113A-235. Conservation properties eligible for funding.

(a) Property Eligibility. - In order for real property or an interest in real property to be eligible for a grant under this Article as a conservation property, 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, previously restored, or a high-quality preservation.

(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 or improvement.

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 purchased on behalf of, donated, or assigned 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.

(a1) Acquisition and Protection of Conservation Properties. - Ecological systems and appropriate public use of these systems may be protected through conservation easements, including conservation agreements under Article 4 of Chapter 121 of the General Statutes, the Conservation and Historic Preservation Agreements Act, and conservation easements under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The Department may acquire conservation properties and easements by purchase, gift, or assignment, in accordance with G.S. 146-22. The Department of Environmental Quality shall work cooperatively with State and local agencies and qualified nonprofit organizations to monitor compliance with conservation easements and conservation agreements and to ensure the continued viability of the protected ecosystems. Soil and water conservation districts established under Chapter 139 of the General Statutes may acquire easements under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program by purchase or gift.

(b) Conveyance of Conservation Lands. - The Department may convey real property or an interest in real property that has been acquired for conservation in perpetuity to a federal agency, State agency, a local government, or a private nonprofit conservation organization in accordance with State law governing the conveyance of real property. The grantee of real property or an interest in real property shall manage and maintain the real property or interest in real property for the purposes set out in subsection (a) of this section. When conveying real property or an interest in real property under this subsection, the Department shall retain a possibility of reverter, a right of entry, or other appropriate property interest to ensure that the real property or interest in real property will continue to be managed and maintained in a manner that protects ecological systems and the appropriate public use of these systems.

(c) Report. - The Department shall report on the implementation of this Article to the Environmental Review Commission no later than 1 October of each year. The Department shall maintain an inventory of all conservation easements held by the Department. The inventory shall be included in the report required by this subsection. (1997-226, s. 6; 1997-443, s. 11A.119(b); 1999-329, s. 6.3; 2002-155, s. 5; 2004-195, s. 2.2; 2015-241, s. 14.30(u); 2020-78, s. 7.4(a), (e).)