Category Archives: Land Use

Items related to agriculture, preservation, development, forestry, and other land-based activities that affect water resources.

Cowbane Prairie Natural Area Preserve in Augusta Co., Va., to be Expanded by 84 Acres with Funds from DuPont South River Mercury Settlement of December 2016

On October 31, 2017, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the Cowbane Prairie Natural Area Preserve in Augusta County would be expanded by 84 acres, using funds from the December 2016 settlement with DuPont over mercury discharged into the South River (a Shenandoah River/Potomac River tributary) from the company’s Waynesboro, Va., facility during the 1900s.

Following is an excerpt from the Governor’s Office’s news release on the preserve expansion:
“The acquisition, which more than doubles the size of the existing preserve, is the first project supported with funds from last year’s settlement with DuPont over longstanding mercury contamination from its former Waynesboro facility. …

“Located on the western slope of the Blue Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley, Cowbane Prairie Natural Area Preserve protects the last remnants of prairies and calcareous spring marshes, rare natural communities that once blanketed much of the Valley.  These communities have disappeared over the years because of agricultural and industrial development.  Eleven rare plants are found in the preserve, and the portion of the South River within the preserve has two rare freshwater mussel species.  The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program manages the preserve. …

“Through invasive species management and the reintroduction of fire to the ecosystem, the tracts added to the preserve will be restored to their natural state. …

The settlement with DuPont came about to resolve claims stemming from the release of mercury into the South River in the 1930s and 1940s.  This is the largest natural-resource damage settlement in Virginia’s history and the eighth largest in U.S. history.  It provides more than $42 million for natural-resource restoration and improvement.”

For more on the DuPont settlement, please see this Water Central News Grouper post, or this Va. Governor’s Office Dec. 15, 2017, news release.

Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces 84-Acre Expansion to Cowbane Prairie Natural Area Preserve; DuPont settlement will fund preservation of new public land in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/31/17.

James River Association Issues 2017 “State of the James” Report in October 2017

On October 26, 2017, the James River Association (JRA) released its latest “State of the James” biennial report on the James River.  The report gave the river a cumulative score of 62 out of 100, rating a “B-.”  The cumulative score includes several factors that receive individual scores; the scores represent the percentage achieved toward numeric goals for each factor.  The 2017 score was an increase of 10 points since the first report in 2007 and of 3 points since the 2015 report.

The reports for 2017 and those for previous years are online at, as of 10/27/17; or contact the JRA at 4833 Old Main Street, 4th Floor, Richmond, VA 23231; (804) 788-8811;

Below is the list of all the factors rated in 2017, with the 2017 scores and whether the rating indicated improvement or deterioration since 2015.

Bald Eagle Breeding Pairs = 100% (no change)
Striped Bass (Rockfish) Spawning Index = 59% (no change)
Oyster Abundance = 47% (no change)
Smallmouth Bass Abundance = 93 (improvement)
American Shad Abundance = 11% (improvement)
Brook Trout Ragne = 74% (improvement)

Underwater Grasses Abundance = 26% (deterioration)
Riverine Forest Cover = 94% (improvement)
Stream Condition Index = 59% (improvement)
Tidal Water Quality (algae, dissolved oxygen, and water clarity) = 62% (improvement)
Vegetated Stream Buffer Restoration = 32% (improvement)

Agricultural Pollution Controls = 48% (improvement)
Bacteria Reduction = 49% (not in 2015 report)
Sediment Pollution Reduction = 46% (improvement)
Nitrogen Pollution Reduction = 52% (deterioration)
Phosphorus Pollution Reduction = 77% (deterioriation)
Stormwater Pollution Controls = 41% (improvement)
Wastewater Pollution Reduction = 118% (improvement)

Land  Protection = 88% (improvement)

Additional Source:
James River Health Improves 10 Points in 10 Years, James River Association News Release, 10/26/17.

News media accounts on the 2017 State of the James report:
James River health improving overall, but more work needed, report says, Daily Press, 10/26/17.
James River health grade improves but more work to do, WVTF FM-Blacksburg, 10/26/17.
From a C to a B-minus in a decade, James River water quality remains a work in progress, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/27/17.

For a previous News Grouper items a State of the James report (2011), please see this link.

