WEST VIRGINIA CODE
CHAPTER 5B. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 1985.
WVC 5 B- 2 G-
ARTICLE 2G. LAND CONSERVATION.
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 1
§5B-2G-1. Short title.
This article shall be known as the Voluntary Rural and Outdoor
Heritage Conservation Act.
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 2
§5B-2G-2. Legislative findings and purpose.
Legislative findings and purpose:
(a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares that:
(1) The State of West Virginia's rural character, natural
wonders, scenic beauty and recreational opportunities combine to
create an exceptional quality of life for its citizens;
(2) West Virginia's landscapes serve as an economic engine
supporting vibrant forest products, agricultural, hunting and
fishing and tourism industries;
(3) West Virginia's unique and important lands are key to
attracting new businesses and knowledge workers who are mobile and
capable of doing business anywhere and critical to diversifying the
economy of the State of West Virginia;
(4) West Virginia's unique and important lands provide all
West Virginians hunting, fishing, rafting, hiking and other
recreational opportunities important to their health and
(5) West Virginia's unique and important lands are critical to
the continued health of the state's wildlife habitats and West
Virginia's Wildlife Conservation Action Plan, mandated by the
United States Congress, recognizes that habitat loss is a key issue
confronting conservation of the state's valuable fish and wildlife
(6) The conversion of rural land to developed land in West
Virginia doubled between 1982 and 1997;
(7) There is a critical need to invest in the conservation of
unique and important wildlife habitat, natural areas, forest lands,
farmland and lands for hunting, fishing and recreation; and
(8) It is critical to encourage cooperation and innovative
public partnerships among landowners, state agencies, nonprofit
organizations and others which must work together in order to
conserve West Virginia's most important unique and rural lands.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to provide persons and
other entities an opportunity to voluntarily conserve land.
(c) Further, it is the intent of the Legislature to establish
a West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund, hereinafter
"fund", to establish an ongoing funding source to conserve unique
and important wildlife habitat, natural areas, forests, working
lands, lands for hunting, fishing and recreation and other lands
important to West Virginians.
(d) The Legislature finds that an ongoing funding source to
conserve unique and important lands will help to ensure that
present and future generations of West Virginians are able to enjoy
the economic, quality of life, health, recreational, scenic and
other benefits of conserved lands.
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 3
§5B-2G-3. West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund -
The West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund is
established within the Department of Commerce. The fund has the
powers and duties provided in this article.
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 4
§5B-2G-4. West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund - Board
(a) Composition; chairman; quorum; qualifications. -- The fund
shall be governed and administered by a board of trustees composed
of the Director of the Division of Natural Resources and the
Director of the Division of Forestry, who shall serve as voting ex
officio members, and nine voting members to be appointed by the
Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The ex
officio members may appoint designees to serve on the board of
trustees. One of the appointed members shall be a representative
of the West Virginia Agricultural Land Protection Authority; one of
the appointed members shall be a registered forester; three of the
appointed members shall be representatives of independent IRC
501(c)(3) land trusts; two of the appointed members shall be
recognized professional experts in biology or ecology nominated by
the West Virginia Academy of Sciences; one of the appointed members
shall have demonstrated expertise in public health or public
recreation; and one of the appointed members shall be a
representative of sportsmen and sportswomen. A concerted effort
shall be made to appoint members who represent a cross-section of
The board shall elect the chair and other officers as
necessary from among the nine appointed members. A majority of the
members of the board serving at any one time constitutes a quorum
for the transaction of business.
If any of the entities to be represented on the board under
this section ceases to exist, the Governor shall appoint a
representative with similar expertise from an entity with a similar
(b) Terms. --
(1) The Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate,
shall appoint the nine members for the following terms:
(A) Three for a term of four years;
(B) Three for a term of three years; and
(C) Three for a term of two years.
(2) Successors to appointed members whose terms expire shall
be appointed for terms of four years. Vacancies shall be filled
for the unexpired term. An appointed member may not serve more
than two successive terms. Appointment to fill a vacancy may not
be considered as one of two terms.
