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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
VIRGINIAforever is pleased to welcome two new members:
For more information on membership, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Below find a compilation of recent natural resources news releases issued by the Governor’s office and the Secretary of Natural Resources.