Virginia House and Senate budgets deeply cut conservation
The Virginia League of Conservation Voters (VLCV) reports that the budgets unveiled in both the House and Senate make deep cuts to land conservation programs and agencies. From the VLCV email:
• The Senate Budget Bill strips $2 million of annual funding to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, cuts that will result in the agency’s closure if [VLCV doesn’t] step in. This decision was based on the false premise that VOF can use recent mitigation funding to fund their day-to-day operations (they’ve received $40 million in two separate agreements). These funds can only go toward mitigation projects – and with more of these to manage, VOF needs increased general funding, not budget cuts.
• The budget calls for a $20,000 cap on usage of the Land Preservation Tax Credit, instead of allowing the credits to reach $50,000 as planned. Not only is the lower cap hurting the market for tax credits, landowners who placed property under easement last year did so under the premise that the cap would return to $50,000. Lowering the cap is a disincentive to future land conservation efforts and is unfair to landowners who placed land under easement with the understanding that the cap would increase.
• The Senate cuts the Virginia Land Conservation Fund from $4.5 million to $1.5 million per year while the House strips all funding in the first year but restores $4.5 million in year two, again, under the false premise that settlement money from destructive infrastructure projects will offset these cuts when they are in fact highly site-specific. In order for the VLCF to be put to work protecting open spaces and parks, natural areas, historic areas, farmland and forests across the commonwealth, it needs the full $4.5 million of annual funding called for in the governor’s budget.
• Additional language in the budget limits the ability of the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to acquire new lands for public use. To maximize public benefit, theses agencies need flexibility to act on land acquisition for new parks when the opportunities arise to further complement Virginia’s already impressive public lands offerings.
VLCV asks citizens to contact their senator and delegate to ask them to amend the proposed budgets and restore funding for these programs and agencies. Click here for a link to a form to contact legislators.