Gov. Ralph Northam’s land conservation strategic mapping tool has been updated to provide a more comprehensive approach to improving water quality throughout Virginia.
ConserveVirginia harnesses current science and data to prioritize land conservation decisions. ConserveVirginia 3.0 incorporates three new data sources related to water quality improvement:
- Aquatic Life Conservation: These data identify lands that drain into waters of highest aquatic habitat values as determined by the Department of Environmental Quality using macroinvertebrate monitoring data to assess environmental conditions.
- Healthy Waters Conservation: As the health of fish, shellfish and aquatic insects are important indicators of their surrounding environmental conditions, these data identify lands that drain into streams ranked “outstanding” or “healthy” based on fish and macroinvertebrate communities under DCR’s Healthy Waters Program.
- Restoration Candidate Best Management Practices: These data identify lands where, if agricultural best management practices are used, improvements to water quality would be greatest, according to DCR’s Healthy Waters Program.
These three biological datasets were added to water quality priorities in the update released in June 2020, which identify lands with greatest potential to reduce nutrient and sediment loads to waterways, if conserved. To be considered a success under ConserveVirginia, deeds for lands conserved under this more comprehensive category must require permanent vegetative buffers.
The seven different ConserveVirginia categories that represent overarching conservation values now include 24 data sources.
“ConserveVirginia, which is now codified into state law, provides an important roadmap as we work to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Ann Jennings. “Investing in land conservation protects the environment now and for future generations.”
For the Scenic Preservation Category, large patches of forestland near U.S. Forest Service national scenic areas and the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area scenic zone were added.
In the Protected Landscapes Resilience Category, priority lands for protection identified by the U.S. Forest Service were added.
ConserveVirginia identifies a total of 7.8 million acres of highest priority conservation areas across the Commonwealth. These data guide a long-term land conservation strategy for Virginia by informing state land acquisitions, environmental mitigation projects and grant processes in the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and Land and Water Conservation Fund programs.
The categories are:
- Agriculture and Forestry
- Cultural and Historic Preservation
- Floodplains and Flooding Resilience
- Natural Habitat and Ecosystem Diversity
- Protected Landscapes Resilience
- Scenic Preservation
- Water Quality Improvement
For more details about ConserveVirginia and its map layers, visit dcr.virginia.gov/conservevirginia.