Q3 2016 Newsletter

Q3 2016 Newsletter

Annual Bridge Builder Celebration Honors Senator Emmett Hanger, Convenes Beer & Politics Lovers

VIRGINIAforever hosted its annual Bridge Builder Celebration on September 14, 2016 at NewMarket Pavilion, honoring Virginia Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., for his leadership in the protection of Virginia’s natural resources.  With a “Beer & Politics” theme, the evening featured keynote remarks from Annie Tobey, a beer expert and freelance writer, and Dr. Bob Holsworth, a well-known political analyst. Guests also enjoyed sampling local craft beers from Virginia brewers including Hardywood, Stone, Center of the Universe, Ardent, Lickinghole Creek and Brothers Brewing. The Honorable Molly Ward, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources served as emcee for the evening.


Special guest Delegate Chris Jones shared remarks highlighting Senator Hanger’s accomplished career, which has included serving in the Senate of Virginia for 20 years. During his tenure, Senator Hanger has shown great leadership and fairmindedness, especially in his roles as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee and chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. In these roles, Senator Hanger and his committee control the fate of a number of bills and budget amendments that impact land conservation and water quality improvement projects across the state.

Senator Hanger’s passion for protecting Virginia’s lands, water and open spaces has helped secure many victories on behalf of conservation, including:

  • Leading the effort to recognize the first annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week on a farm in Augusta County;
  • Championing setting the second week of June for Bay Awareness to bring attention to the importance of the Chesapeake Bay to Virginia’s economy and quality of life and to tell the stories of the many private and public organizations and individuals taking steps to reduce pollution;
  • Sponsoring a resolution to create a task force on farmland;
  • Playing an instrumental role in the development of farmland transition and agriculture vitality programs;
  • Establishing the Office of Farmland Preservation; and
  • Creating a cabinet level Secretary of Agriculture.

Congratulations to Senator Hanger on this well-deserved recognition! VIRGINIAforever extends a huge thank you to all of the generous sponsors of the 2016 VIRGINIAforever Bridge Builder Celebration. As this is an annual event, we encourage all VIRGINIAforever friends and supporters to stay in touch to learn more about future Bridge Builder events.


VIRGINIAforever Executive Board of Directors Assembles at Pocahontas State Park, Joined by Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver

Funding for the protection of land is a key priority for VIRGINIAforever, and state parks are an integral part of this conservation strategy. To this end, VIRGINIAforever convened its board of directors for its fall meeting at the Heritage Center at Pocahontas State Park, a popular state park in Chesterfield, Va., on September 21.

Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver welcomed the group and shared highlights related to the state’s investments in parks.  Seaver assumed the role of State Parks Director in early 2015, but is no stranger to Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, as he is a 30-year employee of the state park system.  In his role as director, Seaver oversees 37 parks, which include thousands of campsites, hundreds of cabins and more than 500 miles of trails, as well as beaches, picnic shelters, family lodges, meeting facilities, festivals, concerts, nature programs and cultural happenings.

Learn about Pocahontas State Park here.


VIRGINIAforever Building Foundation for 2017 Legislative Session

While the 2016 General Assembly session yielded a number of significant positive outcomes for land conservation and water quality improvement funding in the Commonwealth, we expect to face a number of fiscal challenges during the 2017 session.  In late summer, Governor McAuliffe announced a $1.5 billion projected shortfall, and these effects will be felt across nearly all sectors of the overall budget.

However, like with any business, one cannot assume we can sustain our natural resources assets without investing in a plan to protect them. VIRGINIAforever is committed to fighting for funding for land conservation and water quality improvement projects that will ultimately benefit all Virginians for generations to come.  To that end, VIRGINIAforever will focus on the following key areas:

  • Land conservation through appropriations to the Virginia Land Conservation Fund (VLCF) to protect open space, battlefields and farmland
  • Agricultural best management practices (BMP) funds to reduce agricultural runoff from animal operations and crop lands
  • Stormwater Local Assistance Funds (SLAF) to assist localities with critical stormwater infrastructure projects

To help build the foundation for our advocacy efforts in January, members of VIRGINIAforever have been meeting with General Assembly members throughout the summer and fall, gaining insight on what to expect from budget decision makers and sharing information on our priorities.  Stay tuned for updates on VIRGINIAforever’s advocacy efforts.


New Study Finds for Every $1 Invested in Land Conservation, $4 in Natural Goods and Services is Returned to Virginia Economy

In September, VIRGINIAforever released results from a new economic analysis that revealed for every $1 invested by Virginia in land conservation, $4 in natural goods and services is returned to the state’s economy.  The study, conducted by The Trust for Public Land in partnership with VIRGINIAforever and The Nature Conservancy, quantifies and summarizes the significant economic benefits resulting from investments in state parks, natural areas, forests and working lands.

