Ways To Conserve Forest Land

There are many options available to landowners to help them keep their woodlands in forest.  Each of the conservation tools and strategies below falls somewhere in the spectrum from strong to weak protection. Hopefully, every forest landowner will find some conservation tool that is appropriate for their situation. And hopefully, landowners who are interested in forest conservation will progress toward stronger protection measures over time. In this way, each landowner can determine what role he or she will play in conserving Virginia’s working forests.

Conservation Easements

The greatest strength of conservation easements is that they are different for every property, taking into account the needs of the individual landowner and the conservation values of the specific property. Learn more about conservation easements.

Cost-Share Assistance

Federal and state cost-share programs provide matching funds for some farm or forestry practices and are often tied to land conservation.

Forest Legacy Program

This Federal program funds the purchase of land and conservation easements to protect working forest lands that are threatened by development. This is a nationwide competitive program to fund conservation of properties that have significant conservation values.

Tomorrow Woods

In southeast Virginia, Tomorrow Woods is a program designed to conserve, establish, and enhance forests, with a focus on productive, private working forests. Learn more about the Tomorrow Woods Program >>>.

Riparian Buffer Tax Credit

This is a state tax credit that reimburses landowners for a portion of the value of timber left standing in riparian buffers after timber harvesting. The buffer area must be left in unharvested forest use for a period of 15 years. This tax credit focuses conservation on some of the most sensitive lands and reimburses landowners for practicing sustainable forest management.

To determine if your land is eligible for the riparian buffer tax credit, contact your area forester.

Agriculture and Forestal Districts

Because fewer landowners can take advantage of these districts, they may place less of a burden on the localities. Learn more about Agriculture and Forestal Districts.

Land Use Taxation or Special Use Valuation

Use-value taxation is a relatively weak conservation tool because it requires only a one-year commitment from the landowner. However, the reduced taxes paid by the landowner represent an incentive to maintain his or her land in forest. Learn more about Land Use taxation >>>

Donating an Easement to the VDOF

The VDOF is a qualified holder of conservation easements. Landowners that wish to conserve their forest lands and who are interested in sustainable forest management should consider a gift of their easement to the VDOF.

Donating Land to the VDOF

Landowners who want to ensure that their land will be managed as forest forever may consider donating all or a portion of their land to the VDOF. VDOF forest lands are dedicated to forest management, education and demonstration, research, and recreation and hunting depending on the property. Some larger properties may be designated as State Forests. Of course, the goals and wishes of the landowner are reflected in the management of the property by the VDOF.

Donations of land provide many of the same financial benefits described above for easement donations. VDOF ownership also provides the added knowledge that the property will be managed for forestry forever. While conservation easements restrict the use of the land, VDOF ownership ensures that the land will be dedicated to forestry forever. State ownership can also ensure public recreation and hunting opportunities that may be lost under private ownership. State ownership would also guaranty that the family will have access to the property in the future.

To be suitable for VDOF ownership properties must be large enough and located in an area that would allow for forest management or recreation.

Purchase of Development Rights - (PDR)

In a PDR program, the landowner sells the right to develop their property, typically to the locality. The obvious benefit of a PDR program is that the landowner is paid directly for all or a portion of the value of their development rights. This is unlike a donated conservation easement where the landowner benefits through tax credits and tax deductions. Another benefit of PDR programs is that they enable the locality to set priorities for conservation and focus funds on those properties.

The biggest limitation of PDR programs is the lack of local funding. Since 2007, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has distributed $4.25 million in matching funding for local PDR’s. These matching funds are providing an incentive for more localities to initiate PDR programs.

For more information: http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/preservation/index.shtml

Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF)

The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) provides funding for the purchase of land and easements for significant properties. This is a statewide competitive program to fund the protection of natural areas. These funds are available to state agencies, and private groups. Private organizations or landowners must provide a 50% match to receive funding. The VLCF holds competitive grant rounds when funding is allocated by the General Assembly. Forestry is one of the VLCF categories and forestry properties are evaluated by the VDOF.

Last modified: Thursday, 30-Jun-2016 12:51:02 EDT