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Conservation News

[Voters Support Conservation] [BRFC Legacy Fund]
[Over the Kitchen Table]


Virginia State Tax Credit
January 1, 2001 Landowners who donate conservation easements on their land are eligible for a new state income tax credit.
Under the provision that went into effect Jan. 1, 2000, individuals and corporations may claim a credit equal to 50% of the value of the easement against their Virginia State income tax liability. The cap on the tax break is $75,000 for those donated in 2001; and $100,000 for those donated in 2002 or thereafter. A tax credit cannot exceed the amount of taxes owed in a year, but the full credit may be spread over six years. 

The Virginia General Assembly last year passed the Virginia Land Conservation Incentives Act of 1999 to encourage "preservation of open spaces and sustainability of Virginia's unique natural resources, wildlife habitats, open spaces and forested resources." 

The Act was sponsored by Del. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Warm Springs) and by Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Mount Solon.

This innovative legislation was part of a package of incentives that emerged from former Speaker of the House Thomas Moss' Commission on the Future of Virginia's Environment.  A representative of the Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy served on the Moss Commission.

Most easements in the state are held by Virginia Outdoors Foundation, an agency of the Commonwealth that holds more easements than any land trust in the United States. Last year, the VOF recorded easements on 11,172 acres. Statewide, it holds easements on 136,142 acres.

However, according to a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Virginia is losing rural land to development at an annual rate of more than 93,000 acres. 

Federal tax benefits also are available to easement donors. 

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Over the Kitchen Table
April 2001 - BRFC Launches Land Protection Program. There is an old land trust adage that says voluntary land conservation is accomplished "one property at a time, over the kitchen table". So, not surprisingly, kitchen table conversations - first with neighbors, friends and family, and then with individual landowners - were the key to the Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy's successful efforts to place a total of  218 acres of land under conservation easements in 2000.

In Madison County, long time conservationists Portia and Dick Meares donated a conservation easement on their 70 acre farm "Haven on Earth" located on Route 230 east of Wolftown. In addition to scenic views, a forest walk and lovely glens, the Meares property contains a tributary to the Rapidan River. The Land Trust of Virginia (LTV), a statewide private non-profit organization, will hold the Meares easement.*

When the owners of a 125 acre parcel in Greene County let adjacent landowners know they wanted to sell their property last fall, adjoining landowners Carl and Priscilla Schmitt, BRFC members, were immediately interested in trying to protect the farmland acreage from speculative development. At the same time, another conservation -minded couple, John and Helen Marr of Connecticut, were looking for property in Greene County and were brought to the table by BRFC. The two parties each purchased half of the property and worked with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) to place conservation easements on their respective parcels. Because this acreage dominated the scenic view of all landowners in the Parker Mountain Valley, it became obvious that the benefits the Schmitts and Marrs would derive from protecting the each other's view extended to other landowners. This observation led to a third neighbor, Jim and Mary Scott Rhoads joining in placing an easement on their 23 acre Greene Meadows Farm. The willingness of the landowners and the three neighbors to work together under the auspices of the BRFC, resulted in a total of 148 acres of contiguous land protected in perpetuity in the Parker Mountain Valley. It also led to Bob Parrot, a descendant of the family who owned the land for generations, to make a generous donation to the BRFC.

* Under the Commonwealth of Virginia law, private land trusts must be chartered in Virginia for five years before they are authorized to hold conservation easements. BRFC's target date is January 2003; until that time we will work with our sister conservation organizations qualified to hold easements.

Land Legacies, Volume 1, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2001

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Statewide Survey Shows Voters 
      Overwhelmingly Support Land Conservation 
May 2001- Seven hundred and fifty registered voters in Virginia were interviewed in a random sample taken April 23-26, 2001. Respondents were screened for likelihood of voting in the Virginia gubernatorial election, and the sample was balanced according to all known demographic factors. All interviews were conducted by telephone. The margin of error for this survey is 3.6%, with a 95% confidence level.

