Increasing human population has been a driving force in the rapid development of Virginia in recent decades. 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. If Virginia continues to grow as it has, more land will be developed in the next 40 years than have been since the Jamestown settlement was established in 1607. The population of Virginia is predicted to increase by almost 15% by the year 2020 and nearly 24% by the year 2030. The pressures of development will increase as the population continues to increase, thus land conservation must become a prominent consideration in all land planning effortsat the local, regional, and commonwealth levels if we are to effectively conserve lands for future generations. These lands provide benefits in terms of open space, recreation, cultural and historic resource protection, natural resource protection, water quality improvement and maintenance, and carbon sequestration, along with the economic benefits associated with these functions. The Virginia ConservationVision is helping guide effective conservation by providing tools that help both government and private organizations identify resource protection areas and that, at the local level, help planners manage growth in a balanced way.The Virginia ConservationVision is helping the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation to prioritize conservation targets.
The Virginia ConservationVision, developed and maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, is a suite of broadly applicable tools for guiding strategic conservation decisions. ConservationVision, originally developed as the Virginia Conservation Lands Needs Assessment, is maintained using GIS (Geographic Information System) analyses to model and map land conservation priorities in Virginia based on a variety of datasets from private, local, state and federal agencies. The models facilitate conservation by helping target conservation efforts, and by guiding comprehensive planning (Green Infrastructure). They are available on Natural Heritage Data Explorer, LandScope Virginia and LandScope Chesapeake, and DCR's website. ConservationVision allows the manipulation of issue-specific data sets that can be weighted and overlaid to reflect the needs and concerns of a variety of conservation partners - issues like:
In an effort to make the Virgina ConservationVision a comprehensive green infrastructure planning tool additional geospatial data sets are being created for the varied needs of additional conservation partners. The Chesapeake Bay Program has identified some available data sets and created useful models as part of their Resource Lands Assessment. DCR has built on the GIS models used for the Chesapeake Bay Program's Resource Lands Assessment, modifying methodology, adjusting weights, and adding data to tailor them specifically for Virginia interests. The Virginia Coastal Program and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation are funding the Virginia ConservationVision. Depending on needs identified, other data sets might include or address:
DCR-DNH has made strides in recent years in the development of the main ecological component of the Virginia ConservationVision with the completion of the Coastal Zone Natural Landscape Assessment (VANLA). Although the VANLA provides a good starting point identifying "green infrastructure", there are additional components to consider for a more comprehensive Green Infrastructure GIS model in Virginia. DCR-DNH is expanding the Virginia ConservationVision to include data for cultural and historic resources, population growth / vulnerability, sustainable forestry forest economics, prime agricultural soils, outdoor recreation, drinking water protection and water quality.
Joseph T. Weber
GIS Projects Manager/Conservation Biologist
Kirsten R. Hazler
Jason F. Bulluck
Division of Natural Heritage Director
Page last updated 1/14.