In mid-September, VIRGINIAforever released the newest edition of its Five-Year Funding Plan, The Path Forward. This plan sets forth investments needed to accomplish the Commonwealth’s land conservation and water quality improvement goals from 2021 through 2025. These investments, which are critical to ensure that our natural resources stay protected today, tomorrow and into the future, include the following:
Enabling land conservation and public access in the Commonwealth
Ensuring water quality in the Bay, its tributaries and other waterways
Supporting resilience programs that benefit Virginia’s land and water
Increasing funding for natural resources-related state agencies to ensure efficient execution of all critical functions
As the only statewide group that focuses on natural resources funding, VIRGINIAforever and its members – who together, created this Five-Year Funding Plan – agree that critical funding is needed to protect our natural resources so that Virginia can remain a top state to work and play. Please consider how you can advocate for the investments in this plan and ensure that Virginia’s natural resources are prioritized and protected. Read the full plan here.
On October 10, VIRGINIAforever will hold its Annual Bridge Builder Celebration, which brings together the business and environmental communities to honor an individual who has demonstrated leadership in the protection of Virginia’s natural resources. This year, we will honor Delegate David Bulova, a long-time champion of Virginia’s land and waterways. An environmental planner by profession, Delegate Bulova is uniquely qualified and motivated to fight for environmental issues in the General Assembly. He has spearheaded a number of important legislative issues, and he is most deserving of this award. We will be joined at the event by Matt Lohr, the 16th Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Chief Lohr, who is our featured speaker, is a fifth-generation farmer, he has spent his life working for the betterment of agriculture and stewardship on working lands. Chief Lohr served as Virginia’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services from 2010 to 2013 and in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2006 to 2010. Sponsorships and tickets are still available. For more information on the event, please click here.
It’s in the summer and early fall that state agencies and the Governor’s office plan the state budget for the next year or two years. It’s also this time when VIRGINIAforever engages with state agencies and the Governor’s office to push for more natural resources funding.
In June and July, agencies put pencil to paper, sketching out their operational and capital needs for the coming year or biennium. Agency directors and their budget teams prepare down-to-the-dollar estimates and the justifications for them, and then present their spending plans to their secretariats and the Governor’s budget team.
In August, September, and October, the Department of Planning and Budget works with secretaries and the Governor’s staff, going over every proposed budget line item. Agency budget requests are matched against projected revenue. The Governor sets priorities among the many requests, not all of which can be met. The Governor and budget staff will meet for many hours a day for days and weeks on end.
In November, the budget-planning process begins winding down. Final decisions are made. In early December, the latest revenue projections are checked and the budget (quite literally) goes to press. In mid-December, the Governor appears before the General Assembly’s finance (revenue) and appropriations committees and presents his budget blueprint.
VIRGINIAforever is likewise engaged every step of the way. In the summer, VIRGINIAforever meets with a half-dozen natural resources agencies to discuss our budget priorities and theirs – advising on our water quality and land conservation goals, better understanding their needs and aims, and determining how much it all aligns. VIRGINIAforever also meets with the Governor’s office – the natural resources secretariats and policy staffs – to lay out our goals and how they improve the quality of life and economy for all Virginians, all in hopes of influencing the newly prepared budget.
In 2019, VIRGINIAforever has done all of this. Our early focus was preparing VIRGINIAforever’s new Five-Year Plan (2021-2025). Meetings with state agencies provided a basis for the new natural resources investment blueprint for conserving additional lands, creating new state parks, supporting farmers’ conservation practices, and improving local streams and rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
Presenting that new five-year plan to the Governor’s office and General Assembly members is underway. The meetings are many, and the dialogue is good.
We are proud that VIRGINIAforever’s plan is always recognized for its depth. The Governor’s office and lawmakers often use it as a guide for their own budget discussions.
VIRGINIAforever will continue engaging with the Governor’s budget-planning team over the next couple of months and look forward to the new biennial budget being presented in mid-December. Our Five-Year plan will then guide our engagement with the General Assembly when it convenes in January 2020.
In the third quarter of 2019, VIRGINIAforever welcomed several new organizations to the board.
