WV Voluntary Farmland Protection Act
Effective June 3, 2000, West Virginia enacted the Voluntary Farmland Protection Act authorizing the creation of county Farmland Protection Boards and the WV Agricultural Land Protection Authority. On March 9, 2002, the WV Legislature modified the Voluntary Farmland Protection act to provide funding for such a program through an additional real estate transfer tax. Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan Counties have all established Farmland Protection Boards (FPB’s) and have funded them through the additional transfer tax. As a result, they can pay farmers for all or part of the value of conservation easements, subject to the availability of funds, as well as accept pure donations of easements.
Each of these FPB’s is a division of local county government. Many times landowners wish to have a private, 501(c)(3) land trust as a co-holder with the government entity on the conservation easement that has been sold or donated by the landowner. A “co-held” easement is essentially an easement whose rights, duties, and responsibilities are held jointly. The Voluntary Farmland Protection Act allows co-holding with a governmental body (either the State Authority or the FPB’s) by a private land trust, generally at the request of the landowner. The possible benefits of co-holding are as follows:
- Added insurance that the easement will be maintained should one entity cease to exist.
- Potential non-governmental yearly monitoring of the property.
- A private land trust partner on the easement to act in the interest of the landowner in regards to the broader powers by the government holder, including eminent domain.
Contact the Land Trust if you are interested in having a private partner in addition to a governmental entity on a conservation easement through either the State Authority or a local FPB.