(c) Oath. --
Appointed members shall take the oath of office as prescribed
(d) Recusal. --
A board member shall recuse himself or herself from any vote
in which he or she has a conflict of interest. The provisions of
this subsection is in addition to any other provisions of law or
applicable rules relating to the ethics of public officers or
(e) Compensation and expenses. --
Members shall not receive compensation. Each member of the
board shall receive expense reimbursement from the fund for actual
reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while engaged in the
discharge of official duties, the actual expenses not to exceed the
amount paid for similar reimbursement to members of the
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 5
§5B-2G-5. West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund -
The board has the following general powers on behalf of the
(a) Power to sue. -- To sue and be sued in contractual matters
in its own name.
(b) Power to contract. -- To enter into contracts generally
and to execute all instruments necessary or appropriate to carry
out its purposes.
(c) Power to conserve land. -- To acquire interests in real
property for conservation purposes.
(d) Power to transfer. -- To transfer interests in real
property for conservation purposes.
(e) Power to disburse grants. -- To act as a granting
authority to award grants to eligible grant recipients in
accordance with section nine of this article.
(f) Power to seek funding. -- To apply for and receive funding
from any and all state, federal and private sources to be used as
provided in this chapter.
(g) Power to authorize bond issuance. -- To direct the
Economic Development Authority to issue revenue bonds payable from
the portion of the recording fee imposed in section ten, article
one, chapter fifty-nine of this code to be allocated to the fund
and any other special revenue made against to the fund for this
purpose in accordance with section eight of this article or other provisions of this code.
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 6
§5B-2G-6. West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund -
The board shall, on behalf of the fund:
(a) Disseminate information regarding land conservation and
promote the conservation of land.
(b) Develop and implement additional guidelines and
procedures, consistent with the purposes of this chapter, as
necessary to implement this chapter.
(c) Seek and apply for funds from federal, state and private
sources to carry out its purpose as provided in this chapter.
(d) From moneys received from the recording fee in accordance
with section ten, article one, chapter fifty-nine of this code, to:
(1) Make available to the West Virginia Division of Natural
Resources fifty percent of the moneys so received by the fund, for
the division to acquire interests in real property for conservation
purposes in perpetuity in keeping with the West Virginia Wildlife
Conservation Action Plan or other conservation plans developed by
the division, provided that the board approves any acquisitions.
The division may agree to permit the fund to retain any or all of
this fifty percent to remain in the fund to be used as payment of
debt service and other costs associated with revenue bonds on the
fund's behalf by the Economic Development Authority in accordance
with the provisions of this article;
(2) Ensure that the remaining fifty percent of the moneys so
received by the fund are used for competitive grants in accordance with this article or used as payment of debt service and other
costs associated with revenue bonds on the fund's behalf by the
Economic Development Authority in accordance with the provisions of
this article, the proceeds of which shall also be used for
(e) Prepare and file electronically with the Governor's office
and with the Legislature by the thirty-first day of August of each
year a report that accounts for fund receipts and disbursals and
sets forth a list and description of all grants approved and all
acquisitions of interests in real property obtained with moneys
from the fund during the current year, including the recipients of
the grants, the amounts and the public benefits of the interests in
real property acquired.
(f) Propose legislative rules in accordance with the
provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code to
carry out its purposes and programs, to include specifically the
qualifications and procedures relating to its awarding of grants.
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 7
For purposes of this article, the following terms have the
meanings set forth in this section.
(a) "Board" means the board of trustees established in section
three of this article.
(b) "Conservation easement" means a nonpossessory interest in
real property as defined in section three, article twelve, chapter
twenty of this code, except that a conservation easement acquired
pursuant to this article shall be held in perpetuity.
(c) "Conservation purposes" means the conservation of land for
outdoor recreation by the public, for conservation of natural plant
and wildlife habitat or similar ecosystem, for conservation of
forestland and other open spaces, for conservation of land of
historical or cultural significance or as further defined under
conservation criteria developed in this article.
