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Another Victory for Land Preservation

Longtime McLean resident gifts 5-acre conservation easement to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.

Katie Timblin's decision to place her 5-acre wooded-homestead property in McLean under a conservation easement was based on one simple reason.

"I did it because of all the development that's going on around here and ruining our scenic advantages," said Timblin, 91. "It's the only way to keep people from exploiting the land."

Timblin and her first husband acquired the 5-acre property in the 1960s.

"He walked up and down the river looking for a place to live," said Timblin. "He had to build his own house because he was to poor to buy one, and he chose this spot."

They built their cedar plank home overlooking the Potomac Gorge and Turkey Island, and Timblin said her favorite aspects of the property are the river and the woods.

"It's such a beautiful spot," she said. "I hope it will be preserved for a long, long time."

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or non-profit organization that places permanent limits on the future development of the landowner's property. The easement terms are negotiated between the landowner and a public agency or qualified conservation organization, and typically vary from one easement to another. A conservation easement protects land in perpetuity — binding the current landowner and all subsequent landowners to its original terms.

Timblin is no stranger to protecting land from development through conservation easements. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, her first husband was instrumental in protecting the Potomac Gorge through the acquisition of conservation easements in partnership with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. Timblin's first husband was killed in an automobile accident some years later, and although she eventually re-married, she never left her beloved McLean property. Timblin and her niece reside there now.

"I've lived here a very long time," said Timblin.

IN LATE December, 2006, Timblin gifted her property as a conservation easement to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) and its partner, the Fairfax County Potomac Conservancy. Founded in 1994, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust works with landowners to find the best conservation option for their properties. Since its inception, it has preserved 1,572 acres in Northern Virginia.

Timblin's easement was made possible by a $200,000 grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP). It was the first CELCP conservation easement grant in Virginia.

"Someone has used the CELCP for two outright purchases, but this was the first conservation easement acquired with CELCP," said Whit Field, vice president and general consul for the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. "We were very fortunate."

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration established the Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program in 2002 with the goal of protecting coastal and estuarine lands that are valued for their ecological, conservation, recreational, historical and aesthetic qualities. The program provides state and local governments with matching funds to purchase significant coastal and estuarine lands, or conservation easements on such lands.

Katie Timblin gifted her easement at more than half the value of its estimated worth had she sold it to developers. However, her financial sacrifice was of little importance to her.

"I've always been interested in preserving the river and the woods along the river," said Timblin.

Timblin's donation came on the heels of another generous easement donation from a neighboring landowner. In November 2006, the Eagle family donated an astounding 70-acre easement to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. Like Timblin's property, the Eagle property also lies along the Potomac Gorge in McLean.

"The Timblin property is one property up from the Eagle's property," said Field. "These properties along the Potomac Gorge are so amazing — and the Potomac Gorge is so amazing."

The two easements are major milestones for the goals of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.

"The development pressure in McLean is intense, and remaining natural lands around the Potomac River Gorge are the most sought after in Fairfax County," said Field. "Mrs. Timblin's gift of nature benefits all residents by providing cleaner drinking water, preserving plant and animal habitat, and ensuring the incredible viewshed along the Potomac is protected."