RD77 - Virginia Outdoors Foundation Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2017
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation protected 22,000 new acres between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, which pushed us past the 800,000-acre milestone—a fantastic finish to our 50th anniversary. Like most of the conservation easements recorded by VOF over the past five decades, these latest easements protect some of the Commonwealth’s best farmland and forestland.
VOF also began work on nearly a dozen new projects in 2017 that reflect growing priorities for the Commonwealth and our board of trustees. In February, the board approved more than $1.5 million in funding from our Preservation Trust Fund (PTF) for 11 projects that will provide new opportunities for public access to open space. They include a new hiking trail and kayak/canoe launch area on the Elizabeth River in Virginia Beach, a site for an outdoor classroom in Richmond, and an 18th-century home and garden in downtown Alexandria that will be turned into a public museum, among others. The previous year, VOF approved $400,000 for the protection and restoration of two historic African-American cemeteries in Richmond that will also be open to the public. In 2017, we helped to secure additional funding for the cemetery efforts through the General Assembly. These efforts build upon VOF’s long history of working on public access projects, from the Bull Run Mountains in Northern Virginia that we own and manage as a natural area preserve, to the numerous state and local parks and forests that we helped to facilitate on behalf of the Commonwealth.
When VOF was first established in 1966, one of our primary objectives was to encourage open space conservation for the purposes of recreation and education, especially in the more developed areas of the state where such opportunities were disappearing. We have been tremendously successful at conserving rural open space, and this work has yielded many critical public benefits, including protected watershed, viewsheads, and wildlife habitat. But we have much work to do in Virginia’s most populated regions. By 2017, we had protected land in all but two Virginia counties, but in just 14 of its 38 independent cities.
Through discussions with legislators, as well as feedback in the Virginia Outdoors Plan surveys, we have been hearing a desire among citizens for more access to open space near their homes. The PTF funding we received the last two years has allowed us to begin filling the gap.
We will continue protecting Virginia’s world-class farmland and forestland, and we are excited about the prospect of doing more public access conservation in the future and expanding the number of communities that benefit from our work. Our board is eager to build new partnerships and explore innovate ways of protecting open space for recreation and education with the same efficiency and effectiveness that has defined our program for more than 50 years. We greatly appreciate your support as we work toward a better future for all Virginians.
/s/ Brett Glymph