Governor Terry McAuliffe has announced the launch of Virginia Treasures, the Commonwealth’s new strategy for conserving land and expanding access to public outdoor recreation.
Governor McAuliffe made the announcement during an Earth Day visit to Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield County. Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward, members of Virginia’s land conservation community and representatives from the state’s natural resources agencies also attended.
“Virginia Treasures will enable us to focus on what’s important for land conservation and public outdoor recreation,” Governor McAuliffe said. “This initiative will prioritize our land conservation efforts, taking into account factors such as biodiversity, public access and wetlands preservation.”
The administration’s goal is to identify, conserve and protect at least 1,000 treasures by the end of the governor’s term. Criteria for what constitutes a treasure have been developed by the Commonwealth’s natural resources staff. Treasures could fall into one of two defined categories: land conservation or natural, cultural and recreational.
Land conservation treasures include agricultural lands, forests that provide water-quality benefits, wetlands, and habitat for rare or threatened plants and animals.
Natural, cultural and recreational treasures include trails, water-access points, parks, scenic byways, rivers and viewsheds, public gardens and wildlife-viewing areas.
Governor McAuliffe announced a new Virginia Treasure at Pocahontas State Park: a monarch butterfly garden. The garden will provide native plants and grasses for monarchs and other pollinators as part of an initiative to restore the monarch population, which has been on the decline due to the loss of food sources and habitat.
“Parks, natural areas, agricultural lands and historic sites are part of the foundation needed to build a new Virginia economy,” Governor McAuliffe said. “These are the assets that support our thriving tourism, fishing and farming industries, and enhance the quality of life for thousands of Virginia residents.”
“Expanding access to public outdoor recreation is a critical component of the initiative,” Secretary Ward said.
“When we give children and adults opportunities to experience nature, we help to instill a sense of stewardship not only in this generation but in future generations,” Secretary Ward said. “This sense of stewardship is critical to protecting Virginia’s natural resources for years to come.”
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is the lead agency charged with tracking Virginia Treasures. Multiple state agencies, land trusts, local governments and private groups are involved in the initiative.