Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 10.1. Conservation
Chapter 2. Parks and Recreation
8/16/2022

Article 3. Virginia Natural Area Preserves Act.

§ 10.1-209. Definitions.

Whenever used or referred to in this article, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the text:

"Fund" means the Natural Area Preservation Fund.

"Dedication" means the transfer to the Commonwealth of an estate, interest, or right in a natural area by any manner authorized in § 10.1-213.

"Instrument of dedication" means any written document by which an estate, interest, or right in a natural area conveys formal dedication as a natural area preserve pursuant to the provisions of § 10.1-213.

"Natural area" means any area of land, water, or both land and water, whether publicly or privately owned, that retains or has reestablished its natural character, though it need not be completely natural and undisturbed; or which is important in preserving rare or vanishing flora, fauna, native ecological systems, geological, natural historical, scenic or similar features of scientific or educational value benefiting the citizens of the Commonwealth.

"Natural area preserve" means a natural area that has been dedicated pursuant to § 10.1-213.

"Natural heritage resources" means the habitat of rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species, rare or state significant natural communities or geologic sites, and similar features of scientific interest benefiting the welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

"Program" means the Virginia Natural Heritage Program.

"Owner" means any individual, corporation, partnership, trust or association, and all governmental units except the state, its department, agencies or institutions.

"Registry" means an agreement between the Director and the owner of a natural area to protect and manage the natural area for its specified natural heritage resource values.

"System" means the state system of natural area preserves established under § 10.1-214.

1989, c. 553.

§ 10.1-210. Additional powers of the Department.

In addition to other powers conferred by law and subject to the provisions of this article, the Department shall have the power, which may be delegated by the Director:

1. To establish criteria for the selection, registration and dedication of natural areas and natural area preserves.

2. To purchase, lease or otherwise acquire in the name of the Commonwealth, using moneys from the Natural Area Preservation Fund, lands suitable for natural area preserves.

3. To acquire by gift, devise, purchase, or otherwise, absolutely or in trust, and to hold and, unless otherwise restricted by the terms of a gift or devise, to encumber, convey or otherwise dispose of, any real property, any estate or interests therein, or products on or derived from such real property, as may be necessary and proper in carrying into effect the provisions of this article.

4. To accept, hold and administer gifts and bequests of money, securities, or other property, absolutely or in trust, made for purposes of this article. Unless otherwise restricted by the terms of the gift or bequest, the Department may sell, exchange or otherwise dispose of such money, securities or other property given or bequeathed to the Department. The principal of such funds, together with the income and all revenues derived therefrom, shall be placed in the Natural Area Preservation Fund.

1989, c. 553.

§ 10.1-211. Additional duties of the Department.

In addition to other duties conferred by law, the Department shall, subject to the provisions of this article:

1. Preserve the natural diversity of biological resources of the Commonwealth.

2. Maintain a Natural Heritage Program to select and nominate areas containing natural heritage resources for registration, acquisition, and dedication of natural areas and natural area preserves.

3. Develop and implement a Natural Heritage Plan that shall govern the Natural Heritage Program in the creation of a system of registered and dedicated natural area preserves.

4. Publish and disseminate information pertaining to natural areas and natural area preserves.

5. Grant permits to qualified persons for the conduct of scientific research and investigations within natural area preserves.

6. Provide recommendations to the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and to the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services on species for listing under the Virginia Endangered Plant and Insect Act, prior to the adoption of regulations therefor.

7. Provide recommendations to the Executive Director of the Department of Wildlife Resources and to the Board of Wildlife Resources on species for listing under the Virginia Endangered Species Act, prior to the adoption of regulations therefor.

8. Cooperate with other local, state and federal agencies in developing management plans for real property under their stewardship that will identify, maintain and preserve the natural diversity of biological resources of the Commonwealth.

9. Provide for management, development and utilization of any lands purchased, leased or otherwise acquired and enforce the provisions of this article governing natural area preserves, the stewardship thereof, the prevention of trespassing thereon, or other actions deemed necessary to carry out the provisions of this article.

1989, c. 553; 2020, c. 958.

§ 10.1-212. Virginia Natural Heritage Program.

A. The Virginia Natural Heritage Program is hereby established and shall be administered by the Department.

B. For purposes of this Program the Department shall:

1. Produce an inventory of the Commonwealth's natural heritage resources, including their location and ecological status.

