Virginia signs agreement with Department of Agriculture to restore historic recreation area

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CLIFTON FORGE, Va. (WDBJ / Governor’s Office News Release) – Governor Ralph Northam has announced the reopening of the Green Pastures Recreation Area in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The Commonwealth of Virginia will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to restore and manage Green Pastures as a satellite of nearby Douthat State Park, according to the governor’s office.

This area was one of the few federal outdoor recreation areas nationwide reserved exclusively for African Americans during the segregation era in the 20th century.

On Friday, the governor and federal officials signed a shared stewardship agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the US Department of Agriculture to “coordinate a response to growing ecological challenges and natural resource issues across Virginia.”

The MoU “establishes a framework for state and federal agencies to improve collaboration as they strive to achieve their common goals of reducing forest fire risks and addressing threats to the forest. forest and ecosystem health, ”according to the governor.

“Segregation affected all aspects of the lives of black Virginians, including when and where they could access recreational spaces,” Governor Northam said. “People came from all over to Green Pastures for barbecues, church outings and celebrations with friends and family. Through this federal partnership, we will protect the lands of this historic site and share the legacy of Green Pastures with a wider audience.

“The restoration and reopening of Green Pastures has long been a priority under Governor Northam’s historic justice initiative,” said Natural and Historic Resources Secretary Matthew J. Strickler. “I’m glad we were able to work with state and federal partners to pay proper tribute to this place and ensure it is accessible and properly remembered for all Virginians.”

“The signing of this shared stewardship agreement is emblematic of the long-standing relationship between the United States Department of Agriculture and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Agriculture and Forestry Secretary Bettina Ring. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Forestry have collaborated with the Virginia Interagency Coordination Center, forest health initiatives, water quality protection, urban and community forestry and the restoration of the marsh pine. By working with each other and with each other, we can help ensure that we have healthy forests, healthy people and healthy communities across the Commonwealth. “

“Through shared stewardship, we have an unprecedented opportunity to work together to set priorities at the landscape scale, implement projects at the appropriate scale, co-manage risk, share resources, learn from each other. others and build capacity to improve forest conditions, ”said Angela Coleman, deputy chief of the Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture. “This collaborative approach will have direct and positive effects on land management practices for Virginians. “

“The Natural Resources Conservation Service is pleased to join our sister agency, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, in renewing our commitment to partnering and prioritizing programs based on local needs,” said Terry, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. Cosby. “Harnessing funding and expertise allows us to do more to conserve natural resources, improve water quality and protect biodiversity than we could ever hope to accomplish individually, and we hope to replicate this approach in all. the states of the country. “

“The Department of Conservation and Recreation will be responsible for the restoration, operation and maintenance under the state park system of Virginia,” said the director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation of Virginia, Clyde Cristman. “It is critical to recognize that Green Pastures was originally built because African American families were not allowed to take advantage of the outdoor recreational opportunities at Douthat State Park, just 17 km away. , and other public places in the central Appalachian region. ”

“We look forward to welcoming everyone to Green Pastures as an outpost of Douthat State Park,” said Virginia State Parks Director Dr Melissa Baker. “Once the restoration work is completed, visitors can once again reunite with family and friends and enjoy a connection to the outdoors while learning about its important history.”

State and federal agencies have said they will align their priorities for the surrounding George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, as well as other forests in Virginia, as part of the agreement. They plan to work to improve forest conditions in the face of challenges such as fires, floods, insect and disease outbreaks, and invasive species.

“The Virginia Department of Forestry is proud to be one of the southern states that have signed a shared stewardship agreement,” said Virginia State Forester Rob Farrell. “We are grateful to our federal partners for their support of Virginia’s vision for sustainably managed forests and together anticipate future successes.

“Restoring green pastures and signing a shared stewardship agreement offers a tremendous combination of benefits for our men and women of the outdoors and our wildlife resources,” said Ryan Brown, executive director of the Virginia Department of Wildlife. Resources. “This will strengthen efforts under our agency’s cooperative agreement with the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, which is the oldest such agreement in the nation, and the preservation of green pastures will properly recognize the passion.” for the outdoors owned by all Virginians, past and present. “

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