The Potomac River at Fraser Preserve, Fairfax County, VA.
Sunrise on the River The Potomac River at Fraser Preserve, Fairfax County, VA. ©: Thomas Hamilton

Stories in Virginia

Make Your Voice Heard

Support increased state funding for Virginia's natural resources.

Virginians take great pride in our natural heritage, and rightfully so. Our lands and waters enhance our quality of life and fuel the state’s economy. Conserving our lands and waters is not only the mission of The Nature Conservancy, but also a core function of state government. 

We want to alert you to important budget amendments being considered now by the Virginia General Assembly. These amendments address insufficient funding for natural resource protection.

Increased funding for Virginia’s natural resources will help support:

  • Land Conservation through grants awarded to help fund the purchase of permanent conservation easements, open spaces and parklands, lands of historic or cultural significance, farmlands and forests, and natural areas.
  • Oyster Restoration and reaching the goal of 428 acres of restored oyster reef in the Piankatank River—an area of reef bigger than the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and representing the largest oyster restoration project in the world. 
  • Economic Development and protection of natural and cultural assets in southwestern Virginia through Virginia’s newest state park, Clinch River State Park.

The House and Senate Budget recommendations will be announced February 3. The time to make your voice heard is now.

Appalachian farm pasture.
Summer meadow Appalachian farm pasture. © Kent Mason

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Funding for Land Conservation

Land conservation plays an important role in protecting our natural heritage, improving water quality and sustaining our working farms and forests. It is also a critical component to our economy, capitalizing on the parts of the economy that cannot be outsourced, such as our scenic and recreational assets. 

As our population continues to grow, we must continue to grow the number of opportunities Virginians and visitors alike have to enjoy these assets.  

Virginia Land Conservation Foundation

In 1999, the General Assembly and the governor established the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation to help fund protection of these resources. Grants are awarded to help fund the purchase of permanent conservation easements, open spaces and parklands, lands of historic or cultural significance, farmlands and forests, and natural areas.

State agencies, local governments, public bodies and registered (tax-exempt) nonprofit groups are eligible to receive matching grants from the foundation for state-funded grant rounds.

Since 2000, grant applications have been submitted for almost $123 million, more than double the available amount of $50.9 million. These unfunded projects represent a lost opportunity for the commonwealth to capture an estimated $60 million in federal, local, and private matching dollars for land conservation.

Increased funding for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation will allow for the funding of highest priority projects, particularly those that provide public access for Virginia’s citizens and visitors.

Granite rock is methodically placed in Virginia's Piankatank River to form the newest, 25-acre oyster reef in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Building a Reef Granite rock is methodically placed in Virginia's Piankatank River to form the newest, 25-acre oyster reef in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. © Patrick Bloodgood/U.S. Army photo

Oyster Restoration

Oysters are an iconic species in the Chesapeake Bay. They filter sediment and algae and remove nitrogen from the water, while providing important nurseries and feeding grounds for other marine life.  For generations, oysters have also played an important role in Virginia’s economy.

Oyster restoration involves the construction of new reefs.  In addition to providing habitat for oysters, fish and crabs, reefs also offer a nature-based solution for adapting to climate change.  Reefs can take the punch out of storm waves and help slow the rate of erosion along marsh edges.

Increased funding in the budget for oyster restoration would allow the state, along with partners including The Nature Conservancy, to take advantage of federal matching funds to reach the goal of 428 acres of restored oyster reef in the Piankatank River—an area of reef bigger than the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and representing the largest oyster restoration project in the world. 

Bringing beauty, biodiversity, and economic value to southwest Virginia.
Clinch River Bringing beauty, biodiversity, and economic value to southwest Virginia. © TNC

Clinch River State Park

As partners in the Clinch River Valley Initiative, The Nature Conservancy has been part of the movement to create a Clinch River State Park.  This region in southwest Virginia contains a nationally important combination of natural, scenic, cultural and recreational assets that hold enormous potential to become a thriving tourism destination anchored by the park.

In addition to its natural heritage as home to the nation’s greatest concentration of rare and imperiled freshwater animals, the scenic, rugged and remote Clinch provides exceptional canoeing, fishing, bird watching, swimming and environmental education opportunities.

Studies show that the new state park will generate $3.58 million annually and create 31 local jobs in its 5-year start-up phase. Afterwards, the park will generate $2.53 million annually and sustain 23 local jobs.

Proposed funding in the state budget would provide staffing for the park, ensuring that the economic impacts of the park are not slowed or reduced due to insufficient resources.

Make Your Voice Heard

Surveys conducted by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation consistently reveal that Virginians maintain a strong commitment to natural areas and express a willingness to pay for conservation.

For too long, the state has underfunded natural resources programs.  According to the Census Bureau, Virginia’s natural resource investments significantly trail other southeastern and mid-Atlantic states. On average, states spend about double, as a percent of state budget, what Virginia does on natural resources.

Virginia can do better

Please reach out to your state elected officials today and let them know that funding for conservation is important to you!  Whether you call or email, tell legislators it is their responsibility to ensure that Virginia is a good steward of the natural resources we are leaving for future generations.  

TAKE ACTION - SENATE SIDE (Call or email)

Not sure who to contact?  Visit the state’s Who’s My Legislator page and enter your address to see a list of your representatives.

SAMPLE SCRIPT:

Hi my name is ______ and I am a constituent in _______’s district. I am calling in support of increased state funding for natural resources in Virginia.

______ is just one area that’s important to me and I urge the Senator to vote for its funding in the state budget.

TAKE ACTION - HOUSE SIDE (call or email)

Not sure who to contact?  Visit the state’s Who’s My Legislator page and enter your address to see a list of your representatives.

SAMPLE SCRIPT:

Hi my name is ______ and I am a constituent in _______’s district. I am calling in support of increased state funding for natural resources in Virginia.  

______ is just one area that’s important to me and I urge the Delegate to vote for its funding in the state budget.