Every year the Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) releases a briefing book entitled Our Common Agenda. The briefing combines the policy agendas of over 100 organizations across Virginia to form one, concise compilation of conservation goals. The agenda aims to address the most pressing conversation issues with realistic statewide policies. The VCN recently released the 2020 edition of Our Common Agenda, which includes input directly from Wild Virginia
How is Wild Virginia Involved?
This year Wild Virginia helped write a paper with for the briefing book about habitat connectivity. We were honored to help work on this paper because habitat connectivity is a core focus at Wild Virginia. The paper explains the need for increased connectivity in our Commonwealth, outlines the negative effects of fragmented habitats, and shows the benefits of more connected areas. Then, a solution is proposed. The paper suggests establishing a group of experts to analyze potential wildlife corridors in Virginia and creating a strategy that would best protect those wildlife corridors.
How Can You Support Our Common Agenda?
If you are interested in looking further into the briefing book, it is available to download here. Many of the papers outline specific ways you can help contribute to conservation in Virginia.
As we turn onto the dirt lane leading to Spruce Creek Camp-Out up the hill, we run into a small group of folks walking down the road. My husband and I have driven out to Nelson County to join the last of three weekend campouts in October organized by activists on land threatened by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). We are invited to pull our car off the road and join the group on a nature hike led by Robert Jennings, a local naturalist and grassroots field specialist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. This is only one of the many talks, presentations, and tours of local properties that would be impacted by the proposed pipeline that are being offered by Nelson County residents and invited experts during the Spruce Creek Camp-Outs.
We pause every few meters walking along the land of Jill and Richard Averitt, who have been fighting the ACP that threatens to bisect their property for the past four years. Jennings kneels to pick up a seed, pulls our eyes up the long straight trunk of a tulip popular tree, and passes around a birch twig, inviting us to scrape off the fragrant bark with a thumbnail. “Rootbeer!” someone exclaims. The adults are as full of wonder as the kids. The woods are alive with so
many gifts if only we pause to appreciate them. Having someone like Jennings along can help to slow us down and bring more meaning to our interactions. It also makes what is at stake here strikingly clear.
As we reach Spruce Creek, I realize this walk has been a pilgrimage for many here. The sun is setting and the last light filtering through the forest sparkles on the water. Standing on the banks of this native trout stream, I can make out a faint line of orange flagging ribbon running through the trees. This is the proposed-path of the ACP, where—if built—it will tear through this small piece of the Rockfish Valley on its 600-mile path from the Utica and Marcellus gas
fields of West Virginia to its terminus in eastern North Carolina. As I listen to the deafening stream, so full of energy in its rush from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the sea, it is hard to imagine this beauty being broken. And yet, this is the fragility of the world in which we live. All of it requires our protection.
On our climb back to Camp to set up tents and prepare for an evening of educational talks and communion with other campers, landowner Jill Averitt points out a string of hand-painted prayer flags dancing in the trees. Made by past campers and volunteers, the ever-lengthening line is strung across the proposed pipeline’s ‘right-of-way’ through the heart of their property. I think about the contractors’ orange ribbon also strung through these trees. The woods, for the moment, are silent holding these competing dreams in their swaying arms.
After setting up our tents in the trees around a meadow, we congregate in its center for dinner. Mike Tabony, a retired tug boat captain from New Orleans turned local climate activist, gives a
humbling presentation on the state of climate science. He is self-trained, the most inspiring kind of citizen scientist, who after living through Hurricane Katrina, gave up flying, buying new cars, and has lived a simple life since sharing his knowledge of global warming with others and inspiring them to action.
As the night gets colder, we circle round the fire. Friends and neighbors from Nelson County share stories of their own fights against the proposed pipeline, the court battles they’ve weathered and Congressional hearings they’ve testified at, the stress and sense of loss they’ve suffered, and the fight they’ve supported and are still supporting their friends through. One couple has driven up from Hampton Roads, where their own community is struggling to organize in opposition to a spur of the ACP that is already on its way into the ground. They are here for leadership and inspiration, coming from a community where so many folks, too down on their luck to fight Dominion Energy, have taken a check and gotten out. Fresh to the fight and the full complexity of how pipelines are built and resisted, my husband and I simply listen and take it all in.
To be invited so intimately into peoples’ lives and personal struggles feels like such a gift. I do not yet know what I can do to help, but for the moment just gathering and being present seems important. Although some consider it to be a done deal, this fight is far from over, and even if the ACP goes in the ground, folks all along its path will be standing by their land, protecting what they can, and reporting issues that will impact all of us who live downstream.
For more information on how you can get involved from wherever you are, get in touch with the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance and check out the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, which is rewriting the books on how citizens do science and resist projects such as this. Wild Virginia and many other organizations are continuing to fight the pipelines as hard as we can.
The recent report Forest Defense is Climate Defense from Oregon Wild links the practice of logging forests with greenhouse carbon emissions. According to the report, logging old-growth forests releases a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, and planting new trees after logging still creates “carbon debt.” It takes decades for the new trees to store the same amount of carbon that the old trees did. In other words, “planting trees” isn’t a sufficient forest conservation strategy. To solve this climate issue, Oregon Wild recommends two strategies:
Modernizing logging laws with climate-smart practices.