2. Maintain a natural heritage data bank of inventory data and other relevant information for ecologically significant sites supporting natural heritage resources. Information from this data bank will be made available to public agencies and may be made available to private institutions or individuals for environmental assessment and land management purposes.

3. Develop a Natural Heritage Plan which establishes priorities for the protection, acquisition and management of registered and dedicated natural areas and natural area preserves.

C. The Program shall include other functions as may be assigned by the Director for the registration, dedication, protection and stewardship of natural areas and natural area preserves.

1989, c. 553.

§ 10.1-213. Dedication of natural area preserves.

A. The Director may, in the name of the Department, accept the dedication of natural areas on lands deemed by the Director to qualify as natural area preserves under the provisions of this article. Natural area preserves may be dedicated by voluntary act of the owner. The owner of a qualified natural area may transfer fee simple title or other interest in land to the Commonwealth. Natural area preserves may be acquired by gift, grant, or purchase.

B. Dedication of a natural preserve shall become effective only upon acceptance of the instrument of dedication by the Director.

C. The instrument of dedication may:

1. Contain restrictions and other provisions relating to management, use, development, transfer, and public access, and may contain any other restrictions and provisions as may be necessary or advisable to further the purposes of this article;

2. Define, consistently with the purposes of this article, the respective rights and duties of the owner and of the Commonwealth and provide procedures to be followed in case of violations of the restrictions;

3. Recognize and create reversionary rights, transfers upon conditions or with limitations, and gifts over; and

4. Vary in provisions from one natural area preserve to another in accordance with differences in the characteristics and conditions of the several areas.

D. Public departments, commissions, boards, counties, municipalities, corporations, and institutions of higher education and all other agencies and instrumentalities of the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions are empowered to dedicate suitable areas within their jurisdiction as natural area preserves.

E. Subject to the approval of the Governor, the Commonwealth may enter into amendments to the instrument of dedication upon finding that the amendment will not permit an impairment, disturbance, use, or development of the area inconsistent with the provisions of this article. If the fee simple estate in the natural area preserve is not held by the Department under this article, no amendment may be made without the written consent of the owner of the other interests therein.

1989, c. 553.

§ 10.1-214. Virginia natural area preserves system established.

A state system of natural area preserves is hereby established and shall be called the Virginia Natural Area Preserves System. The system shall consist of natural area preserves dedicated as provided in § 10.1-213. Once dedicated, a natural area preserve shall be managed in a manner consistent with continued preservation of the natural heritage resources it supports.

1989, c. 553.

§ 10.1-215. Natural Area Preservation Fund established.

A. A fund consisting of general fund appropriations, gifts, bequests, devises, fees, lease proceeds, and funds accruing from, or attributable to, the use or management of state natural area preserves acquired or held by the Department known as the Natural Area Preservation Fund is hereby established.

B. Any funds remaining in such fund at the end of the biennium, including all appropriations, gifts, bequests, devises, fees, lease proceeds, and funds accruing from, or attributable to, the use or management of state natural area preserves acquired or held by the Department, and interest accruing thereon, shall not revert to the general fund but shall remain in the Natural Area Preservation Fund.

1989, c. 553; 2005, c. 94.

§ 10.1-216. Natural area registry.

A. The Department shall maintain a state registry of voluntarily protected natural areas to be called the Virginia Registry of Natural Areas. Registration of natural areas shall be accomplished through voluntary agreement between the owner of the natural area and the Director. State-owned lands may be registered by agreement with the agency to which the land is allocated. Registry agreements may be terminated by either party at any time, and upon such termination the area shall be removed from the registry.

B. A natural area shall be registered when an agreement to protect and manage the natural area for its specified natural heritage resource has been signed by the owner and the Director. The owner of a registered natural area shall be given a certificate signifying the inclusion of the area in the registry.

1989, c. 553.

§ 10.1-217. Gifts, devises and bequests.

Gifts, devises or bequests, whether personal or real property, and the income derived therefrom, accepted by the Director, shall be deemed as gifts to the Commonwealth, which shall be exempt from all state and local taxes, and shall be regarded as the property of the Commonwealth for the purposes of all tax laws.

1989, c. 553.