113A-232. Conservation Grant Fund.

(a) Fund Created. - The Conservation Grant Fund is created within the Department of Environmental Quality. The Fund shall be administered by the Department. The purpose of the Fund is to stimulate the use of conservation easements, to improve the capacity of private nonprofit land trust organizations to successfully accomplish conservation projects, to better equip real estate related professionals to pursue opportunities for conservation, to increase landowner participation in land and water conservation, and to provide an opportunity to leverage private and other public monies for conservation easements.

(b) Fund Sources. - The Conservation Grant Fund shall consist of any monies appropriated to it by the General Assembly and any monies received from public or private sources. Unexpended monies in the Fund that were appropriated from the General Fund by the General Assembly shall revert at the end of the fiscal year unless the General Assembly otherwise provides. Unexpended monies in the Fund from other sources shall not revert and shall remain available for expenditure in accordance with this Article.

(c) Property Eligibility. - In order for real property or an interest in real property to be the subject of a grant under this Article, the real property or interest in real property must meet all of the following conditions:

(1) Possess or have a high potential to possess ecological value.

(2) Be reasonably restorable.

(3) Be useful for one or more of the following purposes:

a. Public beach access or use.

b. Public access to public waters or trails.

c. Fish and wildlife conservation.

d. Forestland or farmland conservation.

e. Watershed protection.

f. Conservation of natural areas, as that term is defined in G.S. 143B-135.254(3).

g. Conservation of predominantly natural parkland.

(4) Be donated in perpetuity to and accepted by the State, a local government, or a body that is both organized to receive and administer lands for conservation purposes and qualified to receive charitable contributions under G.S. 105-130.9. Land required to be dedicated pursuant to local governmental regulation or ordinance and dedications made to increase building density levels permitted under a regulation or ordinance do not qualify.

(c1) Grant Eligibility. - State conservation land management agencies, local government conservation land management agencies, and private nonprofit land trust organizations are eligible to receive grants from the Conservation Grant Fund. Private nonprofit land trust organizations must be certified under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to aid in managing the land.

(d) Use of Revenue. - Revenue in the Conservation Grant Fund may be used only for the following purposes:

(1) The administrative costs of the Department in administering the Fund.

(2) Conservation grants made in accordance with this Article.

(3) To establish an endowment account, the interest from which will be used for a purpose described in G.S. 113A-233(a). (1997-226, s. 6; 1997-443, s. 11A.119(b); 2002-155, s. 2; 2003-340, s. 1.4; 2014-3, s. 14.14(d); 2015-241, s. 14.30(u).)