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Media inquiries: Please contact Julie Buchanan, julie.buchanan@dcr.virginia.gov, 804-786-2292.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: June 06, 2002
Contact: Jim Meisner Jr., DCR Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-8442, jim.meisner@dcr.virginia.gov

Governor Warner demonstrates support of 2002 Parks and Natural Areas Bond

(RICHMOND) - Gov. Mark R. Warner demonstrated his support of Virginia's outdoors today with a canoe ride in Raymond R. "Andy" Guest Jr. Shenandoah River State Park in Warren County.

Joined by local officials and outdoor enthusiasts, Warner paddled 3.5 miles before meeting state parks supporters in a nearby picnic shelter to discuss the $119 million 2002 Commonwealth of Virginia Parks and Natural Areas Referendum.

"Passage of the parks and natural areas bond is vitally important for the future of Virginia's natural resources and open spaces," Warner said. "This initiative will protect rare plants and animals and preserve irreplaceable open spaces and endangered natural areas. This will also allow more Virginians more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors."

Visitation in Virginia State Parks increased from 3.8 million in 1991 to 7.1 million in 2001.

"For too long, Virginia State Parks and natural areas have been overlooked in the funding process, and this needs to change," Warner said. "By voting 'yes' for this bond, Virginians will make lasting, permanent improvements to state parks and natural areas and will increase the quality of life for future generations of Virginians across the commonwealth. Voting 'yes' is the natural choice."

Nationally, Virginia ranks 49th in per capita state spending, 50th in terms of percentage of state budget and 47th in acreage per capita.

"The environmental impact of this bond is important, but equally important is the economic impact," Warner said. "In 2001, state park visitors contributed $144 million to the state's economy, and nearly 40 percent of park visitors come from outside Virginia. The $119 million bond will have a lasting economic impact immediately and for years to come."

Managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia's state park system is the 2001-2003 National Gold Medal award winner for excellence in park and recreation management. The award was presented by the National Sporting Goods Association's Sports Foundation Inc. in cooperation with the National Recreation and Park Association.

The Nature Conservancy recognized Virginia's natural areas program in 1994 as the best in the Western Hemisphere.

"Virginia's environment is first rate, and the envy of the nation," Warner said. "We owe it to our children and to future generations to further protect our natural wonders, and passage of this bond will help do that."

According to a 2001 poll conducted for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, public support for preserving and protecting state lands is at an all-time high.
- 96 percent believe Virginians owe it to future generations "to protect land, water and wildlife for their use and enjoyment."
- 89 percent rate "preserving and protecting open space" as important.
- 82 percent of those polled believe Virginia's natural areas soon will be lost forever unless we act now to protect them.

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