Building a Lasting Voice for Conservation Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley

Tell us about your organization and your mission.

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Iconic rolling working farmland and expansive public forests. World-class rivers and streams. Friendly historic towns and a high quality of life. There is much to protect in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. In 2018, four local community organizations joined forces to form Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley to ensure the Valley way of life is sustained by our rural landscapes, clean streams and rivers, and thriving communities for generations to come. 

The Alliance is led by a talented and engaged volunteer board of directors, with deep community connections throughout the service area, and staffed by the seasoned community leaders who directed each of the legacy groups. And while the legacy organizations have now merged into a single entity, their important work and close community ties endure as part of the Alliance mission – to advocate, educate, and connect people to conserve the natural resources, cultural heritage, and rural character of our region.

 

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

Our work is so dynamic in nature it’s impossible to pick just one project, so here’s a bit about our current work.

County Level Advocacy. We are working closely with county-level Advisory Councils in three of our six counties to improve local land use and transportation planning, increase land protection and water quality measures, safeguard our rural communities, and promote compatible economic development in agriculture and tourism.

Alliance’s service area.

Alliance’s service area.

Supporting Communities That Oppose Gas Pipelines. Dominion Energy’s proposed 42-inch high pressure Atlantic Coast Pipeline continues to threaten Valley landowners and our water resources. The Alliance provides organizational and advocacy support to the local coalition of elected officials, residents, and landowners challenging the destructive and unneeded project.

Interstate 81. The Interstate 81 corridor and its future is a cornerstone issue for the Alliance, because it affects farmland, streams and rivers, Civil War battlefields, and the success of local businesses. The Alliance engages the public and lawmakers to seek sensible improvements to Interstate 81 that are compatible with scenic views of the working landscapes and natural resources you enjoy as you travel the corridor.

 Utility Scale Solar. The Alliance recognizes that scaling up renewable energy can be a significant positive step if properly implemented and can bring economic opportunities for businesses, utilities and landowners. We’ve recently developed a tool to assist localities and communities in consideration of several proposed utility scale solar projects in our area – to ensure projects are appropriately sited, considering designated land use and natural and historic resources.

 

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

MORE County Level Advocacy.  Our on-the-ground relationship with communities in our service area has been pivotal in our success, and we are excited to have expanded capacity to meet and engage communities in the northern part of our service area.

Work on the ground. With the headwaters of the James, Potomac, and the Shenandoah arising in the Shenandoah Valley and flowing towards the Chesapeake Bay, water is of great value to our communities. We’ve always advocated for land and water protection, and now we’re ready to get our hands dirty. We’re building collaborations to get more on the ground-- conservation easements to protect working farmland and forests and agricultural practices that improve water quality. We are proud to work with our partner agencies and organizations and their fine track record of engaging landowners and farmers in conservation.

Compatible Economic Development. Agriculture. Tourism. The sustained beauty of our landscape and our quality of life depends on those sectors being successful. We are exploring innovative approaches and building connections between farmers and local markets as well as supporting initiatives that will advance tourism, further preserving our landscapes and creating business opportunities in our towns and for communities.

 

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

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The support, encouragement and resources of the Coalition and its members was invaluable as we explored the creation of our organization. Now that we are scaling up, we find confidence in having Coalition members to call on for ideas, examples and best practice as we grow and implement new programs.