Championing Land Conservation A passion for the outdoors led Taylor Cole '75 to launch a second career as co-founder of Conservation Partners in Lexington.
Growing up in Lexington, Taylor Cole ’75 spent many hours exploring the wilds beyond Woods Creek and the W&L football stadium. (His father, Fred Carrington Cole, was president of the university from 1959 to 1967.) In those days, that area was open space, woods and natural habitat all the way to the river. Through those adventures, Cole developed a passion for the outdoors that has translated into a second career as a co-founder of Conservation Partners, a Lexington-based consulting firm that guides landowners through the complex process of protecting their property through conservation easements or land gifts.
Cole spent the first part of his career as a banker. During that time, he served on the board of a land trust and developed an understanding of how to stem the tide of development that is encroaching on farmland and natural spaces.
In 2001, he left banking to establish Conservation Partners L.L.C. with attorney Jim McLaughlin ’86, son of former W&L football coach Lee M. McLaughlin. Their mission is to help clients permanently protect the scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, or historic integrity of their land and preserve its ability to provide a farming or forestry livelihood.
“When we started Conservation Partners, Virginia ranked 50th out of 50 states per capita on expenditures by state on protecting open spaces. Around that time, the state came up with the Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit,” he says. “In very short order, Virginia began to significantly increase land protected by conservation easements, so it was a great time for us to get involved.”
Although Conservation Partners has helped save many thousands of acres in the Old Dominion, Cole says much work remains.
“We are still losing 100,000 or more acres a year to development. As a state, we have protected about 7 percent of the land eligible for easements,” he says. “We are so fortunate as Americans to have these extraordinary open spaces. It is important we do this so kids growing up now will have the experience we had.”