Q1 2014 Newsletter

Q1 2014 Newsletter

VIRGINIAforever welcomes new members

In early 2013, VIRGINIAforever commenced an initiative to recruit members to join the organization’s newly-formed general board. We are pleased to have welcomed a total of 13 new members in 2013 and 2014 including:

  • Phil Abraham, Virginia Association for Commercial Real Estate
  • Nissa Dean, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
  • Karen Forget, Lynnhaven River NOW
  • Lynda Frost, The Trust for Public Land
  • Bill Greenleaf, Capital Region Land Conservancy
  • Barrett Hardiman, Luck Companies
  • Larry Kast, Honeywell
  • Chris Pomeroy, AquaLaw
  • Rebecca Rubin, Marstel-Day
  • Len Smock, VCU Rice Environmental Center
  • Lee Stephens, Lee Stephens Law
  • Jim Thornton
  • Kendall Tyree, Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts

VIRGINIAforever has several levels of memberships, which include individual, nonprofit and business. Our recruitment efforts will continue throughout 2014. To learn more about membership, visit our website. If you or your organization is interested in joining VIRGINIAforever, or if you know of a group that may be a good fit for VIRGINIAforever, please contact us at info@VIRGINIAforever.org.

Advocacy: Our assessment of the legislative session

With the 2014 Virginia General Assembly regular session over, we are now in the midst of the 2014 special session. We will be watching the House of Delegates, Virginia Senate and Governor McAuliffe to see how they can find common ground on Virginia’s $96 billion budget. In a process that could stretch on for weeks, Virginia’s lawmakers will center their discussion on Medicaid expansion.

Looking back to the regular session, we worked daily – having 20 or more individual meetings with legislators – to advance other budget initiatives concentrating on land conservation and water quality funding as set forth in VIRGINIAforever’s five-year plan. This year, we are advocating for an additional $13.9 million for land conservation and $50 million in Virginia public building authority bonds for water quality improvements. The proposed budgets by the House and Senate are still being worked out.

VIRGINIAforever will continue working during the 2014 special session to advance our budget priorities. We will also be making appointments to deliver copies of Natural Virginia, a landscape photography book by Ben Greenberg, to lawmakers.

Getting to know the new state administration: Meet Molly Ward, Secretary of Natural Resources

In December 2013, newly-elected Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed Molly Joseph Ward to serve as Secretary of Natural Resources. Secretary Ward served as mayor of Hampton from 2008 to 2013. During this time, she led the diverse, historic city with 140,000 residents and represented the interests of the city and the Hampton Roads region at the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission on issues related to water quality, the Chesapeake Bay and historic sea level rise.

She stepped down as mayor to join President Obama’s administration as special assistant to the president and deputy director for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Additionally, Secretary Ward was appointed to serve on the Virginia Outdoors Foundation by Governor Tim Kaine and was on the board that contributed to the Governor’s goal of preserving 400,000 Virginia acres.

Secretary Ward is a native of Hampton and a graduate of the University of Virginia and William and Mary Law School. She is admitted to both federal district and state courts and during her career has handled a wide range of matters including cases involving environmental issues, land use and planning. She lives on Sunset Creek near the mouth of Hampton Roads and has spent her life on the water fishing, crabbing and enjoying the natural resources of Virginia.

To get to know Secretary Ward, VIRGINIAforever posed three questions regarding plans for the current administration to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources.

Question: Gov. McAuliffe pledged to preserve at least 400,000 acres of open space over four years. How will you and the Governor work to achieve this?

Sec. Ward: Gov. McAuliffe has indeed set a four-year, 400,000-acre land conservation goal, and it falls principally to the Natural Resources secretariat to lead the charge. Our Commonwealth is a great place. We have extraordinary history and very historical lands and waters, and we all have a responsibility to preserve and protect our lands and waters. Additionally, Virginia is a very fast-growing state. Our population has doubled what it was just a half-century ago, and in the last quarter-century the pace of development has especially quickened. With greater population, and population density, comes the need for additional preserved open space for hiking, public hunting and fishing, horseback riding, and other recreational activities as well as Civil War battlefield preservation, historical view shed protection and water quality protection.