Findings of the study -

  • Virginia voters who say protecting air and water quality and preserving open space should be a legislative priority outnumber those who say cutting taxes should be a legislative priority

  • Eighty-nine (89%) percent of Virginia voters believe preserving and protecting open space should be an important issue for the State Legislature and Governor to address. Ninety-seven percent (97%) of the voters believe protecting air and water quality should be a very important legislative priority. These results indicate a higher percentage of voters feel these conservation issues should be a legislative priority than feel tax reduction should be a legislative priority (81%)

  • Virginia voters strongly favor creating a permanent funding source for land conservation and dedicating a portion of the state's existing land recording tax to fund this program

  •  Sixty-five percent (65%) of Virginia voters favor creating a permanent funding source to pay for protecting forests, farms, clean water and open space. Eighty percent (80%) support the Virginia Legislature dedicating one-fourth of the state's existing land recording tax for land conservation. Further, eighty-two percent (82%) support dedicating a portion of the state's existing land recording tax when they were informed that this money would create a fund of approximately forty million dollars per year to protect forests, farms, clean water and open space

  • Virginia voters believe preserving and protecting open space are as important funding priorities as improving public schools and roads

  • Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Virginia's voters disagreed with the following statement: When we have so many problems in Virginia, such as funding public education and improving our roads, the state should not be spending money on protecting and preserving open space

  • Virginia's voters believe protecting water resources is a critical issue

  • Ninety percent (90%) of Virginia's voters are more likely to support dedicating part of the state's land recording tax if some of the money will be used to protect the quality of rivers and streams which keeps the Chesapeake Bay healthy. Ninety-two percent (92%) support dedicating this funding source if some of the money will be used to protect areas which are important to maintaining the state's supply of clean drinking water

  • Eighty percent of Virginia's voters believe at least one percent of the state budget should be spent for land conservation. And, Virginians are willing to pay for land conservation

  • A strong plurality (45%) of the voters believe that more than six percent of the state's budget should be dedicated to land and water conservation. In addition, 52% of the state's voters are willing to pay more money for conservation

  • Forty-two percent (42%) are willing to pay more than $10 per year for a conservation program, with nearly one-third of the voters willing to pay more than $40 per year

The results of this study are clear indicators of how strongly Virginia voters feel about protecting the state's natural resources. Protecting land and water resources have become as much of a priority as education and road improvements, and more of a priority than cutting taxes. They strongly support creating a permanent funding source for conservation and funding this source through dedicating one-fourth of the state's land recording tax.

About the study -
 The bi-partisan survey was was commissioned by the Conservation Lands CoFoundation, and The Nature Conservancy Action Fund) and conducted by a Democratic research firm, The Kitchens Group in Orlando, Florida, and a Republican research firm, The Tarrance Group in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Land Legacies, Volume One, Issue Two, Fall 2001

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Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy Legacy Fund 
October 2001 - One of the Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy's (BRFC) long-term goals is to create an endowment or revolving fund to finance protection of lands with significant agricultural, scenic and other conservation values in Madison and Greene Counties. Now, thanks to a generous gift from Mr. Alfred Regnery and the American Studies Foundation, the Legacy Fund is closer to becoming a reality. Mr. Regnery, who lives in Madison County's Hidden Valley and Alexandria, Virginia, is a Washington D.C. publisher and an accomplished musician.

The BRFC Legacy Fund will initially be used to protect lands with significant conservation values by: 

  • Assisting landowners in underwriting the costs of donating a conservation easement
  • Purchasing development rights on properties when landowners are not in a position to donate an easement, or where farmlands are under pressure of development
  • Purchasing an option on real estate sale properties to gain time for negotiating a conservation-friendly sale

Eventually, BRFC's goal is to establish a revolving fund that could also be used for the fee simple purchase of properties and resale with a conservation easement in place.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to Mr. Regnery and hope that others will match his generosity. If you would like to support the Legacy Fund, please make your check payable to the Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy and note that it should be deposited to this fund. Your gifts are tax deductible to the full extent of the law and will go a long way toward preserving the rural character of our two Virginia counties. 

Land Legacies, Volume One, Issue Two, Fall 2001

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