RD370 - Virginia Outdoors Foundation Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2012

Executive Summary:
Few issues bring Virginians together as much as our shared desire to protect our Commonwealth’s natural and cultural resources for future generations. From the Governor’s office to the General Assembly to the thousands of landowners, volunteers, donors, and staff of partner organizations who the Virginia Outdoors Foundation has worked with over the last four decades, we have been fortunate to receive broad and diverse support. Without it, we could not have become one of the most effective and efficient land conservation organizations in the nation.

How effective are we? In the last decade, VOF has protected open space at a rate of roughly five acres every hour. We now protect more than 650,000 acres in all, and hold over 3,400 conservation easements—more than any land trust in the nation. These acres include 3,400 miles of streams, 300 miles of designated scenic roads and rivers, almost 300,000 acres of designated high-quality farm soils, and numerous other conservation values that benefit current and future Virginians. You can see more statistics on pages 4–5.

How efficient are we? In late 2011, the Land Preservation Tax Credit Program was evaluated along with other tax incentive programs by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, or JLARC, whose mission is to determine whether agencies and programs are making the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Of all the programs that JLARC evaluated, tax credits for land conservation and historic rehabilitation were found to be the most efficient at achieving their goals. This finding affirms VOF’s efficiency; after all, of the 518,000 acres that have been protected using Land Preservation Tax Credits since 2000, about 490,000 acres—almost 95 percent—resulted from easements donated to VOF.

Despite our success, VOF is always looking for ways to be more effective and efficient. In the last year, we have grown our volunteer program, which provides opportunities for people to contribute to our mission even if they don’t have land of their own to protect. Since the beginning of 2012, volunteers have logged many hours helping us to monitor easements, maintain records, and perform other tasks. We have also been utilizing new processes for remote monitoring of easements using aerial imagery, which reduces our costs for fuel and wear on our vehicles—an increasingly significant expense as we record easements in every corner of the state.

To increase our effectiveness, we are strengthening partnerships with other organizations and agencies that share our goals. One of the more fruitful partnerships over the past year has been with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, and private land trusts such as the Valley Conservation Council. Together, we have worked to make conservation easements more attractive to farmers. Through the development of a new easement template, marketing materials, and workshops, we are making a concerted effort to keep working farms intact, so that they can continue to serve as the backbone of the Commonwealth’s $79 billion agriculture and forestry industry.

As we move forward, we anticipate both challenges and opportunities. The fiscal environment remains precarious, but the resolve of Virginians to protect the land they love remains as strong as ever. We hope the achievements highlighted in this annual report inspire you to join us as we work to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities together.