RD197 - Report of the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation

Executive Summary:

The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (Foundation or VLCF) serves an important land conservation mission in the Commonwealth. It leverages state funds through matching grants and partnerships to protect working farms and forests, historic lands, open space and parks, and natural areas. The Foundation's distinctive features include a cross-cutting grant review process to maximize conservation values of funded projects, an inter-agency staff review team that involves expertise from multiple state agencies, and a final review by a diverse Board of Trustees whose membership includes appointees from the Governor, Speaker of the House of Delegates, and the Senate of Virginia.

Virginia Land Conservation Foundation

Since its inception in 1992, VLCF has experienced a name change from the Virginia Conservation and Recreation Foundation to the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, a significant expansion and improvement to its Code authority, and has sustained a successful grants program. In 2000, the Foundation's Board of Trustees grew from nine members to 18 members. In 2006, the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry was added to the Board.

Total funds appropriated to the Foundation exceed $62 million since FY2000 (Table 1) and have resulted in the protection of 152,838 acres. To date, approximately $46 million has been allocated to VLCF's matching grant program. Additionally, more than $14 million has been allocated to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) for the Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund in accordance with Virginia Code § 10.1-1020(C)(1). Moneys from this Fund are used to aid localities acquiring open-space easements or landowners conveying open-space easements with the costs associated with the conveyance of the easements.

In FY2018, $4.24 million was available for the VLCF grant round; opened from May 24 to August 10, 2017 ($3.6 million was provided in the FY2018 state budget and the remainder was from prior withdrawn projects and projects that closed under their grant budget). The Foundation received 29 applications for land conservation projects requesting more than $7.43 million in grants. The Board met on September 19, 2017 and approved 23 projects that would protect 4,390 acres. Additionally, $900,000 was allocated to VOF for the Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund. No funds were appropriated for VLCF in FY2019.

Since first receiving funding in FY2000, the Foundation has held twelve grant rounds. During those twelve grant rounds, VLCF received 337 applications requesting more than $122.9 million in state funding, which was more than two times the available amount (Table 2). To date, VLCF has awarded funding to 203 of the 337 grant applications and awarded more than $50.9 million to land conservation projects to protect more than 62,800 acres, at an average cost of $733 per acre.