Permanently protecting remaining old-growth forests and encouraging forest restoration on public lands.
The graphic below depicts the fate of carbon during forest logging. After a tree is logged, the stump only retains 15% of the initial carbon storage.
Where do we come in?
Wild Virginia believes our forests should be managed to provide clean drinking water, clean air, wilderness, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities for the public. We teamed up with some of our partner groups in our recent Stand 4 Forests campaign to address forest conservation. The campaign argues that the US must immediately scale up forest protection, restore degraded forests, reduce consumption, and transition to clean, renewable energy before it is too late. Recommendations include:
Expanding permanently protected lands and protect public lands from commercial logging and other harmful activities.
Reducing emissions from the forestry sector and expanding the US forest carbon sink as a major climate strategy.
Investing in forest protection as a resiliency and adaptation strategy for communities vulnerable to pollution and climate change.
It’s always exciting to discover different groups coming to a consensus on a solution. We know we are on the right track, so what’s the next step in guaranteeing forest conservation? How are we going to save our wild spaces and protect our climate?
You can help today by endorsing our Stand 4 Forests campaign and voting on November 6th for candidates who support our forests.
On September 13, 2018, the United States Forest Service published two advanced notices of proposed rulemakings (referred to as ANPRMs). The notices aim to streamline regulations regarding the exploration and development of oil, gas, and locatable minerals in national forests and grasslands. Locatable minerals are recognized as a mineral by the scientific community and make the the land more valuable for mining than for agriculture. Examples include gold, silver, limestone and copper.
A 30-day public comment period regarding the implementation of existing regulations and these new proposed rules ends October 15.
The two proposals, 36 CFR 228 Subpart A: Locatable Minerals, and 36 CFR 228 Subpart E: Oil and Gas Resources, are trying to expedite the Forest Service review process of projects in order to speed up development and benefit those who are trying to develop land instead of those who are trying to protect it. Speeding up the review process hurts the quality of environmental reviews and the ability of the public to submit comments. Activities related to excavating locatable minerals, oil or gas require a thorough environmental review.
In recent years, the Forest Service has experienced issues with staffing and funding because they have diverted so much of their budget to fighting wildfires. Thus, it is extremely important for experts and citizens to have appropriate time to weigh in on potential Forest Service projects.
What you can do:
The Forest Service must not be allowed to abdicate its responsibility of protecting our national forests and grasslands. Please make a public comment today to ensure our wild areas are given priority over energy developers.
For comments regarding locatable minerals:
Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FS-2018-0052, which is the docket number for this Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. In the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Notice link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”
By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: USDA-Forest Service. Attn: Director—MGM Staff, 1617 Cole Boulevard, Building 17, Lakewood, CO 80401.
For comments regarding oil and gas:
Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov/. In the Search box, enter FS-2018-0053 which is the docket number for this Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. In the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Notice link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”
Mail: Address written comments to USDA-Forest Service. Attn: Director-MGM Staff, 1617 Cole Boulevard, Building 17, Lakewood, CO 80401.
On July 9th and 10th, learn first aid for outdoor excursions alongside Wild Virginia’s President, Ernie Reed, in a two-day Outdoor First Aid learning program, taught by Matt Rosefsky. With 10% of the course proceeds going to Wild Virginia, this is a great event to not only support us, but to learn how to take care of yourself out in the wilderness! Adults and children 12 and older can enroll for the two day class HERE. Upon completion participants receive the SOLO Wilderness First Aid certification, valid for 2 years.
Mired in a disaster zone, travel or rural area far from a hospital, or natural area miles from an access point … accidents, destructive weather, and terrorism happen, and all-too-often members of a group are not capable of dealing with the emergency. This leads to improper care of the patient, and endangers the entire group. Many recreational accidents are preventable, and improper care of trauma can compound even simple injuries. Very few first aid programs actually address the issues of providing emergency care in a setting where 911 is overwhelmed or not immediately reachable. In this course, classroom instruction and Q&A are interwoven with practical work and problem-solving exercises. Hands-on experience – a most powerful learning tool – during scenarios comprise ~50% of class. 8:30am – 6:30pm both days; you come away with actual do-it-yourself care-giving confidence.
Enroll HERE and make sure you are prepared for anything out there, even making an impromptu splint!
With the Harrisonburg show a day away, we are quickly approaching the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Virginia. With 3 shows hosted by Wild Virginia, we hope to utilize the different selections of films to convey a story about our planet, our beautiful and precious wild lands, and the people of the communities who love and defend them.
The Harrisonburg show will lead off the Festival with a 7pm showing at the Court Square Theater tomorrow, March 30th. As with all of the shows, this showing will have a selection of short films, as well as a longer featured film. The Harrisonburg showing will feature A Line Across The Sky, which displays the harrowing journey of Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold as they traverse across seven jagged summits and 13,000 feet of vertical climbing. There are still many tickets available for this showing, so click HERE to get your ticket and join us for a great night of environmental films!
Following the Harrisonburg show, there will be a screening in Charlottesville on April 5th at the Violet Crown Theater. The following week, on April 10th, we will have our final set of films in Staunton at the Visulite Cinema. Both of these shows will feature a unique lineup of films so make sure you are there!
How Can I Get Involved and Help?
A grassroots membership, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving wild forest ecosystems in Virginia's National Forests through education and advocacy