James River at Eagle Rock Botetourt County Jul22 2017 looking downstream
James River at Eagle Rock, Va. (Botetourt County), July 22, 2017.

High Speed Rail between Washington, D.C., and Richmond – Draft Environmental Impact Statement Considered in Public Hearings in October 2017

In October 2017, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the federal Railroad Administration are holding five public hearings on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Washington to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail Project (DC2RVA).

The public hearing schedule is as follows (each date is linked to the Virginia Commonwealth Calendar site where more details are available):

10/10/17, 6 p.m., at 1500 East Main Street in Richmond;
10/11/17, 6 pm., at Patrick Henry High School, 12449 West Patrick Henry Road in Ashland (Hanover County);
10/17/17, 6 p.m., at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town, 1767 King Street in Alexandria;
10/18/17, 6 p.m., at James Monroe High School, 2300 Washington Avenue in Fredericksburg;
10/19/17, 6 p.m., at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway in Triangle (Prince William County).

The project intends to build infrastructure to improve reliability, add capacity, and add nine stops.  The public hearings will take comments on the draft EIS that compares alternatives under consideration and recommended alternatives in each corridor segment.  The draft document is available online at   More information is available online at

Public Lands Day in Virginia on September 30, 2017; Annual Event Established by 2017 Virginia General Assembly

The first Public Lands Day in Virginia will take place September 30, 2017.  According to a September 26, 2017, news release from the Virginia Governor’s Office, “[t]he newly instituted Virginia Public Lands Day was established during the 2017 General Assembly session [on the last Saturday in September each year] and encourages conservation and stewardship through special events around the Commonwealth.  Virginia Public Lands Day will be led by The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and conservation organizations across the Commonwealth.  Numerous events will take place across the state, including guided hikes, paddling trips, and volunteer cleanups in some of Virginia’s most treasured natural areas.”

Public lands in Virginia include national parks and monuments under the National Park Service, state parks and natural area preserves under the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, state forests under the Virginia Department of Forestry, wildlife management areas under the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, open space lands under the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, local and regional parks, and private lands made available for public use.

Information about events at Virginia’s state parks is available online at

Claytor Lake State Park Sep23 2012 TWO USED Grouper 9-27-17

Lake view at Claytor Lake State Park (Pulaski County, Va.), September 23, 2012.

Governor McAuliffe Announces Partnership with REI to Promote Virginia Public Lands Day; Inaugural Virginia Public Lands Day will take place September 30, 2017, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 9/26/17.

Virginia’s United Land Trusts, “Virginia Public Lands Day,” online at

Virginia General Assembly 2017, House Joint Resolution 640, online at

Pesticides, the Chesapeake Bay, and Climate Change Get Attention at Oct. 24, 2017, Conference in Reisterstown, Md.

The 11th Annual Pesticides and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Project Conference will be held October 24, 2017, in Reisterstown, Maryland (Baltimore County).  The conference is being organized by the Maryland Conservation Council.  This year’s theme is “Research, Practices & Policies: Protecting the Bay & Addressing Climate Change.”  According to the conference Web site, the meeting will “focus on cutting-edge trends in agriculture that simultaneously protect the Bay and address carbon sequestration — including the latest in science research and policy impacting on the watershed.” For more information, visit; or e-mail the Council at

Some of the information in this post was provided by the Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC).  For more information about the VWMC, please visit

Safe Wastewater Use in Agriculture is Focus of 2016 United Nations Publication

Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture: Good Practice Examples was published in 2016 by the United Nations (UN) University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources.  Part of UN efforts begun in 2011 to focus on the use of wastewater in agriculture, the book presents 17 case studies of good practices from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The book is available online (direct link to PDF at

Virginia Forest Heath Professionals’ Annual Conference Jan. 29-30, 2018, in Staunton

The Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals will hold its 26th annual conference on January 29-30, 2018, at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center in Staunton.  The meeting is a chance for representatives of state and local government entities and the commercial sector to exchange information, expertise, and ideas about current issues, emerging pests, and other topics related to forest ecology and forest health.  More information is available online at; or contact the organization by e-mail to, or Postal Service to P.O. Box 295, Oakton, VA 22124-0295.