VOF announces grant opportunity for easements that include public access

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is seeking proposals for open-space easements that would result in new outdoor recreation and education opportunities for the public, especially in cities and towns where such opportunities are lacking. To help fund the acquisition of easements, VOF has allocated approximately $600,000 from its Open Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund. These funds are being made available through a grant application process. Projects will be reviewed and ranked using the following criteria: protection of natural resources, level of public access, community served, and demonstrated existing community support (for example, through additional funding or letters of support from community groups and local governments).

More details about the application process, including a copy of the application form, can be downloaded at http://www.virginiaoutdoorsfoundation.org/download/easement-docs/fy18_ptf_grant_application.pdf.

Proposals will be accepted through January 15, 2018. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to call and discuss the proposed project with either Kristin Jones at (434) 989-5900 or Leslie Grayson at (703) 850-3924 prior to working on a submission. Grant recommendations will be reviewed by VOF’s Board of Trustees. Results are expected to be announced following the March 2018 board meeting.

VOF was established by the Virginia legislature in 1966 to promote the preservation of open-space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open-space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth. Since then VOF has protected more than 800,000 acres — a rate of nearly two acres every hour.

In 1997, the General Assembly created the Open Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund to assist landowners with the costs of conveying conservation easements, and in limited instances, to purchase a portion of the value of easements as funds are available. The fund has helped protect land by providing grants to reimburse the landowner costs of donation, providing grants for county Purchase of Development Rights programs, and by providing grants which purchase a portion of the value of an open-space easement on significant conservation lands.

In recent years, the VOF Board of Trustees, in support of Governor McAuliffe’s goal to provide more public access to protected lands, has prioritized a portion of the Preservation Trust Fund for acquisition of easements that provide public access. In February 2017, VOF’s board allocated $1.5 million for such projects, which you can learn more about here.

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