Reed Smith LLP has joined the executive board. Dennis Treacy, who previously served as an individual member on the executive board, will represent Reed Smith. Dennis will continue serving as chair of VIRGINIAforever.
Two new members joined our general board: Chesapeake Conservancy, represented by Reed Perry; and Alliance for the Shenandoah, represented by Kate Wofford. Welcome, Reed and Kate!
To learn more about becoming a member of VIRGINIAforever, contact Ginny Boland at email@example.com.
In July, VIRGINIAforever member Luck Companies issued its new Impact Report, a summary and assessment of the company’s growth and sustainability efforts. Of note, the report highlights Luck’s stormwater management programs across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which include high-quality soil blends, ball field mixes and erosion control materials. Luck is the nation’s largest privately-held, family-owned producer of crushed stone, sand and gravel. Read the Impact Report at https://www.luckimpactreport.com/.
Governor Northam Joins Regional Partners in Reaffirming Shared Goals for Chesapeake Bay Restoration. Earlier this month, Governor Northam joined representatives from the seven Chesapeake Bay watershed jurisdictions, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the annual meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council. In his remarks to the Council, Governor Northam emphasized the importance of the upholding the regional state-federal partnership that has shaped efforts to restore the water quality and living resource of the Chesapeake Bay watershed since its inception in the early 1980s. Read more here.
Governor Northam Announces Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund Surpasses 100 Conservation Easements. Last month, Governor Northam announced that more than 100 conservation easements for working farms and forests have been secured through the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund. By providing matching funds to support local Purchase of Development Rights programs, the Fund enhances the viability of Virginia agriculture and forestry by empowering individual localities to limit development on the farmland and forestland that each community has deemed a priority for conservation. Read more here.
Governor Northam Announces Release of Virginia’s Final Chesapeake Bay Restoration Plan. In August, Governor Northam released the final restoration plan for Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal rivers. The clean-up plan, referred to as the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), will guide local, state, and federal actions through 2025 and is designed to meet the Commonwealth’s commitments to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution and restore the health of the Bay and its tributaries. Virginia’s Phase III WIP lays out over 50 targeted state initiatives to support the efforts necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s restoration goals by 2025, placing a strong emphasis on sustained funding and increased technical capacity across all sectors. This strategy is intended to systematically close the outstanding gaps during the final phase of restoration and enable the Commonwealth to reach its pollution reduction targets. Read more here.
Commonwealth of Virginia and The Nature Conservancy Partner to Permanently Protect 22,856 Acres in Southwest Virginia. Governor Northam announced a partnership between The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to permanently protect 22,856 acres of forest land in Russell County in southwest Virginia through the largest open space easement ever recorded in the Commonwealth. The announcement of this partnership comes on the heels of TNC’s Cumberland Forest Project, which recently acquired a quarter-million acres in the Central Appalachian coalfields of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Read more here.
Governor Northam Announces New Office of Outdoor Recreation. During an event held at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, Governor Northam announced the creation of an Office of Outdoor Recreation to lead efforts to promote the outdoor recreation industry in Virginia and recruit new outdoor businesses to the Commonwealth. The outdoor recreation industry contributes nearly $22 billion annually to the Virginia economy, and employs more than 197,000 Virginians. Virginia will be the 15th state in the nation to establish an office or task force dedicated to strengthening the outdoor industry, and the third on the East Coast. Read more here.
Governor Northam Announces Launch of James River Buffer Program. In July, Governor Northam announced the launch of the James River Buffer Program, a partnership between the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and the James River Association (JRA) to establish over 900 acres of “riparian forested buffers” in the Middle James region of the river. This initiative to restore river and streamside forest buffers springs from the Virginia Environmental Endowment’s (VEE) James River Water Quality Improvement Program grant awarded to VDOF ($750,000) and the JRA ($1.45 million). Read more here.
Governor Northam Announces Record $73 Million in Funding for Improved Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program. Governor Northam announced the availability of $73 million to protect water and soil health through the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program, which represents the largest-ever investment of state funding to assist farmers implementing conservation practices. The program has been updated to provide greater flexibility and reduce barriers to farmer participation. The cost-share program is a partnership between the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Virginia’s 47 soil and water conservation districts. Read more here.
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