Governor Northam's Unveiling of ConserveVirginia 2.0
In April 2018, Governor Ralph Northam announced a new approach to land conservation in Virginia:
"I believe that we need a land conservation strategy that is focused and targeted toward making measurable progress on our natural resource goals...Through this data-driven process, we will prioritize the most important targeted lands and direct limited resources toward those conservation projects that provide the greatest benefit in the most cost-effective manner."
On April 9, 2019, Governor Ralph Northam officially launched ConserveVirginia, Virginia’s first in the nation, data-driven, state-wide, land conservation strategy that identifies high value lands and conservation sites across the Commonwealth of Virginia.
ConserveVirginia’s living “smart map” is the synthesis of 19 mapped data inputs, divided into six categories, each representing a different overarching conservation value. The categories are: Agriculture & Forestry; Natural Habitat & Ecosystem Diversity; Floodplains & Flooding Resilience; Cultural & Historic Preservation; Scenic Preservation; and Protected Landscapes Resilience. The categories contain more than 5 million acres of agricultural and forest lands. Outdoor recreation, including access for underserved communities, is a critical component of the strategy and will be addressed across the categories.
ConserveVirginia’s central feature is a living “smart map” that identifies approximately 6.9 million acres of priority lands for conservation. The ConserveVirginia map is the synthesis of 21 mapped data inputs, which have been divided into seven categories, each representing a different overarching conservation values. The categories are: Agriculture & Forestry; Natural Habitat & Ecosystem Diversity; Floodplains & Flooding Resilience; Cultural & Historic Preservation; Scenic Preservation; Protected Landscapes Resilience and Water Quality Improvement. The categories contain more than 5.45 million acres of agricultural and forest lands. Outdoor recreation is a critical component of the Strategy and will be addressed across the categories. As with most land conservation, resource benefits cross multiple categories.
Governor Northam's Conservation Cabinet
Governor Northam issued Executive Order Twenty Two on October 4, 2019, establishing the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet, a new initiative to better protect Virginia’s vulnerable natural resources and improve environmental quality across the Commonwealth.
The Secretary of Natural Resources chairs the Conservation Cabinet, leading a united effort to safeguard Virginia’s natural resources and landscape, and support the Governor’s long-term goal of achieving protection of the top ten percent of high conservation value lands in Virginia.
“Protecting and conserving our Commonwealth’s natural heritage is a key component for economic growth and making Virginia a better place to live, work, and visit,” said Governor Northam. “This effort will strengthen our interagency coordination and allow us to bring all of our resources to bear in addressing environmental threats and ensuring best practices across state-driven conservation initiatives.”
Members of the Conservation Cabinet include the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Commerce and Trade, Finance, Natural Resources, and Transportation. Working with experts and stakeholders, they will create a roadmap that addresses how agriculture and forestry, transportation and municipal infrastructure, energy use and development, and outdoor recreation and tourism interact with our land, air, water, and related ecosystems.