But Governor McAuliffe and this administration cannot achieve this goal on our own. It is going to require the coordinated efforts of a lot of people, including the General Assembly, local land conservation groups, the agricultural community, state parks enthusiasts and local governments, just to name a few.

We are in the process of putting together a game plan for the Governor’s land conservation goal. And in developing that game plan, we are reaching out to the many partners we will need. This has to be a partnership.

Question: Controlling stormwater run-off is one of the most difficult and expensive elements of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and the Virginia Watershed Implementation Plan. How are you coordinating with localities to identify the most efficient and cost-effecting methods of controlling stormwater?

Sec. Ward: There are three key elements to meeting the Chesapeake Bay TMDL pollution-reduction goals: reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plans, reducing pollution from agricultural runoff, and reducing pollution from urban and suburban stormwater. We have done almost as much as we can do with wastewater treatment plants – many have upgraded to the latest pollution-control equipment. We also have worked extraordinarily closely over the years with the agricultural community. There is still more to do on the agriculture front, but the farming community has really stepped up to the plate in recent years, and we value that partnership. However, stormwater management remains a challenge.

Virginia has worked closely with the EPA, local governments, developers and environmental organizations to develop as efficient a path forward as possible on stormwater management. We started with several years of work with organized stakeholder groups, working collaboratively to develop a plan to meet stormwater pollution-reduction goals. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation led much of these discussions, and the EPA was always a part of those discussions. It all resulted in greatly revised stormwater management regulations that were approved and implemented in Gov. McDonnell’s administration.

Part of the state’s efforts in recent years to develop a more efficient stormwater management approach has included giving more authority to local governments. They are the ones who do land-use planning and community development, and they work most closely with developers and others. We also have moved the stormwater management regulatory responsibilities – for urban and industrial runoff management – to the Department of Environmental Quality, which, from a state regulatory angle, will provide for a more streamlined approach.

However, not all local governments are quite ready to take increased responsibility for regulating stormwater management. For those that are ready, we are ready to have them take the lead. For those that need more time, we have worked closely with the General Assembly to amend the law to grant them more time.

Question: Last year, VIRGINIAforever issued its Five-Year Plan for state funding for land conservation and water quality improvements. We proposed ambitious goals for the Commonwealth. How will you and your staff use our Plan to achieve land conservation and water quality improvement goals?

First, let me thank VIRGINIAforever for its work. Shortly after I was nominated by Gov. McAuliffe for this post – but before I’d even taken office – I met with VIRGINIAforever board members to discuss your five-year plan. I know that about a year’s worth of work went into creating it. It clearly spells out a rational cost basis for meeting land conservation and water quality goals. I also know that many General Assembly members – especially those on the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee – have your five-year plan.

Your Plan is sound. It sets a solid blueprint. It will be extremely helpful to us in our planning efforts. I would say again, however, that achieving these land conservation and water quality goals requires the coordinated work of a lot of people, especially the General Assembly. I look forward to continuing to work with VIRGINIAforever, legislators and others in preserving our lands and protecting our waters.

Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s BLUEPRINT VIRGINIA: A Focus on Natural Resources

BLUEPRINT VIRGINIA, facilitated by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, is a comprehensive effort to provide business leadership, direction and long-range economic development planning for Virginia. The year-long initiative brings together all sectors of economic development to craft a strategy that will present Virginia’s elected officials with a roadmap for economic competitiveness for the Commonwealth. One of the key areas within BLUEPRINT VIRGINIA is a focus on the environment.

Dennis Treacy, a VIRGINIAforever executive board member and executive vice president and chief sustainability officer for Smithfield Foods, served as industry council chair for this section of BLUEPRINT VIRGINIA. The chapter sets an overarching goal: “to protect, conserve and develop our natural, history and recreational resources through business initiatives and sustainable solutions.”

