VOF board votes to no longer accept easements with retained oil and gas rights

At its April 22 meeting, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Board of Trustees voted that, going forward, it will decline to accept charitable gifts of easement that retain rights for on-site oil and gas drilling.

The decision was made after extensive research and input gathering, which included a VOF-hosted public forum in Fredericksburg on March 13.

Although VOF’s standard conservation easements have always prohibited all forms of mining, the agency has occasionally, at the request of the landowner, allowed limited extraction of oil and gas from the surface of the property, subject to restrictions designed to protect conservation values.

In 2012, the VOF trustees adopted additional restrictions for easements with retained oil and gas rights. As interest has grown in Virginia to explore for natural gas, the number of landowners requesting retained oil and gas rights has increased. The board expressed concern that this increasing demand could present challenges to its resources in the future, and several trustees also expressed concerns about potential adverse impacts that natural gas exploration could have on protected lands.

For easements that already include retained drilling rights, VOF will vigorously enforce the restrictions to ensure that conservation values remain protected. To date, no one has exercised retained drilling rights on a VOF easement.

“We thank the many partners, agencies, landowners, and citizens who have given us their input on this issue over the last few years,” said Board of Trustees Chair Stephanie Ridder. “VOF will do whatever we can to protect open spaces and the environment now and for future generations.”

Jason McGarvey is VOF's communications and outreach manager. He is based in the Richmond office.