To sustain the programs necessary to achieving Virginia’s land conservation goals, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Board of Trustees voted June 25, 2015 to approve a fee schedule that includes several new fees, adjustments to existing fees, and stewardship endowments for purchased conservation easements.
A breakdown of the fees can be found here. Most take effect July 1, 2015, although one—a fee to help with the costs of creating and reviewing Baseline Documentation Reports, which are essential to the easement monitoring process—will not take effect until January 1, 2016 in order to avoid impacting projects that are already far along in the easement process.
While such fees are common practice in the private land trust community, VOF has only begun to implement them recently as many public agencies have shifted costs from the general taxpayers to the priority responders of their programs and services as a result of overall budget constraints.
“Sustainable funding is critical for the kind of work we do,” says VOF’s Executive Director Brett Christina Glymph. “We want to continue to protect Virginia’s natural and cultural treasures for future generations, while also providing good, timely service to the thousands of landowners who are our partners today.”
To ensure that these fees do not become a hardship for landowners who have limited financial resources, the Board of Trustees also voted at its June meeting to expand the eligibility for receiving grants from VOF’s Open Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund (PTF). This fund, which was created in 1997 and will be funded at $1 million in fiscal year 2016, helps landowners with some of the costs associated with conveying conservation easements.
Changes to the PTF grant program include:
- Increasing the general income eligibility for grants from $50,000 annual income to $78,400 (median state income). This is not considered a hard limit on income level, and other factors may contribute to establishing financial need.
- Increasing the recommended limit on grants for reimbursing costs of donation from $6,500 to $9,500 per project, (plus additional funds for survey costs, if needed). For properties with legal descriptions inadequate to establish good boundaries for mapping and stewardship, landowners will be encouraged to apply for additional funds to cover survey costs.
- Projects requesting a partial purchase of easement will be considered by the Board of Trustees only after January 1, 2016.
- In addition to prioritization suggested by the Preservation Trust Fund’s enabling legislation (“to aid localities or persons for cost-only projects, family farms and with financial need”), priority for partial purchase of easement projects will also be given to projects that include public access.
Anyone with questions about the fees or PTF grants should contact their nearest VOF regional office.