Virginia Conservation Programs

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Federal data is complete from 1998-2017. State and local data is complete from 1998-2014. In the tables and charts below, acres are allocated to each program proportionate to the size of the contributions to each acquisition. For example, if an acquisition had two contributions, and each program contributed equal dollar amounts, each program receives 50% of the acres. If you have questions or want to provide updated information, please contact Jessica Welch at

Profile of State Program(s)

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation: The Department of Conservation and Recreation acquires land for state parks and state Natural Area Preserve lands. Funding is made available through annual legislative appropriations, general obligation bonds approved by the voters in 1992 and 2002, and the Open Space Recreation and Conservation Fund, which is funded by voluntary contributions of income tax refunds.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is responsible for the management of inland fisheries, wildlife, and recreational boating for the Commonwealth. The agency receives cash from transfers directed to the Game Protection Fund from the General Fund of the state. The transfers come from the collection of Watercraft Sales and Use Taxes (Code of Virginia § 58.1-1410) and from sales taxes collected on outdoor-related goods and equipment, which were allocated to the Game Protection Fund beginning in 2000 and are often referred to as “HB38” funds (Code of Virginia § 58.1-638E). The amount of funds transferred as a result of HB38 is based on the figures of expenditures in Virginia associated with hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-associated recreation (wildlife watching, wildlife photography, etc.) calculated every five years in the national survey of hunting, fishing, and wildlife-associated recreation. The most recent survey was completed in 2011 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. The specific amount transferred to the agency is often modified by language in the Budget Bill. The Budget Bill also identifies specific transfers out (such as central service fees).

In FY 2014, license sales accounted for 42.2 percent of DGIF’s net receipts, while 25.4 percent came from federal grants (including Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux), 23.3 percent came from transfers to the Game Protection Fund, 4.4 percent came from boat registration and titling, and 4.4 percent came from other sources such as magazine subscriptions, wildlife conservationist license plates and timber sales.

Virginia Land Conservation Foundation: The General Assembly and governor established the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) in 1999. VLCF manages the Virginia Land Conservation Fund, which gets its funding from the state’s annual budget. The Department of Conservation and Recreation provides staff and administrative support. Grants are awarded to help fund the purchase of permanent conservation easements, open spaces, parklands, lands of historic or cultural significance, farmlands, forests, and natural areas. State agencies, local governments, public bodies, and registered (tax-exempt) nonprofit groups are eligible to receive matching grants from the foundation. An Interagency Taskforce reviews and recommends grant applications to the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation. Grants are awarded based on applications for 50 percent or less of total project costs. In both FY 2015 and FY 2016, $1 million dollars was appropriated to VLCF.

Virginia Public Building Authority: The Virginia Public Building Authority (VPBA) provides financing for state projects, facilities, and obligations approved by the General Assembly. The VPBA is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth that is authorized to issue bonds. Virginia Public Building Authority bonds were issued for land conservation in 2002 and 2008.

Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund: The Virginia General Assembly provided funding for the preservation of Civil War battlefield properties beginning in 2006 through grants administered by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Legislation formalizing that grant program, the Civil War Site Preservation Fund, was enacted by the General Assembly in 2009 as and has been funded every year since. With 123 Civil War battlefields in Virginia encompassing thousands of acres, nonprofit battlefield preservation organizations and local governments compete each year for grants from the Fund. The grants may be used independently or as a powerful match for federal battlefield preservation grants to acquire battlefield land in fee simple or to acquire a conservation easement over battlefield land that will remain in private ownership. Regardless of the nature of the transaction, a condition of the Fund is that a conservation easement tailored to protect the historic and battlefield resources present must be conveyed to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which was created by the General Assembly in 1966. The Fund was expanded by legislation approved in 2015 to include sites associated with the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and was renamed the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund.

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Office of Farmland Protection: In 2001, the General Assembly created the Office of Farmland Preservation within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). In 2008, the program was expanded to include the responsibility of allocating state matching funds to local purchase of development rights programs. The 2007 budget provided the $4.25 million in state matching funds for the 2006-2008 biennium. An additional $4.43 million has been allocated since that time. Allocations for FY 2015 and FY 2016 are currently $1 million each year.

