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New partnership will ‘work to strengthen the Commonwealth and our nation’s security’

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In 2013, the USDA, Department of Defense and Department of the Interior founded the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership.

The partnership seeks to prevent encroachment on military missions, increase working lands, build resilience against climate-induced hazards, conserve key habitats, benefit water quality and protect threatened species.

Virginia partners include the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Veterans and Defense Affairs and Natural and Historic Resources, and management of the program will be led by the Department of Forestry.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Monday the establishment of the Virginia Security Corridor partnership and award of two federal Sentinel Landscape designations in eastern Virginia. The new designations will enable military readiness, conservation collaboration and build working lands through integration of federal, state, local and non-governmental partnerships. Mutually beneficial land-use initiatives that complement Virginia’s military, forestry, agriculture and recreation economies by connecting landowners will be advanced by the partnership.

“The Virginia Security Corridor partnership delivers a collaborative and competitive advantage for federal funding and authorities that will increase our military value, strengthen our agriculture and forestry economies, conserve natural resources and contribute to our resilience,” Youngkin said. “We will put the partnership to work to strengthen the Commonwealth and our Nation’s security.”

Ten military installations and 2.9 million acres are included in the Virginia Security Corridor partnership as well as two designated landscapes along Virginia’s Golden Crescent. The northerly landscape is named “Potomac” and the southerly is “Tidewater.” The partnership will preserve military mission space, but also grow Virginia’s working lands and protect natural resources.

“The Virginia Security Corridor partnership is home to some of the Commonwealth’s most abundant natural resources, which includes productive forests, open and active agricultural lands, and complex marsh and riverine systems that all connect to the nation’s largest estuary — the Chesapeake Bay,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew J. Lohr.

Two federally funded coordinators will join the Department of Forestry to manage the Potomac and Tidewater landscapes.

Virginia Department of Forestry State Forester Rob Farrell said that conserving working forests and natural spaces is important to all Virginians.

“The Sentinel Landscapes designation is an important step to creating a collaborative strategy to support private landowners with technical and financial resources that align with their stewardship goals. This can have a ripple effect not only for the landowner, but for Virginia’s future generations and forests,” Farrell said.

Designation of the Potomac and Tidewater Sentinel Landscapes “is a unique opportunity for the Department to strengthen military readiness while also supporting climate resilience and conservation,” Brendan Owens, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Energy, Installations and Environment, said. “The work of the partners in these new sentinel landscapes will preserve working lands, combat biodiversity decline, safeguard habitats and protect water quality. All of these important outcomes will be achieved while simultaneously addressing the encroachment challenges confronting the 10 military installations in the Virginia Security Corridor.”

According to Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw, nearly 20 percent of Virginia’s economy is military investment accounts. The new designations will increase the Commonwealth’s military value.

“It protects and preserves our military mission space and builds adaptability for future growth. The Virginia Security Corridor partnership is important for the nation’s security and the Commonwealth’s prosperity,” Crenshaw said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.