How We Work

Rivers and Bays

Virginia’s rivers and bays connect with streams and wetlands to form a vast circulatory system—like the veins, arteries and hearts that transport your blood. The Nature Conservancy works to protect clean, abundant water, which is the lifeblood that enriches habitats, grows our food and powers the engines of our economy.

New Pipeline Roundtable

Since summer 2014, the Conservancy has been deeply engaged in efforts to avoid and minimize impacts to natural resources from proposed natural gas pipelines. While pipelines have generated much public debate, collaborative dialogue between the industry, regulators and conservationists has been rare—until now.

This summer, nine energy companies signed on to a roundtable organized by the Conservancy. Participants include Dominion and EQT, the companies behind the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects, respectively. Representatives from regulatory and public-land agencies and other resource conservation groups also will be invited.

“We’ve worked with state and federal agencies to elevate our concerns about forest fragmentation,” says Senior Scientist Judy Dunscomb. “With this new roundtable, we’re focused on reducing threats to clean water and wildlife habitat in our streams and rivers.”

In its first workshop this fall, the group will seek to agree on key problems related to sedimentation and erosion, while future sessions will focus on solutions. Ultimately, Dunscomb hopes to see new industry standards leading to safer energy production and safeguards for clean water.

Working with Farmers

Our Clinch Valley Program is spearheading a $4.5 million public-private initiative to improve agricultural practices across southwestern Virginia’s Lee, Scott and Russell counties and Tennessee’s Hancock and Claiborne counties. This five-county area encompasses more than 4,000 farms and 350 miles of impaired streams, and it hosts some of the most diverse and imperiled aquatic wildlife in the nation.

“We’re helping steer conservation investments toward farms that can make the greatest impact on water quality,” says program director Brad Kreps. “Helping farmers improve their productivity and the health of streams running through their farms will benefit local economies and our rivers at the same time.”

Aquaculture by Design

One oyster can filter 50 gallons of water every day. But with oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay hovering at roughly 1% of historical levels, the bay’s natural filtering system barely exists. In addition to oyster restoration, the Conservancy is engaged in research designed to measure benefits to water quality from oyster aquaculture. Our partners include the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and four aquaculture companies spanning from Virginia Beach to the Rappahannock River.

Tom Perry of White Stone Oyster Company says that working with the Conservancy “will be very beneficial in getting us to understand our natural environment better than we currently do, understand our business better … and help us be better stewards of our environment.”

“As part of our global Aquaculture by Design strategy,” says Andy Lacatell, Chesapeake Bay director, “we want to see if oyster aquaculture can accelerate restoration efforts—that is, can aquaculture make the bay cleaner faster?”

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