West Virginia is home to some of the world’s most beautiful rivers and streams. Many of these waters are polluted, in part because of the way land is used in nearby areas.

The Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic (Land Use Clinic) provides legal services to local governments, landowners, and non-profit organizations to develop land conservation strategies and practices. The Land Use Clinic aims to:

Identify and conserve sensitive land

The Land Use Clinic collaborates with the West Virginia Land Trust, other land trusts and non-profits, and local governments to identify appropriate properties for conservation. The Land Use Clinic then assists with the legal services necessary to place voluntary conservation easements upon or otherwise protect the subject properties. Such legal services include, but are not limited to, title examinations, advising landowners and land trusts, drafting conservations easements, negotiating with mineral owners and lessees, and drafting surface use agreements.

Support local land use decision-makers

The Land Use Clinic provides technical assistance to local government officials, planners, and other land use decision-makers to encourage sustainable development in appropriate areas of the community. For example, the Land Use Clinic works with several communities to draft comprehensive land use plans and ordinances, per the requirements of the West Virginia Code. The Land Use Clinic also provides training on how to address dilapidated buildings, developing within a floodplain, and promoting recreational areas.

Address wastewater issues

Many residences and businesses dispose of human waste directly into rivers and streams without adequate treatment. Many others utilize antiquated wastewater treatment systems that result in harmful discharges. Through innovative legal strategies and funding assistance, the Land Use Clinic works with partner communities to identify and support alternative wastewater solutions.

Provide educational opportunities for law students

The Land Use Clinic provides WVU law students with an opportunity to gain practical experience in the field of land use law and policy. As a transactional and policy-based clinic, students develop research, drafting, negotiation, and client counseling skills. Under the guidance of experienced attorneys and other land use professionals, students contribute to land and water conservation efforts throughout the state.