Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Governor Kaine sets aggressive land conservation goal

Governor Tim Kaine recently made a remarkably progressive speech on the environment. In this speech Governor Kaine sets a goal of conserving 400,000 acres of open space by the end of the decade, and pledges the resources to achieve this and other goals. Below are some sections from this address made on April 20, 2006.

"It was a century ago, at the 300th Anniversary of the Jamestown landing, that President Theodore Roosevelt articulated the approach we must take to managing our natural resources. On June 10, 1907, standing in Jamestown, President Roosevelt, America’s patron saint of conservation, said, “In utilizing and conserving the natural resources of the nation, the one characteristic more essential than any other is foresight.”
As we partner to preserve Virginia’s outdoors, there is no way to overstate the importance of foresight. Virginia is currently home to 7.5 million people. Between now and the end of my term in 2010, our population will grow 5%. It will increase by nearly 15% by the year 2020 and nearly 24% by the year 2030. By then, Virginia’s population will be 9.3 million people.
That increase in population is a driving force in Virginia’s rapid development. Of all the development that has occurred in the last 400 years, more than a quarter of it has taken place in the last 15 years. Being good stewards requires us to have the foresight to make responsible decisions today and take actions – actions which may not be available to future governors and future generations – to ensure that we preserve the natural, cultural and historic resources that serve as the foundations of Virginia’s identity.
Virginia’s identity is its land. From the shores of Chincoteague to the hills and valleys of Cumberland Gap, Virginia’s beauty is unmatched. But as quickly as our population is growing, our rate of development is growing even faster. If we continue as we have, Virginia will develop more land in the next 40 years than we have in the last 400 years. Without foresight, without a plan to focus and manage that growth in a balanced way, we will be failing ourselves and future generations.
As we partner to protect Virginia’s outdoors, we must put balance at the center of land use decisions. We must create an effective model that encourages redevelopment in cities and suburbs and discourages the wasteful and unnecessary consumption of land farther out from our population centers. And we must reward communities that adopt and use balanced growth policies with economic development assistance and other incentives...

In the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, Virginia has pledged to permanently protect 20% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2010. The other states that made the same promise – Pennsylvania and Maryland – have already met that goal. Virginia still has 358,000 acres to go. Getting there won’t be easy. In the last 5 years, we’ve protected an average of 54,000 acres per year statewide, counting both private and public efforts. We need to protect about 72,000 acres per year, just in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, in order to meet the goal.
It will be the goal of my administration to meet that obligation and surpass it. Since 1968, Virginia has preserved 330,000 acres of land. Most of that has been preserved in the past five years. The goal of my administration is for the state to preserve an additional 400,000 acres by the end of the decade.
To accomplish that, we rely heavily upon the open-space protection tools that have served Virginia well: Our land preservation tax credit and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.
Virginia’s land preservation tax credit is among the most effective open-space protection tools in the nation. And I will protect it from political and meddlesome limitations. The tax credit is driving an increase in the number of voluntary donations of conservation easements and is a key part of meeting our Chesapeake Bay Agreement obligations.
Meeting those obligations and protecting open space throughout the rest of Virginia requires significant, reliable state investments in land conservation. In addition to protecting the tax credit, I pledge to provide more funding for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and local “Purchase of Development Rights” programs than any governor before me. I believe that investment can be made by making open space preservation a priority in Virginia’s General Fund.
The result will be more conservation easements; more public lands, such as state parks; wildlife management areas, state forests and natural-area preserves, protecting opportunities to hunt and fish, and greater local preservation efforts that will help family farmers stay on their land instead of selling out to development.
With every passing day, land is becoming more expensive and scarcer. I will set and meet this preservation goal during my term – not just because it’s the right thing to do – I will do it because if I don’t, the opportunity to do it will not be there for future governors and future Virginians...

Three years ago, Governor Warner held Virginia’s first Natural Resources Leadership Summit, bringing together perspectives from all throughout Virginia to address solutions to critical issues facing Virginia’s outdoors.
The Warner administration made significant progress in two of the highest priorities identified at that summit: land and water.
It is time to convene another summit. It’s time to reassess what has worked and what hasn’t, what changes and new initiatives need to be made, and to be frank with ourselves. There is great value in a regular reassessment of our efforts to protect Virginia’s outdoors.
I will convene the Virginia Outdoors Summit in 2006. There, we will discuss ways to protect Virginia’s outdoors, conserve land, enhance water quality, and provide access to clean water for all Virginians.
“The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life.” Those too are the words of President Theodore Roosevelt 100 years ago in Jamestown, Virginia.
The generations since have seen time and again just how right he was – and how right he was to call for foresight and conservation when it comes to using our natural resources. The need for those qualities is even greater now than they were a century ago.
Now is time to heed those words.
Now is time to be good stewards, to work together in partnership to protect Virginia’s outdoors. Now is time to fulfill our obligation to our children’s children.
Thank you."

Full text of this speach is available at:

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