New criteria incorporates ConserveVirginia, water quality, wildlife protection in $5.27M funding round

The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation Board of Directors has adopted new grant criteria and announced that grant applications are being accepted for the fiscal year 2020 grant cycle.

A total of $5.27 million in grant funding is available for land acquisitions and protections in four categories: farmland and forest preservation, historic area preservation, natural area protection, and open spaces and parks.

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To better align VLCF funding with long-standing conservation goals and Gov. Ralph Northam’s ConserveVirginia initiative, several changes have been made to the grant scoring method this year. The revised scoring criteria provides additional points for land identified within the six conservation priority categories identified in the initiative to target high-value conservation lands in the Commonwealth. The updated scoring criteria provide additional consideration for properties that protect habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered wildlife.

The board also approved new grant manual language to encourage applications for projects that conserve historic sites that tell untold stories of underserved populations and provide educational opportunities to promote equity. Members discussed outreach and a new emphasis on proactively seeking prospective projects on behalf of underserved communities. The grant manual and details on the grant workshop will be available here.

ConserveVirginia was designed to identify the highest value sites for present and future land conservation in our Commonwealth,” said Northam. “By integrating this data-driven approach into the VLCF scoring criteria we will not only ensure that our tax dollars are allocated to the most important conservation initiatives, but we will also be able to target opportunities that yield the most public good.”

The revised criteria  also focuses on water quality improvements by requiring mandatory 35 foot buffers along rivers and streams and provides additional points for wider buffers and forested buffers. Adding these requirements and incentives to the VLCF criteria aligns grant funding with Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals established by the Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Improvement Plan.

“Land conservation is critical in the Commonwealth because preserving land protects wildlife and biodiversity, safeguards historic resources, and provides open space for everyone to enjoy the environment,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Today’s actions by the board will ensure that VLCF gives Virginia a chance to protect our most cherished natural and cultural resources in a way that provides the greatest benefits to all Virginians.”

The deadline for applications is August 29, 2019. Grant applications will be reviewed and scored by an interagency workgroup that recommends projects to the board. Additionally, there will be a grant workshop on July 10 in Charlottesville, to provide an orientation for applicants and will include a presentation of the different grant categories. Staff will work to make the presentation available online as well.

“These changes, rooted in the best available science and widely held conservation values, are an extension of Governor Northam’s ConserveVirginia approach to land conservation and something DCR is dedicated to,” said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman. “This scientific approach and alignment of goals ensures that limited resources can be focused for maximum benefit.”

The VLCF board has 19 members who are appointed by the Governor, the Senate Committee on Rules and the Speaker of the House of Delegates. The board includes the Secretary of Natural Resources, who serves as chair, and the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. Administrative support for the VLCF is provided by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

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