DIVISION OF LEGISLATIVE SERVICES
2002 SESSION: General Assembly Issues
Business - Campaigns/Elections
- Constitutional Amendments - Courts
Currently, Virginia's laws create tax incentives and provide state agencies and non-profit organizations with the authority to conserve land through purchase or conservation easements. For example, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation was established to promote the preservation of open space and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land, or other property to preserve the open-space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth.
The Virginia Conservation Easement Act was enacted in 1988 to provide a legal mechanism to protect open space; assure its availability for agricultural, forestal, recreational, or open-space use; protect natural resources; maintain or enhance air or water quality; or preserve the historical, architectural or archaeological aspects of real property. The Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund, enacted in 1997, created a fund to be used by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation for grants to persons conveying conservation easements for costs associated with such conveyances, such as legal and appraisal costs or all or part of the value of the easements. In 1999, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) was established by the General Assembly to protect land for natural area protection, open spaces and parks, farmlands and forest preservation, and historic area preservation. VCLF provides grants to state agencies, localities, and non-profit groups for acquisition of real property and conservation easements. For fiscal year 2000, the state budget included $1.75 million for the foundation. In 2000, the General Assembly authorized $6.2 million per year for fiscal years 2001 and 2002, plus an additional amount in the first year for four Civil War battlefields. However, because of the budget impasse there was no funding allocated for fiscal year 2002.
The Commission on the Future of Virginia's Environment has been studying land conservation issues in light of the tri-state commitment made in the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement to permanently preserve from development 20 percent of the Chesapeake Bay watershed by the year 2010. Also, there is concern over the more than 35,000 acres of forest that is lost every year in Virginia and the nearly 500,000 acres of farmland lost to development in the past 10 years.
Advocates of land conservation have requested that the Commission on the Future of Virginia's Environment examine ways to secure reliable sources of income to fund Virginia's land conservation effort. Maryland and North Carolina both have dedicated sources of funding for land conservation. Maryland spends over $100 million a year and North Carolina spends over $45 million a year to protect open space. Pennsylvania, which like Virginia and Maryland entered the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, has dedicated over $100 million a year to land conservation. In order for Virginia to become eligible to receive significant federal funding for land conservation, a non-federal matching contribution is necessary. In fiscal year 2001, over $50 million in federal funding could have been available to Virginia for land conservation purposes if adequate matching funds had been established. With a dedicated funding source, VCLF can leverage federal funds by providing matching grants to localities and non-profit organizations.
Last year two bills were introduced, but failed to pass. The first would have dedicated recordation taxes to the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation on a phased-in schedule. The second would have increased recordation taxes to fund the acquisition and preservation of open spaces. Both bills are expected to be offered for consideration again in 2002 .
The Commission on the Future of Virginia's Environment was presented with a number of other options for providing a dedicated funding source for land conservation. The commission has not yet decided what course of action it will endorse. The following is a list of possibilities presented as part of a land conservation package for consideration:
As a funding alternative, a conservation and natural resources bond referendum is being reviewed by the commission. This could be a possible means to fund land conservation efforts, enabling Virginia to meet the commitments of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement by providing up to $40 million a year for five years. In addition to land conservation, the bond package may also include $277 million for parks and recreation, of which $181 million would go towards new construction and renovation, $56 million for state park land acquisition, and $40 million to the Natural Heritage Program for land acquisition. An additional $145 million may be included in the bond package to enable Virginia to meet other environmental commitments, including upgrading wastewater treatment plants, repair and upgrading of dams, and clean-up and closure of unlined out-of-compliance landfills.
- Campaigns/Elections - Constitutional
Amendments - Courts -
Privacy Statement | Legislative Services | General Assembly