the Madison Road Conservation Area was added in 2000 and a property of 180 acres in the Hidden Valley Conservation Area has been placed under conservation easement in 2001. 


The counties of Greene and Madison are in transition. From rural counties with farms, few businesses, and no significant industry two decades ago, things have begun to change. The number of farms has shrunk with the land largely being developed into residential housing. Greene has seen rapidly accelerating development with a population increase of 48% in ten years while Madison has seen more modest growth with a population increase of 5% in the same period. Some "clean industry" has moved in and businesses are on the increase in concert with the increasing population. This is being driven by the growth in Charlottesville, influx of buyers from northern jurisdictions, and cheaper land costs.

The increasing population demands more resources from the counties  -  fire, rescue, water, sewer and schools - which are not fully paid for by the taxes derived from the new residences. Studies have shown that every dollar of tax received from residences cost local governments $1.30 or more in expenditures while every dollar from agriculture costs governments only $0.16 in expenditures. Keeping more farms, forests and open space in the counties not only lessens the demands on tax revenues, it provides the essential elements in maintaining the scenic and rural character of the areas which is so cherished by the citizens and desired by those who want to move into the region. 

The pressures for growth will not lessen. While still rural counties, the experience in Albemarle and northern Virginia counties shows that, absent land conservation and land use planning, counties  like Greene and Madison will be transformed into suburban adjuncts of their more dominant neighbors. The Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy believes that the rural character of these counties can be preserved in significant measure by voluntary conservation measures and we are committed to provide the landowners in these counties with the information and assistance they need to make informed decisions. 

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