VIRGINIAforever works closely with state environmental agencies whose missions are to advance water quality protections and land preservation, and we pay attention to their operations and budgets. Whenever possible, VIRGINIAforever advocates for staff and funding resources necessary for state agencies to carry out their responsibilities.
Two principal state environmental agencies – the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Conservation and Recreation – receive significant federal funds that combined with state appropriations enable them to effectively protect and preserve waters and lands. VIRGINIAforever met with DEQ and DCR directors to gain first-hand understanding of the role federal funds play in their departments’ budgets. DEQ, for example, received $50.4 million in federal funds FY18 (28% of its entire budget). DCR received $36.4 million from the federal government in FY18 (36% of its entire budget).
Other important natural and historic resources agencies – the Department of Forestry, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Department of Historic Resources – also receive significant federal dollars each year.
VIRGINIAforever learned in April and May the extent to which proposed federal budget cuts could impact Virginia environmental agencies. The EPA – the source for most of DEQ’s federal dollars – was proposed to be cut by some 31%. Included in the EPA cut was the Chesapeake Bay Program, zeroing out its $73 million budget. The Department of Interior, which sends funds to DCR, was to be cut by 12%.
While VIRGINIAforever’s mission is to focus on state funding for water quality and land preservation, the board of directors felt compelled to express its concerns to Virginia’s 13-member congressional delegation over proposed federal budget cuts’ potential impacts on state agencies. You can read VIRGINIAforever chair Dennis Treacy’s May 31, 2017, letter to Virginia’s delegation here.
Virginia agencies will prepare their budget plans for the 2018-20 biennium over this summer and fall and submit them to the Governor’s Office. Governor McAuliffe will submit his proposed state budget – likely to top $110 billion – to the General Assembly in December 2017. The legislature will convene in January 2018 to act on the governor’s proposed budget.
So it’s this summer and fall that VIRGINIAforever, quite naturally, engages with state environmental agencies and the Governor’s office – to not only express VIRGINIAforever’s own state budget recommendations (based on our 5-Year Strategic Plan) for funding water quality and land conservation, but also to better understand the agencies’ needs and how we can most effectively support them.
Virginians’ first glimpse on the next state budget will be in mid-December, when the governor unveils his proposed two-year budget blueprint.
VIRGINIAforever was pleased to welcome special guests from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce at our summer board meeting on June 14. Barry DuVal, president and CEO of the Chamber, shared information on Blueprint Virginia 2025, an updated version of the Chamber’s long-term statewide economic development plan. Brooks Smith, environmental industry council chair and VIRGINIAforever executive board member, encouraged members to share input on the document. To do so, visit the Chamber’s website here.
VIRGINIAforever welcomes WestRock to our executive Board. Matt Wells, senior regional manager of state government relations, represents WestRock on the board. WestRock, a global consumer and corrugated packaging company, has a strong commitment to sustainability through responsible stewardship of natural resources and conscientious management of global manufacturing facilities. Their sustainability programs focus on water use, air quality, recycling and energy efficiency. Learn more about WestRock here.
Jo and Johnny Finch, who were instrumental in the formation of the Virginia Association for Parks and the Friends of Lake Anna State Park, were honored in April for their 30-year involvement with the Virginia state park system. At a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Governor McAuliffe dedicated one of Lake Anna State Park’s new family lodges to the Finches, recognizing their long-time commitment to the state parks system and their involvement in developing many of the amenities at the park. “The Finch Cabin” is available for rent and sleeps 16 with a host of modern amenities in view of the lake. Johnny is a member of the VIRGINIAforever executive board. Read more here.
VIRGINIAforever was awarded a grant by the Virginia Environmental Endowment to conduct an updated study on how natural resources funding in Virginia’s state budget compares to other states. The last studies were conducted in 2002 and 2003 and found that Virginia ranked 50th in per capita spending on the environment at that time. Stay tuned for the outcomes from this important research. Learn more about the Virginia Environmental Endowment here.
VIRGINIAforever was proud to have a high-profile presence at this year’s Environment Virginia Symposium, held in April at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. A panel of VIRGINIAforever members, moderated by VIRGINIAforever lobbyist Preston Bryant, discussed the results of a recent study assessing the state’s ROI on land conservation. For more information on the study results, click here. Also at the event, VIRGINIAforever vice chair Nikki Rovner received the 2017 Captain Ron Erchul Environmental Leadership Award, a premier honor presented by the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics to recognize a Virginian who has made significant efforts to better the environment. Nikki accepted the award from Dennis Treacy, chair of VIRGINIAforever. Read more about the award here.
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.