According to Nikki Rovner, vice chair of VIRGINIAforever and associate state director for external affairs of The Nature Conservancy, “Land conservation is critical for Virginia residents, our economy and for our future. VIRGINIAforever advocates for increased state funding for land conservation, and this study clearly shows that state appropriations made by the General Assembly each year benefit all Virginians and are truly providing a significant return on investment.”

Virginia’s business community is encouraged by the study’s findings. Virginia Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Barry DuVal stated: “Protecting and conserving Virginia’s natural, historic and recreational resources are key to the long-term goals for sustainable economic growth in Blueprint Virginia. This study supports the wisdom of that approach to making Virginia a terrific place to not only work, but also to live and visit.”

In the Richmond Times-Dispatch, outdoors columnist Tee Clarkson writes: “Whether you dive into the whole study or just take a look at the returns, it would appear that Virginia’s investment in conservation is generating significant yields.” Read Clarkson’s column here.

Dennis Treacy, chair of VIRGINIAforever, was interviewed by WHSV, a Harrisonburg TV station, and noted, “What this study shows is that it attracts jobs, it attracts tourism dollars. It attracts all sorts of economic development that surround the preservation of some of the most beautiful lands in Virginia.” Read the full WHSV interview here.

The Trust for Public Land’s study methodology included a thorough literature review of the natural goods and service provided by 15 ecosystems in Virginia that have been conserved with state funding and used the economic values of these ecosystems to estimate an economic return on the natural goods and services provided. Read the press release here and download a fact sheet and the full study.


Welcome New VIRGINIAforever Members: Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, and Maureen Matsen

VIRGINIAforever is pleased to welcome two new members:

  • Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the newest member of the VIRGINIAforever executive board. Jim Thornton, director of environmental health and safety strategy and regulatory affairs for Newport News Shipbuilding, serves as the company’s representative.  Jim was previously an individual member on VIRGINIAforever’s general board.
  • Maureen Matsen, who served as deputy secretary of natural resources under Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration and is currently counsel for Christopher Newport University, has joined the general board of VIRGINIAforever as an individual member.

For more information on membership, please contact info@virginiaforever.org.


Reminder: “Like” VIRGINIAforever on Facebook!

VIRGINIAforever is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ourlandourwater.  “Like” our page to stay in touch about VIRGINIAforever announcements as well as natural resources funding news from across the Commonwealth.  You are encouraged to “share” and “comment” on our content.


Natural Resources News from the Administration

Below find a compilation of recent natural resources news releases issued by the Governor’s office and the Secretary of Natural Resources.

  • On September 24, Governor McAuliffe announced the opening of Natural Bridge State Park in Rockbridge County, officially creating the Commonwealth’s 37th state park. During the ceremony, Governor McAuliffe designated Natural Bridge State Park the 925th Virginia Treasure. The Virginia Treasures program is central to the Governor’s strategy for conserving land and creating opportunities for outdoor recreation. He noted: “The dedication of this magnificent new park is a tremendous milestone for Virginia and an excellent tribute to the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s 80th anniversary. The Natural Bridge joins the ranks of Virginia’s inimitable natural Treasures and further establishes our park system as one of the best in the nation.” Virginia State Parks, a subdivision of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, will manage the 1,531 acres, including the bridge and Rockbridge Center. Read more here.
  • On September 22, Governor McAuliffe announced 23 Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) grants, totaling $6.42 million, to support projects that will help shield 7,037 acres of at-risk land from development. VLCF grants are used by private land trusts, local governments and state agencies to protect and acquire significant lands in the following categories: farmland, forestry, historic resources, natural areas, parks and open space. Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward noted: “VLCF’s support is critical to conservation projects across the Commonwealth. These grants will help preserve Virginia’s special places for generations to come.” Read more here.
  • Governor McAuliffe announced that Stewardship Virginia, a statewide campaign to encourage and recognize voluntary activities with a tangible impact on Virginia’s natural resources, continues this year with events across the state. The campaign features activities during spring and fall. The fall portion runs September 1 through October 31. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman stated: “There will be many opportunities for volunteerism in parks and natural areas during Stewardship Virginia. We appreciate the many Virginians who have participated to date and hope many others join in. This year’s campaign will emphasize restoring habitats for pollinators, which have suffered dramatically in recent years and need our support to provide nectar, pollen, water and leaves for valuable insets and birds.” Read more here.