VOF announces new grant program, seeks proposals for forest conservation

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) has created a new program that will administer funds derived from legal and regulatory actions that result from impairment to Virginia’s natural resources.

The need for the program arose following mitigation agreements between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the developers of two natural gas pipelines — Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline — in which VOF was named a mitigation partner and asked to administer $39,650,000 to offset forest fragmentation caused by pipeline construction.

The new program, called TERRA, initially will house two funds named the Forest CORE Funds, one for each pipeline’s impact region. VOF will provide grants to state agencies, localities, and other public bodies as well as private 501(c)(3) conservation groups that work to protect, connect, and restore forest resources through conservation easements, acquisition, reforestation, or enhancement activities.  An interagency workgroup comprised of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Forestry, Department of Transportation, Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Department of Environmental Quality, and Virginia Outdoors Foundation worked together to define the scope of the mitigation grant program, guide VOF’s administration of the funding, and set timelines and project criteria.

VOF now is accepting proposals for the first round of grants for the Forest CORE Fund covering the Mountain Valley Pipeline region. This round seeks to disburse $3 million of the fund’s total of $15 million. The request for proposals, which includes guidelines and application materials, may be found online at http://www.virginiaoutdoorsfoundation.org/terra/fcf-mvp/ or obtained from program manager Emily White. The deadline for applications is October 31, 2018.

A grant round for the Forest CORE Fund in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline region will be established in early 2019 using $24,650,000 from the mitigation agreement between the Commonwealth and ACP.

VOF will host a workshop for applicants on September 12 at the Vinton Library in Roanoke County to discuss the project selection process in detail and answer questions from potential applicants. Interested attendees need to register in advance as space is limited. Click here for event details, including a link to register.

As part of the process of developing the grant criteria, VOF sought input from a broad group of stakeholders in the Mountain Valley Pipeline region, with a high priority on communities most directly impacted by the project. Stakeholders include all directly impacted localities, planning districts, soil and water conservation districts, land trusts covering the region, local foresters, as well as the U.S. Forest Service. In addition, input was sought from Virginia’s United Land Trusts, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund, and the other mitigation partners named in the agreements (U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities, the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Virginia Endowment for the Environment). VOF also posted the draft grant materials online for public input on August 9, 2018 and received written and verbal comments at its August 22 board meeting when the materials were adopted.

“We have set a high bar for transparency and accountability in the development of this program, and we’ll maintain that commitment throughout the selection of the projects, just as VOF does for all of its conservation work on behalf of the public,” says VOF Executive Director Brett Glymph.

VOF will continue to seek and welcome input from stakeholders as it refines the Forest CORE Fund programs for future grant rounds. Anyone interested in providing feedback should email Emily White at ewhite@vofonline.org, or submit their comments through our online form at http://www.virginiaoutdoorsfoundation.org/comments/.

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