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On Earth Day McDonnell Sets Ambitious Goal: Conserve Additional 400,000 Acres of Land During Administration

Press Release

Location: Richmond, VA

On Earth Day McDonnell Sets Ambitious Goal: Conserve Additional 400,000 Acres of Land During Administration

—Will Build on Bipartisan Effort Led by Governor Tim Kaine and Speaker Bill Howell—

*Will Increase Land Conservation Tax Credit from 40% to 50%*

Bob McDonnell, Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Attorney General of Virginia, today set a goal of preserving an additional 400,000 acres of land in the Commonwealth during his term as Governor. McDonnell announced this policy proposal as Virginians statewide took part in Earth Day activities.

Speaking about the effort McDonnell noted, "The conservation and preservation of Virginia's beautiful open spaces is an ongoing bipartisan effort. Governor Tim Kaine and Speaker Bill Howell both deserve our appreciation for their work to conserve over 400,000 acres of open space during this decade. As our population increases, and land is developed in Virginia at a rate of roughly 60,000 acres a year, it is important we continue this bipartisan conservation effort. As Governor I will do so by ensuring that we conserve another 400,000 acres by the conclusion of my term in January 2014."

McDonnell continued remarking, "One of the great benefits of growing up in Fairfax County right by the Potomac River, raising my family in Virginia Beach not far from the Atlantic Ocean, and traveling all across Virginia as a statewide office holder and now candidate for Governor is that I have gotten to spend so much time taking in the beauty and the majesty of Virginia's outdoors. We are blessed to live in a Commonwealth that continues to be enjoyed for its rivers, working farms, fields, mountains and hills. As Virginia grows in population we must preserve our natural wonders for future generations to enjoy. I will increase the land conservation tax credit from 40% to 50% of the qualified appraised value of the land to further incentivize citizens to participate in our successful land conservation efforts. We will use free market policies to pass on Virginia's natural wonders to our children, grandchildren and all who follow. "

McDonnell added, "It's not just future generations who benefit from protecting our open spaces. Tourists come from across the globe to hike on our section of the Appalachian Trail, relax on our beaches, visit our Civil War Battlefields, and fish in our Chesapeake Bay. They spend significant money here, and the revenues benefit us all. Our agriculture and forestry industries are major employers, and major revenue contributors to the state as well, and conservation efforts allow these critical industries to remain robust and strong. Finally, we know that people and businesses move to where there is a good quality of life. That's a Virginia where a Saturday afternoon could include a picnic in Pocahontas State Park, or a hike at Mason Neck; a mountain bike ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail, or a kayak run down the Pigg River. That's the Virginia I will preserve and protect as Governor."

There are many ways the Commonwealth acts to conserve land. The Commonwealth can directly purchase lands for public use, provide tax incentives to private landowners for conservation, or match grants from land trusts that purchase land and easements* and the Commonwealth can encourage private donations of land to conservation organizations.

McDonnell's bold pledge follows from his strong record of working to conserve Virginia's open spaces.

Bob McDonnell: A Record of Supporting Conservation

Bob McDonnell co-sponsored legislation (HB2044) in 1997 that created the Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund. This fund was established to be used by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation for grants to assist with costs associated with conservation easements conveyances, such as legal and appraisal costs or all or part of the value of the easements.

Some of the land conservation bills McDonnell voted for as delegate include:

1996 - SB 606

Voluntary income tax contribution; Open Space Recreation and Conservation Fund. Extended the sunset date on the tax refund checkoff for contributions to the Open Space Recreation and Conservation Fund from January 1, 1996, to January 1, 2001.

1999 - SB 1218

Tax credits; preservation of land. Created the land conservation tax credit.

2000 - SB 634

State income tax checkoff; removal of sunset. Removes the sunset provision on the state income tax checkoff for open space and conservation contributions. Under the first law, a taxpayer's ability to designate a portion of his refund for such purposes expired on January 1, 2001.

2000 - HB 1162

State recordation tax. Requires that the amount by which each year's collections of state recordation taxes exceed $91.4 million (the amount generated by the tax in 1996) shall be distributed to the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, to be phased in over the next four fiscal years.

2000 - HB 1326

Conservation easements. Allows a charitable entity that does not meet the requirements of the Virginia Conservation Easement Act to hold a conservation easement if the easement is co-held by another charitable entity that does meet the requirements.

2002 - HB 1322

Transferability of tax credits. Patroned by Speaker Howell, this bill allows for the transferring of open space tax credits.

As a delegate McDonnell voted for a combined $34,572,025 in funding for open space conservation.

Today's open space proposal is one part of Bob McDonnell's "Sustainable Virginia" vision for the Commonwealth's environment.

Bob McDonnell's: "Sustainable Virginia" Pledge:

"Clean air, pure water and the use and enjoyment of public lands, water and natural resources is not only critical to the economic viability of our Commonwealth, but it is a basic right Virginians have expressed in Article 11 in our state Constitution. Creating a sustainable Virginia, one that strikes a necessary balance to assure that Virginia prospers both environmentally and economically, is everyone's job - citizens, businesses, farms, state agencies. As Governor I will present a coordinated, effective and business-like plan to be a good steward of the environment."

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