Preserving open space means preserving aesthetics, and everybody has a view or trail or stream that they really like, said former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine at the University of Richmond's T.C. Williams School of Law on Monday.

"Open space preservation would preserve for my own grandkids or for yours, things that I love about Virginia today," Kaine said in a speech about open-space conservation policy in Virginia, a program that provides tax incentives to protect land from development.

"Virginia and our landscape has been dramatically developed," Kaine said. He spoke from the center of the law school's moot courtroom, which was dedicated earlier this month by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

"Twenty-five percent of the development of the Virginia land that has occurred since Jamestown has occurred in the last 40 years," Kaine said. "The pace of development has dramatically increased."

The 1988 Virginia Conservation Easement Act provides tax incentives to landowners who will commit to providing and/or preserving their land for parks, recreational purposes or to conserve its natural environment.

"One of the things I liked about open space conservation is that if you do it right, it's forever," Kaine said. "If you can do something that's forever, that's satisfying."

Current Gov. Bob McDonnell vowed on Earth Day in 2009 to continue Kaine's conservation efforts by promising to preserve 400,000 acres by 2014, and he said he would raise the tax incentives landowners received by 10 percent.

Kaine said dealing with open-space conservation had taught him two primary lessons about law, that good policy should be reviewed to see if it's working as planned, and he learned the importance of bipartisanship.

"Don't let disagreements affect areas of agreement," Kaine said. "There's always intersections in the policy."

Law students of the Richmond Law Society sponsored Kaine's talk and held a reception for questions afterward. "There's a pretty good size community of people who want to do environmental law here," said Nick Surace, vice president of the society.

Surace said he had done internship work under Kaine before. "He was sort of the natural choice since I already knew about his work with conserving open space in Virginia when I worked for him," Surace said. "That was one of the big impetuses for the speech."

Andrew Pericak, a junior environmental studies major, attended the speech. "I didn't know anything about this program until he mentioned it," Pericak said. "I think it's a really interesting and apparently effective way to preserve a lot of land in my home state. "

Charlottesville, Va. is Pericak's hometown. He said he had lived there his whole life. "I think if more people knew about it, it would be really popular to say like, 'Oh yeah. We're preserving this land. It's not going to be developed. We're keeping Virginia as much as it was,'" Pericak said.

Kaine, a former mayor of Richmond and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, plans to run to for Jim Webb's seat in the U.S. Senate next year. Next spring at the University of Richmond, Kaine will teach seminar on leadership breakthroughs.

Contact staff writer Keon Monroe at keon.monroe@richmond.edu.

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