Natural, Historic & Cultural Resources
Rich, diverse natural resources are some of the chief jewels in Virginia's crown. As Virginia and its citizens partner to preserve the Commonwealth's natural resources, the importance of foresight cannot be overstated.
Why is This Important?
Of all the development that has occurred in the last 400 years, more than a quarter of it has taken place in the last 15 years. Being good stewards requires actions to ensure that the natural, cultural and historic resources treasured by Virginians are available for future generations to enjoy. Protecting land also helps in meeting goals relating to water quality, wildlife habitat, recreation and quality of life.
How is Virginia Doing?
In the last six years (FY2001-FY2006), an average of 56,000 acres per year statewide have been protected in Virginia, counting the combined efforts of both private and public organizations and agencies. In Fiscal Year 2006, 65,764 acres were protected in the Commonwealth, and an ambitious goal of protecting 400,000 acres by 2010 has been set.
According to the state's best estimate, as of June 30, 2006, over 3.44 million acres of open space, parks, historic lands, natural areas, forests, farms and other lands have been preserved by federal, state and local governments and private conservation organizations. These preserved lands represent about 13.6 percent of the Commonwealth's total land (25,270,000 acres) currently permanently protected for conservation purposes through land ownership and easements. Almost three-fourths (71 percent) of the preserved lands are held by the federal government, 22 percent by the state, about 4 percent by local governments and 3 percent by private/nonprofit organizations. Recent efforts show an increasing trend of acres conserved in the Commonwealth.
Land Preservation in Virginia, 2000-2006
|Fiscal Year||Total Statewide Acreage Preserved||Annual Acreage Preserved|
What Influences Acres of Preserved Land?
Citizens across the Commonwealth have been voluntarily placing conservation easements on their lands for over 40 years. Many of these easements are held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF), which holds more conservation easements than any public land trust in the nation. VOF administers conservation easements on over 330,000 acres represented by more than 2,500 separate properties. Private and non-profit organizations also play an important role in conserving Virginia's important lands in the Commonwealth.
State and federal tax incentives make such donations of conservation easements financially possible for many landowners. For many other landowners, conservation is only possible if a land trust or government agency can purchase the land or an easement. In addition, preservation activities in Virginia are currently driven by citizen donations, state and federal tax incentives, local government activities, and federal funding for conservation activities. Federal funding for land conservation programs has been declining in recent years.Local government programs for the purchase of development rights (PDR) are gradually taking hold in Virginia. Under these programs, localities purchase conservation easements from farmers and other landowners. At present, 13 localities have instituted PDR programs, but only seven of these have significant funding
What is the State's Role?
The Commonwealth conserves land by purchasing lands for public use, providing tax incentives to private landowners for conservation and providing matching grants to land trusts that purchase land and easements.
Virginia has a number of state agencies whose mission includes the protection of important lands, including the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Forestry, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Department of Historic Resources and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. These agencies advise landowners on conservation options, buy land and hold conservation easements, and maintain databases, registries and websites that track various land attributes. The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) makes matching grants to land trusts and local governments.
No state in the nation has a better private land conservation tax inducement than Virginia. The state Land Preservation Tax Credit is the most generous such state incentive for land conservation in the nation.
What can Citizens Do?
Individuals and groups are encouraged to be active participants in resource management. To learn more about Virginia's environment, stewardship and public participation opportunities, or partners engaged in conservation, please visit the Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources, www.naturalresources.virginia.gov, or Virginia Naturally, www.vanaturally.com.
Data Definitions and Sources
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation: Conservation Lands Database (www.dcr.virginia.gov/olc/)