VIRGINIAforever is pleased to announce that Dennis Treacy has been named chairman of the organization. He has been elected to serve a two-year term, effective January 1, 2016. Dennis most recently served as Smithfield Foods’ Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, overseeing the pork producer’s government affairs, corporate communications, sustainability initiatives and the legal department. Through the end of 2016, he will serve as president of the Smithfield Foundation, the nonprofit organization that acts as the philanthropic wing of Smithfield. Prior to joining Smithfield Foods in 2002, Dennis was director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Dennis also served as assistant attorney general in the natural resources section of the Virginia Attorney General’s office. He completed his undergraduate degree in fisheries and wildlife at Virginia Tech in 1978, and currently serves on its Board of Visitors. Dennis succeeds Bob Dunn as chairman of VIRGINIAforever.
Friends & Supporters,
After serving as chair of VIRGINIAforever for many years, the time has come to pass the proverbial torch. During my chairmanship, I’ve seen a number of exciting, significant changes for VIRGINIAforever. Most visibly, we have doubled the size of our membership with the creation of a new general board, adding to the diversity and strength of our advocacy efforts. We have also made great organizational strides with the development of our Five-Year Funding Plan that declares land and water funding goals for the state; a legislative plan that serves as a tactical road map to ensure we’re meeting incremental benchmarks toward our overall advocacy objectives; a communications plan that devises strategic approaches to reaching our key audiences; and most recently, a strategic plan for the organization that will guide the growth and overall direction of VIRGINIAforever for the next five years. I am pleased to report that I will be leading the implementation of the strategic plan and will continue to be an active participant on the organization’s leadership committee. I want to thank the board members of VIRGINIAforever for their invaluable contributions to our accomplishments during my tenure as chair.
I am incredibly pleased that Dennis Treacy agreed to accept the position of chair of VIRGINIAforever. Despite all that we have accomplished, we still have a great deal of work to do to fight for state fund for land conservation and water quality improvements, especially in a time when the Commonwealth faces so many other budget demands. I am confident the organization will make continued progress with new leadership. Best wishes in 2016.
VIRGINIAforever held its annual budget briefing meeting on Thursday, December 17 in Richmond. Presentations were given by the Honorable Molly Ward, Secretary of Natural Resource; Sam Towell, deputy secretary of Agriculture and Forestry; David Paylor, director of the Department of Environmental Quality; Clyde Cristman, director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation; Bob Duncan, director of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; and Rob Farrell, deputy state forester. These representatives shared details on the state budget as proposed by Governor Terry McAuliffe. There was also much discussion about the proposed $2.43 billion bond package that, if approved by the General Assembly, would include a natural resource component (read more below). The briefing also featured remarks from special guest Barry DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. He shared information on environmental components of Blueprint Virginia, the Chamber’s comprehensive effort to provide business leadership, direction and long-range economic development planning for Virginia.
On December 9, Governor McAuliffe announced that the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget he planned to introduce on December 17 would include a $2.43 billion bond package to support key capital projects. The following is a top-line assessment of how the proposed state budget and bond package may impact key land conservation and water quality improvement programs.
The Governor’s proposal designated $140 million in bonds for state parks infrastructure improvements, including early development of two undeveloped state parks – Widewater State Park in Stafford County and Biscuit Run State Park in Albemarle County. The proposal also indicated $59 million in bonds for locally-owned wastewater water treatment plant improvements, as well as $40 million for open-space preservation, including farmlands, historic sites and battlefields. Unfortunately, there was no money provided for the state support for locally-owned stormwater improvements. This is a departure from recent years, when the state has been consistently investing tens of millions of dollars.
Governor McAuliffe allocated $61.7 million from surplus funds to assist with Nonpoint Source needs, plus funding from the recordation fee. Of the amount generated from surplus, roughly $51.8 million will be deposited into the Virginia Natural Resources Commitment Fund, where $26 million will be used for agricultural best management practices cost-share programming ($15.6 million in the Bay and $10.4 million in Southern Rivers/outside the Bay); $19.6 million will be allocated towards the SL6 pending backlog (funding split 50/50 between Bay and Southern Rivers/outside the Bay); and $6.2 million will be provided in technical assistance. This level of technical assistance indicates an increase to 12 percent from 8 percent. It’s important to note the technical assistance percent increase was calculated utilizing the information derived from budget template submissions. FY17 agriculture best management practices cost-share levels will include funding from recordation fees, derived from income collected from the fee which is dependent on real estate sales. Current collections run roughly $8 million a year though this amount could be higher if real estate sales increase, a trend which is projected to improve. Also, the budget restores $1.0 million each year that had been previously cut from the budget. Additionally, technical assistance from recordation funds for cost share will hold at $1.2 million. How much of this will be earmarked for SL-6 will be determined by the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board.
While the budget and bond package include a number of important investments that VIRGINIAforever is pleased to see, there is significant work to be done to protect these proposed amounts and to advocate for adequate funding for stormwater, as outlined in our Five-Year Funding Plan.
Read the Governor’s remarks on the budget to the joint money committees here.
Read the Governor’s bond package announcement here.
To recognize retiring environmental reporter Rex Springston, VIRGINIAforever chair Bob Dunn penned a letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch that was published on December 7. The letter, titled “Springston’s reporting protected environment,” noted that Springston reported on environmental issues of importance to all Virginians, with special attention paid to matters involving the Chesapeake Bay. Read the letter here.
Over the past several months, Governor McAuliffe made a number of announcements regarding important natural resources and agriculture-related programs.
Governor McAuliffe Launches New Virginia Oyster Trail – In partnership with the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the Governor launched the Virginia Oyster Trail, a major tourism development project connecting travelers to Virginia oyster purveyors, raw bars and restaurants, and the watermen culture throughout Coastal Virginia, the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Read more here.
Governor McAuliffe Announces $2.25 Million in Virginia Land Conservation Grants – Fourteen Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) grants totaled $2.25 million and will help add 2,000 acres to Virginia’s conserved lands. Read more here.
Virginia Oyster Harvests Continue to Soar – Last year’s oyster harvest increased to the highest level since 1986. The dockside value of the oyster harvest increased to $33.8 million last year, up from $22.2 million in 2013. Read more here.
Governor McAuliffe Announces Three Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Planning Grants – Grant disbursements will enable three projects to receive state funds, and local matches will support agricultural development in six localities. Read more here.