More than 60 people turned out for the annual VIRGINIAforever Budget Briefing at Dominion’s Tredegar offices this year. Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden and Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward set a serious tone for the discussion as they outlined difficult reductions in FY17 and FY18 resulting from a state budget shortfall currently estimated at $1.26 billion. Each Secretary highlighted the strong financial support their agencies received from the General Assembly in recent years and the focus they are placing on maintaining programs that directly impact water quality and land use.
They are eliminating vacant positions where possible to avoid layoffs but everyone is being forced to accomplish more with less. Both Secretaries also outlined success stories on projects that continue to occur despite financial constraints. Detailed budget reviews were provided by agency leaders at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. VIRGINIAforever was thanked for our consistent advocacy efforts and focus on funding at the General Assembly. The event also featured a special guest, former Secretary of Natural Resources Tayloe Murphy. Tayloe reminisced about efforts that led to the formation of VIRGINIAforever and emphasized that 10 years later the need for our commitment is as vital as ever.
Anticipating Budget Challenges at the 2017 General Assembly Session
Each year during the Virginia General Assembly session, VIRGINIAforever advocates for critical state funds to protect the land and waterways of the Commonwealth. In the case of FY18, we recognize the Commonwealth is facing significant budget challenges, and as such, VIRGINIAforever is prepared to work closely with the state’s policymakers to identify opportunities that balance the Commonwealth’s current financial needs with VIRGINIAforever’s advocacy efforts to ensure the protection of our precious natural resources.
To this end, VIRGINIAforever seeks to work with Virginia’s policymakers over the next several years to identify a dedicated source of funding for land and water protection while meeting FY18 appropriation goals that will ensure we fund the minimum requirements:
Please consider how you can help support these appropriation goals. Stay tuned for regular updates during the legislative session.
Lisa Kardell, director of public affairs at Waste Management, and Kendall Tyree, executive director of the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts are both executive board members of VIRGINIAforever. They co-wrote an op-ed, published in the October 2nd issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, highlighting the business case for conserving land in Virginia. They refer to a study, conducted by Trust for Public Land, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and VIRGINIAforever, which found for every $1 invested in land conservation, $4 in natural goods and services is returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s economy. Read the op-ed here.
VIRGINIAforever Named Networking Partner of Businesses for the Bay
This fall, VIRGINIAforever became an official networking partner of Businesses for the Bay. Known as B4B, this membership association was formed as an extension of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and is designed by businesses, for businesses. Its mission is to encourage businesses throughout the Chesapeake region to find voluntary, innovative, and measurable solutions to improve water quality and the health of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers and streams, and to raise public understanding of the valuable role these business members play in environmental restoration. B4B provides businesses with a forum where they can make their voices heard, share best practices, facilitate environmental stewardship volunteer opportunities for employees, potentially save money, reach social and sustainability goals, and promote environmental efforts that are important to them, their customers and their communities. B4B opened for membership in February 2016, and already has over 30 members, accomplishing over 176 actions that help the local environment. Learn more at http://businesses.allianceforthebay.org.
Chesapeake Executive Council Passes Resolution to Support Increased Funding for Stormwater Infrastructure
At the October meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council, six states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Commission agreed to adopt a resolution that, in part, calls upon the region to address the need for increased public and private funding for stormwater infrastructure. The resolution states: “…We commit to speak out on behalf of clean water and help raise awareness about the economic and environmental benefits of investing public funds in watershed protection and restoration efforts and the importance of taking action at the local level, through the production and distribution of Public Service Announcements, and the use of social media and other public venues as appropriate.” It continues, “…The Principals’ Staff Committee shall evaluate and pursue opportunities to increase public funding and private investment for local implementation of conservation and restoration activities that achieve local healthy streams, rivers and a vibrant Chesapeake Bay, particularly activities that reduce pollutants from stormwater runoff and address the problem of recurrent flooding.” Read the Chesapeake Executive Council’s resolution here.
In related news, Governor McAuliffe was re-elected to serve another year as Chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council. The Governor was elected unanimously after he was placed into nomination by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and seconded by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
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Below find a compilation of recent natural resources news releases issued by the Governor’s office and the Secretary of Natural Resources.