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NATURAL HERITAGE

Virginia ConservationVision

Formerly the VA Conservation Lands Needs Assessment

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 5% by the year 2010, by almost 15% by the year 2020, and by 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.

What is the Virginia ConservationVision?

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:

  • unfragmented natural habitats
  • natural heritage resources
  • outdoor recreation
  • prime agricultural lands
  • cultural and historic resources
  • sustainable forestry
  • water quality improvement
  • drinking water protection

Green Infrastructure / ConservationVision GIS Models

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:

  • Spatially explicit sites identified as priorities through existing plans (such as Partners in Flight priority sites).
  • Local parks, local natural features (useful for Green Infrastructure identification)
  • Wildlife diversity (for State Wildlife Comprehensive Planning)
  • Recreational lands and identified recreation needs (for Virginia Outdoors Plan)
  • Forest use and forest economic data (for Sustainable Forestry decision-making)
  • Surface and subterranean drinking water sources (for drinking water protection)
  • Biotic and abiotic factors that influence stream water quality (for water quality protection and improvement)
  • Historic and cultural resource locations (for historic resource protection)
  • Prime agricultural lands (for Agricultural Reserves)
  • Growth measures (for vulnerability analyses)

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.

For more information contact:

Joseph T. Weber
joseph.weber@dcr.virginia.gov
GIS Projects Manager/Conservation Biologist
Phone: (804)371-2545
Jason F. Bulluck
jason.bulluck@dcr.virginia.gov
Natural Heritage Information Manager
Phone: (804)786-8377
Tom Smith
tom.smith@dcr.virginia.gov
Division of Natural Heritage Director
Phone: (804)786-4554

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This project was funded in part by the Virginia Coastal Program at the Department of Environmental Quality through Grant #NA17OZ1142-001 of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended.

Page last updated 1/14.