What’s in the Governor’s FY2023-FY2024 Budget?
The proposed budget provides nearly $286 million to fully fund the Virginia Natural Resources Commitment Fund (VNRCF), which amount was determined by the agriculture BMP cost share “needs assessment” – a data-driven, stakeholder developed funding calculation. The VNRCF is a cost share program that assists farmers and landowners to implement clean water and conservation practices to treat cropland, pastureland, hay land, and forested land.
The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, a program that CRLC successfully received funding to protect Malvern Hill Farm and other places, will receive $20 million in FY2023 and $10 million in FY2024. In addition, the Office of Farmland Preservation will receive $3 million each fiscal year while the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund will receive $1 million in each year. CRLC is encouraged that the farmland preservation funding may be available for projects in localities where a Purchase of Development Rights program does not exist or in certain localities where matching funds are not offered. Equally important, the farmland preservation funding will be available to assist heirs property landowners.
The Governor has also recommended one time funding of $12 million to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to help federally recognized Tribal Nations acquire and protect their ancestral and historic land. In the past budget, the Chickahominy Tribe received $3 million towards their purchase of 900+ acres known as Mamanahunt. Another $5 million annually is proposed for a newly established Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Conservation Fund to conserve historic and cultural sites.
Finally, the budget includes $3 million to re-open the Department of Forestry’s New Kent Nursery and $3 million each year to expand the Urban and Community Forestry Program. Both initiatives will help meet climate change impacts by growing more seedlings to meet the demand for tree planting in the Coastal Plain as well as increasing efforts to provide tree canopy and green infrastructure in our cities where urban heat islands have an inequal impact on low-income and minority communities.
All-in-all, Governor Northam has presented the biggest opportunity for land conservation in Virginia’s budget. Consider $44 million being available in FY2023 in grant funding for land conservation – either by purchasing fee simple land or conservation easements. Consider another $22 million being available in FY2024. A great deal of land can be protected in Virginia if these funds are used to leverage federal funding or philanthropic dollars. It will also help Virginia reach its Chesapeake Bay Program goals by 2025 and our target of conserving 30% of the Earth’s land and water by 2030.
Beyond land conservation but equally important to CRLC is the Governor’s investment of $233 million in FY2023 to plan, develop, and construct multi-use trails including the Fall Line Trail between Petersburg and Ashland. Virginia State Parks will also receive $73 million in one-time funding.
The 2022 Virginia General Assembly begins on January 12 and budget discussions will dominate the 2022 Session. Please reach out to your legislators to encourage and thank them for supporting these essential investments in land conservation and Virginia’s future.