Governor McAuliffe expressed great appreciation as he accepted our ‘Big’ check from a VNPS Elf on December 17 in Richmond. President Nancy Vehrs had pulled out all the stops to make sure the event was a memorable one! The VNPS 2015 Fundraiser was a resounding success, by any measure; we were able to give $22, 504.33 to help the Department of Natural Heritage with acquisition of land for the Cedars Area Natural Preserve. A formal presentation to the Governor was a perfect capstone to the effort.
Four VNPS members made the trip to deliver the check in person, President Nancy Vehrs, Past President, Sally Anderson, Harry Glasgow, and Sue Dingwell. From the Department of Natural Heritage, (DNH), Tom Smith, Director, and Jason Bullock, Information Services, were present, along with Clyde Cristman, Deputy Director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, (DCR). For those unfamiliar with the structure, The DNH is a department within the DCR.
The Governor was gracious enough to spend some time with the group before the picture-taking, and he asked excellent questions about the Cedars in particular, along with other questions of broader scope. The experts seated at the table formed an impressive reservoir of knowledge and were quick to provide answers, which was another valuable opportunity.
In emails the next day thanking the group for coming, two memorable comments were made. First, from Tom Smith: “I am a firm believer that events like yesterday are so quietly significant in advancing biodiversity conservation, the position of the Natural Heritage Program, and the amazing partnership we have experienced with VNPS for my past 25 years here in Virginia.”
And Clyde Cristman wrote: “I want to express my sincere thanks for making the trip to Richmond yesterday and for the significant cash donation to help protect critical acres at The Cedar Natural Area Preserve. I am also very appreciative of your work to lift up the VA Native Plant Society – DCR Natural Heritage Program conservation partnership with your members, the public, and Governor McAuliffe. I was at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion last night and he was telling everyone about the “big check!”
The Cedars Preserve and the area around has been in a focal point not only for DNH, but also for The Nature Conservancy, (TNC). In a a letter thanking VNPS for the contribution, Chris Ludwig, Chief Biologist at the DNH, wrote:
“I want to thank all who donated from the bottom of my heart. The Cedars is a very special place. This is a vast area of small farms, forests, barrens, woodlands, and fields . . .In March of 2015, Natural Heritage and TNC (in partnership with a number of other agencies) renewed their commitment to continue protection at The Cedars and we plan to use the VNPS funding along with state funds to secure over 300 acres of additional land. The idea is to fill in the gaps between parcels.
The parcel you all are helping to protect is a dandy! It has thriving populations of rare plants in addition to large forest and woodland areas that are still untouched by invasive plants. Also, and this is important, your protection efforts here not only protect rare plants and significant plant communities, they help protect a unique and significant karst landscape, numerous globally-rare subterranean organisms, rare moths, a rare butterfly, a rare snake, and water quality for the Powell River, a river that has some of the most significant mussel and fish diversity left on the planet!
So job well done, VNPS. We can look back at 2015 and say we did something good!