(d) "Eligible grant recipient" means:
(1) The following state agencies:
(A) Division of Natural Resources;
(B) Division of Forestry; or
(2) A charitable corporation, charitable association or
charitable trust registered with the Secretary of State and exempt
from taxation pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue
Code of 1986 [Public Law 99-514, 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(3)] or other
federal or state statutes or rules, the purposes or powers of which
include retaining or protecting the natural, scenic, agricultural or open-space values of real property; assuring the availability of
real property for agricultural, forest, recreational or open-space
use; protecting natural resources and wildlife; maintaining or
enhancing land, air or water quality; or preserving the historical,
architectural, archaeological or cultural aspects of real property,
as defined in section three, article twelve, chapter twenty of this
code, and that has a primary part of its mission to acquire
interests in real property for conservation purposes.
(e) "Fund" means the West Virginia Outdoor Heritage
Conservation Fund established in this article.
(f) "Land conservation" means acquisition of interests in real
property from willing sellers for conservation purposes.
(g) "Stewardship" means the necessary monitoring, maintenance
and enforcement of interests in real property for conservation
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 8
§5B-2G-8. Funding of land conservation; issuance of revenue bonds.
(a) Fund. --
(1) Created. -- The West Virginia Outdoor Heritage
Conservation Fund is created for the purposes specified in this
(2) Sources. -- The West Virginia Outdoor Heritage
Conservation Fund is comprised of:
(A) Any money made available to the fund by general or special
(B) Any money made available to the fund by grants or
transfers from governmental or private sources;
(C) Any money realized by investments, interest, dividends or
(D) Any money received from the issuance of revenue bonds in
accordance with the provisions of this article; and
(3) Disbursements. -- The Treasurer may not disburse any money
from the fund other than:
(A) For costs associated with the staffing, administration and
technical and legal duties of the fund;
(B) For reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by the
members of the board of trustees of the fund in the performance of
(C) For costs associated with the acquisition of interests in
real property for conservation purposes and for costs associated
with stewardship authorized by this article;
(D) For grants to be awarded in accordance with section nine
of this article;
(E) For payment of debt service and other costs associated
with revenue bonds issued on the fund's behalf by the Economic
Development Authority; and
(F) Of revenue received, directly or indirectly, from the
recording fee under section ten, article one, chapter fifty-nine of
this code and not used for the payment of revenue bonds and
expenses associated therewith, for purposes consistent with the
duties of the fund set forth in this article.
(4) Money remaining at end of fiscal year. -- Any money
remaining in the fund at the end of a fiscal year shall not revert
to the General Revenue Fund of the state, but shall remain in the
fund to be used for the purposes specified in this article.
(5) Budget. -- The estimated budget of the fund for the next
fiscal year shall be included with the budget of the West Virginia
Department of Commerce.
(6) Audit. -- The fund shall be audited annually.
(b) Bonds. --
The Legislature finds and declares that in order to attract
new business, commerce and industry to this state, to retain
existing business and industry providing the citizens of this state
with economic security and to advance the business prosperity of
this state and the economic welfare of the citizens of this state,
it is necessary to provide public financial support for land conservation as provided in this article.
(1) The West Virginia Economic Development Authority created
and provided in article fifteen, chapter thirty-one of this code
shall, by resolution, in accordance with the provisions of this
article and article fifteen, chapter thirty-one of this code and
upon direction of the board of the Outdoor Heritage Conservation
Fund, issue revenue bonds of the Economic Development Authority to
pay for all or a portion of the cost of the acquisition of
interests in real property for conservation purposes authorized
under this article or to refund the bonds at the discretion of the
fund. The revenue bonds shall mature at a time or times not
exceeding thirty years from their respective dates. The principal
of, and the interest and redemption premium, if any, on the bonds
shall be payable from the moneys deposited in the fund pursuant to
section ten, article one, chapter fifty-nine of this code or from
other sources identified by the board of the fund.
