Q1 2015 Newsletter

Q1 2015 Newsletter

Looking Back at 2015 General Assembly Session

VIRGINIAforever actively engaged in the 2015 legislative session advocating for water quality and land preservation funding.  Despite the initially bleak outlook of the 2015 budget, the legislators heard VIRGINIAforever’s message and passed a budget that included funding for all of VIRGINIAforever’s water quality and land preservation priorities:

  • $5.0 million for land preservation, which includes, $3 million to the Virginia Land Conservation Fund, $1 million to the Civil War Site Preservation Fund, and $1 million to the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund
  • $5.0 million for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, a grant program that provides important assistance to local governments seeking to comply with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan to restore local streams, rivers, and the Bay
  • $10.7 million to assist farmers with cost-share and technical assistance support to improve water quality in local streams, rivers, and the Bay.

These successes were a result of significant lobbying and direct outreach to the Virginia General Assembly members.  Whether it was a one-on-one meeting with a select legislator, or a letter that was individually written and hand-delivered to a key legislator, VIRGINIAforever had a consistent and constant presence and message in the General Assembly that helped underscore the importance of funding for natural resources.


 VIRGINIAforever Holds Successful Legislative Reception

VIRGINIAforever’s priorities at the 2015 General Assembly were further reinforced through our first-ever legislative reception. Held at Rappahannock Restaurant in Richmond on January 27, the legislative reception provided an opportunity for VIRGINIAforever members to interact, engage, and thank legislators and policy officials, including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and select administration officials, for their commitment to Virginia’s natural resources.


VIRGINIAforever board members, staff and elected and appointed officials listen to Governor Terry McAuliffe make remarks about the importance of natural resources funding during the VIRGINIAforever legislative reception at Rappahannock Restaurant in Richmond.


VIRGINIAforever to Participate in UVA Bay Game

VIRGINIAforever is pleased to be participating in the UVA Bay Game, a large-scale participatory simulation based on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The game allows players to take the roles of stakeholders, such as farmers, developer, watermen, and local policy-makers; make decisions about their livelihoods or regulatory authority; and see the impacts of their decisions on their own personal finances, the regional economy, and watershed health.

In April, students from area universities will join VIRGINIAforever to play this educational game. The Bay Game is hailed as a learning tool for raising awareness about watershed stewardship anywhere in the world; a tool for exploring and testing policy choices; and a tool for evaluating new products and services. To learn more about the UVA Bay game, click here.


Land Conservation Grants Awarded in Virginia

In January, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recipients of 14 grants totaling $1.7 million awarded by the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, a state land conservation board. The grants will help add 5,729 acres to Virginia’s conserved lands. VLCF grants are used by private land trusts, local governments and state agencies to protect and acquire special lands including farmlands and forestry, historic areas, natural areas, and open spaces and parks.

Two grants for natural areas protection were awarded to The Nature Conservancy, a member organization of VIRGINIAforever:

  • A grant for $160,000 will help purchase three properties, a total of 254 acres, in the Powell River/Cedars area that support the federally listed Lee County cave isopod, as well as habitat for other rare animals and plants. Once The Nature Conservancy acquires the land, it will be dedicated as part of The Cedars Natural Area Preserve and permanently protected as open space. Learn more about The Cedars Natural Area Preserve here.
  • A grant for $70,000 will help build on nearly a decade of land-protection efforts in the South Quay area in Suffolk. It will protect pine sandhills habitat and cypress-tupelo swamp forest along Somerton Creek, a major tributary of the Blackwater River. The land is adjacent to the 2,882-acre South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve, reported on in a past VIRGINIAforever newsletter here.

VIRGINIAforever applauds the efforts of TNC and will continue to advocate for state funding to be allocated to the VLCF during the 2016 General Assembly.


Federal Grant to Advance Chesapeake Bay Cleanup, Agricultural Best Practices

Governor Terry McAuliffe has announced that Virginia was selected to receive a federal grant to accelerate the implementation of practices related to Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals. Virginia will receive $1.75 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The funds will be used to install soil and water conservation best management practices on farmland.

Specifically, the funds will be used over the next four years to expand the use of fencing and other techniques designed to prevent livestock from wading into streams and fouling water quality. The funds will be concentrated in the areas of Virginia where tributary streams drain to the Chesapeake Bay.

The majority of Virginia’s grant will be paid out to farmers directly. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will receive the remaining $300,000, which will be distributed to the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to provide technical assistance in establishing forested buffers on agricultural land.

According to Ann Jennings, VIRGINIAforever executive board member and Virginia executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, “Virginia must advance farm conservation practices to achieve its clean water goals, and fortunately, reducing pollution from agricultural runoff is the most cost-effective way to improve water quality. CBF is honored to partner with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to continue efforts to help farmers install practices that reduce polluted runoff, including riparian buffers, stream protection and rotational grazing through the RCPP program. These funds, combined with increased state support, can ensure a cleaner Chesapeake Bay for future generations.”

Advocating for increased funding for agricultural best management practices is an important legislative priority for VIRGINIAforever. We are pleased that this grant program will continue to help farmers meet requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan.


VIRGINIAforever New Member Update

VIRGINIAforever is pleased to welcome two new members.

Ginny Snead, who serves as a VIRGINIAforever general board member, is a water resources engineer with Louis Berger, one of the largest engineering and environmental consulting specialty firms in the world. Previously, she ran the Commonwealth of Virginia’s non-point regulatory programs at the Department of Conservation and Recreation and managed the Office of Stormwater at the Department of Environmental Quality.

Mike Town, also serving on the VIRGINIAforever general board, is the executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. His nineteen years of experience working in the conservation community includes running both state and national conservation organizations.  His last position was as president and executive director of the Partnership Project, a national environmental organization that builds and manages collaborative campaigns for the broader conservation community.

Welcome, Ginny and Mike!