(a) An eligible grant recipient may apply for a grant from the fund to acquire interests in real property for conservation purposes or for stewardship. An application may not be submitted to the fund without the written consent of the owner of the interest in real property identified in the application.
(b) Before applying for a grant, the eligible grant recipient shall notify the owner that is the subject of the grant of the following in writing:
(1) That interests in real property acquired with a grant from the fund result in a permanent conveyance of such interests in real property from the owner to the eligible grant recipient or its assigns; and
(2) That it may be in the owner's interest to retain independent legal counsel, appraisals and other professional advice.
The application shall contain an affirmation that the notice requirement of this subsection has been met.
(c) Grants from the fund shall be awarded based upon the conservation criteria and financial criteria contained in this section. In each application, the eligible grant recipient shall provide information regarding how the proposal meets one or more of these criteria and advances the purposes of this article.
(d) For purposes of this article, conservation criteria include:
(1) Unique or important wildlife habitat as specified in the state Wildlife Conservation Action Plan;
(2) Habitat for rare, threatened or endangered species;
(3) A relatively undisturbed or outstanding example of an ecosystem or natural community indigenous to West Virginia;
(4) An important area for public hunting, fishing or other outdoor recreational uses;
(5) Important recreation lands or important habitats identified in county comprehensive plans;
(6) Riparian habitats, wetlands, water quality, watersheds of significant ecological value or critical aquifer recharge areas;
(7) Forest land or working land that has strategic economic significance;
(8) A larger area containing conserved lands or as a connection between conserved lands;
(9) Land of unique cultural, historical or archaeological significance;
(10) Degree of threat to land; and
(11) The number of acres of land to be conserved.
(e) For purposes of this article, financial criteria include:
(1) The degree to which the proposal leverages grants from the fund by including funding or in-kind assets or services from other governmental sources; and
(2) The degree to which the proposal leverages grants from the fund by including funding or in-kind assets or services from private or nonprofit sources or charitable donations, including bargain sales of interests in real property for conservation purposes;
(f) The board of the fund shall evaluate each proposal according to the conservation criteria and financial criteria set forth in this section, and shall award grants on the basis of how well proposals meet these two criteria.
(g) If an eligible grant recipient entity is dissolved or ceases to exist as an entity, or if any interests in real property obtained with a grant from the fund are not being utilized strictly for conservation purposes, the real property interest shall vest in the fund upon recording of a notice signed by the chair of the fund and filed with the clerk of the appropriate county and the fund may transfer the interest to an appropriate eligible grant recipient.