To achieve this, several strategies are outlined including continuing progress in restoring the Chesapeake Bay; maintaining efforts to identify sources of water impairments; investing in agriculture stewardship practices and local government stormwater infrastructure needs; and continuing to preserve lands through tax credits, grants and bond issuances. VIRGINIAforever is pleased that these strategies align with the goals set forth in our Five-Year Plan.

Learn more about BLUEPRINT VIRGINIA here and click here to view the VIRGINIAforever Five-Year Plan.

VIRGINIAforever News

VIRGINIAforever board members to present at upcoming Environment Virginia Symposium

For the past 24 years, Virginia’s natural resources community has gathered at Virginia Military Institute for the annual Environment Virginia Symposium. This year, marking the 25th annual meeting, the event will be held April 8-10. Gov. McAuliffe will give remarks at the opening session; William J. Howell, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, will speak at the Anniversary Gala Celebration; and the Honorable Molly Ward, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, will participate in plenary and breakout sessions throughout the three-day event.

Additionally, several VIRGINIAforever board members will be presenting as part of the “Funding and Collective Impact” track. The presentations, which will focus on state funding for land conservation and water quality improvements, are scheduled for Thursday, April 10. Speakers representing VIRGINIAforever include: Ann Jennings, Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Dennis Treacy, Smithfield Foods; Nikki Rovner, The Nature Conservancy; and Mike Toalson, HBA of Virginia.

For information on Environment Virginia Symposium, click here.

VIRGINIAforever sponsors landscape photography book, Natural Virginia

VIRGINIAforever is proud to sponsor Natural Virginia, a first edition landscape photography collection by Ben Greenberg. The book of panoramic images showcases the beauty of Virginia’s remarkable and diverse natural resources. Having served as a partner in its production, VIRGINIAforever is recognized in the book as a key supporter.

Natural Virginia contains 122 panoramas from the three regions of the state: Tidewater, Piedmont and Western Virginia. These images highlight national and state parks, wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges as well as rivers, lakes, wetlands, mountains, valleys and much more. Tayloe Murphy, former Delegate, Secretary of Natural Resources and a leader in the natural resource community, authored the foreword for the book, and Deane Dozier, a photographer and writer, authored the introduction to the book as well as introductions to each of the three regions of the state.

To view a selection of images and portions of the writing found in the book, click here.

Membership Spotlight: Lynnhaven River NOW

Lynnhaven River NOW, a new member organization of VIRGINIAforever, was formed in 2002 when a committed group of local citizens came together to foster partnerships that would apply public and private resources to the challenge of reducing pollution in the Lynnhaven River. A tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the Lynnhaven River includes the Eastern Branch, Western Branch, Long Creek, Broad Bay, Crystal Lake and Linkhorn Bay, which are all located within the city of Virginia Beach.

Lynnhaven River NOW focuses on the following priorities: identifying and reducing sources of contamination in the river; reducing nutrients, sediments and chemicals running off of our lawns, parking lots, roadways and out of our septic systems; educating and engaging the community and partner organizations in restoring and protecting the Lynnhaven River; and restoring lost habitats such as oyster reefs, salt marshes, and other buffers that help to filter polluted runoff and protect the river and its marine life.

Karen Forget, VIRGINIAforever general board member and executive director of Lynnhaven River NOW, said, “Our goal at Lynnhaven River NOW is simple: restore and maintain a clean and healthy Lynnhaven River. We joined VIRGINIAforever because we feel passionate about the Commonwealth’s constitutional obligation to protect our waterways. Being a part of VIRGINIAforever allows us to join with businesses and other organizations to speak with one voice about the importance of increasing state funding to protect our natural resources.”

To learn more about Lynnhaven River NOW, please visit http://www.lynnhavenrivernow.org/

To nominate a member to be featured in our next e-newsletter, please email info@VIRGINIAforever.org.

Very truly yours,
Robert L. Dunn