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Virginia’s inspector general finds faults within conservation tax credit program

OSIG says it found instances where these pieces of land were not properly monitored for...
OSIG says it found instances where these pieces of land were not properly monitored for conservation, particularly when it came to water quality.(WDBJ7)
Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 5:01 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - A new report from Virginia’s Inspector General finds the Commonwealth is not getting the conservation efforts it’s been paying for.

The Office of the State Inspector General just wrapped up its year-long review of conservation easements; pieces of property landowners can offer up for conservation and get a tax credit in return.

Ben Sutphin, Audit Manager with OSIG, said the agency flagged this program for review after a suggestion by the Secretary of Natural Resources for its annual audit plan. Sutphin believes Virginia spends nearly all its $75 million annual cap on this type of property in tax credits per year.

The review focused specifically on easements valued between $500,000 and $999,999. When easements reach a value of $1 million, Sutphin said they are required to undergo a more thorough review.

But for these less expensive easements, OSIG says it found instances where these pieces of land were not properly monitored for conservation, particularly when it came to water quality.

The agency recommends stricter review of the easements, like the review measures in place for more expensive easements, and accreditation for the organizations holding onto them.

“The program’s good. The intent of the program’s good,” said Sutphin. “We’re not trying to fault the program, we’re only trying to make the program better and a better product for the citizens of Virginia.”

In the review, the Departments of Conservation and Recreation and Taxation said each will comply with most of OSIG’s recommendations where it is able.

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