(2) There is established in the State Treasury a special
revenue fund named the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund into
which shall be deposited on and after the first day of July, two
thousand eight, the amounts to be deposited in the fund as
specified in this article. The Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund
shall consist of all such moneys, all appropriations to the fund,
all interest earned from investment of the fund and any gifts,
grants or contributions received by the fund. All amounts
deposited in the fund pursuant to section ten, article one, chapter fifty-nine of this code shall be pledged to the repayment of the
principal, interest and redemption premium, if any, on any revenue
bonds or refunding revenue bonds authorized by this section,
including any and all commercially customary and reasonable costs
and expenses which may be incurred in connection with the issuance,
refunding, redemption or defeasance thereof. The West Virginia
Economic Development Authority may further provide in the
resolution and in the trust agreement for priorities on the
revenues paid into the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund pursuant
to section ten, article one, chapter fifty-nine of this code as may
be necessary for the protection of the prior rights of the holders
of bonds issued at different times under the provisions of this
section. The bonds issued pursuant to this subsection shall be
separate from all other bonds which may be or have been issued from
time to time under the provisions of this article.
(3) Bonds issued under this subsection shall state on their
face that the bonds do not constitute a debt of the State of West
Virginia; that payment of the bonds, interest and charges thereon
cannot become an obligation of the State of West Virginia; and that
the bondholders' remedies are limited in all respects to the
special revenue fund established in this subsection for the
liquidation of the bonds.
(4) The West Virginia Economic Development Authority shall
expend the bond proceeds from the revenue bond issues authorized
and directed by this section for projects as certified by the board of the fund under the provisions of this article as serving a
public purpose and meeting the criteria established by this
(5) If any proceeds from sale of bonds remain after paying
costs and making grants as provided in this subsection, the surplus
may be used as elsewhere provided in this article.
WVC 5 B- 2 G- 9
§5B-2G-9. Grants for land conservation; application; criteria.
(a) An eligible grant recipient may apply for a grant from the
fund to acquire interests in real property for conservation
purposes or for stewardship. An application may not be submitted
to the fund without the written consent of the owner of the
interest in real property identified in the application.
(b) Before applying for a grant, the eligible grant recipient
shall notify the owner that is the subject of the grant of the
following in writing:
(1) That interests in real property acquired with a grant from
the fund result in a permanent conveyance of such interests in real
property from the owner to the eligible grant recipient or its
(2) That it may be in the owner's interest to retain
independent legal counsel, appraisals and other professional
The application shall contain an affirmation that the notice
requirement of this subsection has been met.
(c) Grants from the fund shall be awarded based upon the
conservation criteria and financial criteria contained in this
section. In each application, the eligible grant recipient shall
provide information regarding how the proposal meets one or more of
these criteria and advances the purposes of this article.
(d) For purposes of this article, conservation criteria
(1) Unique or important wildlife habitat as specified in the
State Wildlife Conservation Action Plan;
(2) Habitat for rare, threatened or endangered species;
(3) A relatively undisturbed or outstanding example of an
ecosystem or natural community indigenous to West Virginia;
(4) An important area for public hunting, fishing or other
outdoor recreational uses;
(5) Important recreation lands or important habitats
identified in county comprehensive plans;
(6) Riparian habitats, wetlands, water quality, watersheds of
significant ecological value or critical aquifer recharge areas;
(7) Forest land or working land that has strategic economic
(8) A larger area containing conserved lands or as a
connection between conserved lands;
(9) Land of unique cultural, historical or archaeological
(10) Degree of threat to land; and
(11) The number of acres of land to be conserved.
(e) For purposes of this article, financial criteria include:
(1) The degree to which the proposal leverages grants from the
fund by including funding or in-kind assets or services from other
governmental sources; and
(2) The degree to which the proposal leverages grants from the
fund by including funding or in-kind assets or services from private or nonprofit sources or charitable donations, including
bargain sales of interests in real property for conservation
(f) The board of the fund shall evaluate each proposal
according to the conservation criteria and financial criteria set
forth in this section, and shall award grants on the basis of how
well proposals meet these two criteria.
(g) If an eligible grant recipient entity is dissolved or
ceases to exist as an entity, or if any interests in real property
obtained with a grant from the fund are not being utilized strictly
for conservation purposes, the real property interest shall vest in
the fund upon recording of a notice signed by the chair of the fund
and filed with the clerk of the appropriate county and the fund may
transfer the interest to an appropriate eligible grant recipient.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2015 Regular Session
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