Virginia Outdoors Foundation – Open Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund: The General Assembly created the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) in 1966 (Va. Code Section 10.1-1800). VOF’s mission is “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.” A portion of VOF’s operating expenses is funded by annual appropriations from the General Assembly. Donations, interest income, and recordation fees fund the rest of the Foundation’s work in localities where VOF has an open-space easement fund. The 1997 Virginia General Assembly created the Open Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund (Va. Code Sections 10.1 – 1801.1), to assist landowners with the costs of conveying open-space easements and the purchase of all or part of the value of the easements. The Preservation Trust Fund is administered by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, and the fund receives 25% of the Virginia Land Conservation Fund’s grant money. VOF holds most of the easements obtained under the Land Conservation Tax Incentives Program. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is not currently included in the Conservation Almanac; however, The Trust for Public Land does have some information available on the program’s activity.

Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund – Land Conservation Loan Program: During the 2003 session, the Virginia General Assembly amended Chapter 22 of the Code of Virginia by adding §62.1-229.3. The new code section further expanded the activities of the Virginia Water Facilities Revolving Fund by allowing the State Water Control Board to authorize low interest loans from the fund for acquisition of title or other rights to real property, provided that the State Water Control Board is satisfied that the acquisition would protect or improve water quality and prevent pollution of state waters. According to the enabling legislation, the fund’s financing for land acquisition can only be available in fiscal years when there is a balance remaining after the fund has satisfied all eligible loan requests from local governments.

Data for the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund is not currently included in the Conservation Almanac; however, The Trust for Public Land does have some information available on the program’s activity.

Substantial State Investment

The majority of state land acquisitions over the past decade have been financed by two statewide general obligation bond measures, approved by voters in 1992 and 2002, both by a 2-to-1 ratio.

  • In 1992, the $95.365 million General Obligation bond included $11.5 million for natural area preserve acquisition and $17 million for state park land acquisition, adding more than 10,400 acres at 14 sites statewide. An additional $4 million in private and local acquisition financing augmented the bond funds.
  • In 2002, the $119.04 million General Obligation bond included $36.5 million for land acquisition. The bond was needed primarily to help develop parks – Belle Isle, James River, Shenandoah River, and Wilderness Road – purchased under the 1992 bond. The bond also was used for the acquisition of three new state parks and ten new natural areas, and additions to 11 parks and 8 preserves.

Beginning on July 1, 2000, legislation passed by Virginia’s General Assembly allocated the state’s two percent share of the sales tax revenue generated from the sale of hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching equipment to the Game Protection Fund. Current funding is approximately $10.5 million annually.

State Incentive for Local Conservation Funding

The Virginia Land Conservation Fund provides 50 percent matching grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations for land acquisition and purchase of development rights to protect open spaces and parks, natural areas, historic areas, farmlands, and forests. VLCF serves as the primary catalyst to foster state-local collaboration on behalf of land conservation.

Conservation Tax Credits

The Virginia Land Conservation Incentives Act of 1999 significantly enhanced the tax benefits available to private landowners who donate land or conservation easements to the state. Under the tax credit program, a landowner can receive an income tax credit equal to 40 percent of the fair market value of the donated land or easement. In 2015 and 2016, taxpayers could use up to $20,000 per year and then $50,000 per year in subsequent years. Tax credits may be carried forward for up to 13 years. Additionally, there is a statewide cap of $100 million in tax credits available. The Department of Conservation and Recreation is responsible for verifying the conservation value of tax credits for all donations of land or conservation easement for which the donor claims a state tax credit of $1 million or more. Those donors are required to meet the Conservation Value Review Criteria that was adopted by the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation Board.

Local Financing Enabled

The primary local funding options for open space conservation in Virginia are bonds. County and municipal governments have the power to raise the property tax rate; however, these levies are currently used at high levels for other purposes and very unlikely to be dedicated for open space.

Bonds: Counties or municipalities may issue bonds for the purpose of acquiring lands for parks, open space, greenways, etc., and for making improvements to these facilities. Cities and towns can issue bonds as long as the total outstanding debt does not exceed 10 percent of the assessed valuation of the real estate in the city or town. Before issuing bonds, a county must submit a question to the voters for approval or rejection of such issuance.

Property Tax: Cities, counties, and towns have the power to adopt local ordinances to raise the existing property tax rate; voter approval is not needed.

Local Programs Included

Local conservation programs include:

  • Fairfax, VA
  • Henrico County, VA
  • James City County, VA
  • Stafford County, VA

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Federal Partnerships

Federal agencies and programs that have conserved land in Virginia include:

  • U.S. Department of Defense – Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI)
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Forest Service – Forest Legacy Program (FLP)
  • U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP)
  • U.S. National Park Service
  • U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service – Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)
Report Table
Dollar Chart by Year
Acre Chart by Year