Republican Bob McDonnell has set a goal to preserve 400,000 acres of land during the four years of his administration if he is elected governor.
As a preservation incentive, McDonnell said he would propose raising the land conservation tax credit from 40 percent to 50 percent.
McDonnell picked Earth Day to announce his conservation plan.
"We are blessed to live in a commonwealth that continues to be enjoyed for its rivers, working farms, fields, mountains and hills," he said.
McDonnell praised Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, and Speaker of the House William J. Howell, a Republican, for setting a similar goal of preserving 400,000 acres. About 3.3 million acres in Virginia are under conservation, he said in a brief telephone interview.
"Philosophically, conservation is a conservative value," the former attorney general said.
He bristled at a suggestion that his plans to drill for oil and gas off the coast of Virginia are at odds with his conservation stance.
Drilling is so safe that it is not an environmental issue, he said.
"Drilling is an energy independence issue" that would create jobs and produce royalties, he said.
While in the House of Delegates, where he represented Virginia Beach, he co-sponsored legislation in 1997 that created the open space lands preservation trust fund, he said.
Besides providing tax incentives, the state can directly purchase land for public use and can encourage private donations of land to conservation organizations.
The General Assembly in 2003 lowered the tax incentive from 50 percent to 40 percent.