There is no better way to turn citizens into stewards than through meaningful personal experiences with nature. That’s why Governor McAuliffe created the Virginia Treasures Program to recognize achievements in land conservation, environmental quality and public access. In May 2015, we set out to identify and protect 1,000 Virginia Treasures before the end of this administration, and we accomplished that goal more than a year ahead of schedule with more than 1,300 Treasures currently on the books. Among them is Werowocomoco where we worked with the National Park Service so that they could acquire one of the most historically significant sites in the nation while simultaneously protecting essential riparian buffers. We also added a new state park with the newly created Natural Bridge State Park. This iconic arch was surveyed by a young George Washington before it became the property of Thomas Jefferson. We also finally saw Fort Monroe actually become a national monument when the Governor signed the deed to the park service in August 2015.
The Governor successfully lobbied to have the Rivers of the Chesapeake initiative included on the list for Land and Water Conservation Funds, and put more Virginia Land Conservation Funding in the budget than any other governor in history. The Governor was also instrumental in bringing the DuPont mercury contamination case to a close, providing over 20 million dollars for land conservation for the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.
These land conservation initiatives, and especially our State Parks, are a tremendous economic asset to Virginia. According to a recent report by Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business, a record-setting ten million visitors spent time in our State Parks last year. They spent almost $225 million – $98 million of which came from outside Virginia. The economic activity stimulated by State Parks supported more than 3,500 jobs in communities across the Commonwealth and yielded more than $19.5 million in tax revenue. In fact, for every tax dollar they received, State Parks generated 99 cents in new or increased revenues for state government – and that’s not even factoring in their immeasurable contribution to our Commonwealth’s character and quality of life.
We have also prioritized water quality, including the considerable time, effort and resources that Governor McAuliffe has devoted toward our ongoing Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts. Until June of this year, Governor McAuliffe chaired the Chesapeake Executive Council which oversees the multi-state and federal Chesapeake Bay Program and led the program as it implemented the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement as the key pollution reduction goals it contains. The Commonwealth is on track to achieve the water quality goals set for 2017 and we are making final preparations and plans for meeting water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal tributaries by 2025. Improvements to water quality that academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and others are measuring demonstrate that Virginia’s ongoing commitment and investment in the Bay is yielding real results. The Chesapeake Bay is an estimated $1.1 trillion dollar asset to this entire watershed so this is good news for both the economy and Virginia’s environment.
Learn more about the Secretary of Natural Resources here.
Each year, VIRGINIAforever holds its Bridge Builder Celebration in Richmond to recognize outstanding stewards of Virginia’s natural resources. This year’s event will feature Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam, candidates for Governor of Virginia. The Bridge Builder Award will be presented to House Speaker-designee Kirk Cox for his leadership in the protection of natural resources.
The event is Wednesday, October 11 at WestRock. The reception begins at 6 pm, followed by remarks, dinner and an awards presentation. Hope to see you next week!
As part of our year-round advocacy efforts, VIRGINIAforever is sponsoring a reception during the Senate Finance Natural Resources Subcommittee’s retreat in Hampton Roads. Legislators who serve on this committee are faced with important decisions on how to fund land conservation and water quality improvement projects in Virginia. These decision makers are a particular important audience to VIRGINIAforever and the October 5th reception will allow board members an opportunity to have one-on-one conversations about the significance of state funds for natural resources.
VIRGINIAforever’s membership development is a year-round effort, as continuing to build our base of supporters helps to further extend the reach of our organization.
We are pleased to welcome the following new members our general board:
We are also pleased to share these changes on our general board:
In a study commissioned by the Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at University of Virginia released a 2017 report on the economic impact of Virginia’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries. The total economic impact of agriculture and forestry-related industries in Virginia was over $91 billion in total industry output in 2015, the base year for this study. The total employment impact was 442,260 employees, representing 8.7 percent of total state employment. The total value-added impact was $45.5 billion, which made up 9.5 percent of state gross domestic product. Read the full report 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.