Virginia signs agreement with agriculture department to restore historic recreation area
CLIFTON FORGE, Va. (WDBJ/Governor’s Office Release) - Governor Ralph Northam has announced the reopening of Green Pastures Recreation Area in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The Commonwealth of Virginia will work with the United States 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 recreational areas throughout the country set aside exclusively for African Americans during the segregation era in the 20th century.
Friday, the Governor and federal officials signed a Shared Stewardship agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States Department of Agriculture to “coordinate a response to the increasing ecological challenges and natural resource concerns throughout Virginia.”
The memorandum of understanding “establishes a framework for state and federal agencies to improve collaboration as they strive toward their mutual goals of reducing wildfire risk and taking action against threats to forest and ecosystem health,” according to the governor.
“Segregation affected every aspect of life for Black Virginians, including when and where they could access recreation spaces,” said Governor Northam. “People would come from all over to Green Pastures for cookouts, church outings, and celebrations with friends and family. Through this federal partnership, we will protect the land of this historical site and share the Green Pastures legacy with a broader audience.”
“Restoring and reopening Green Pastures has long been a priority under Governor Northam’s Historic Justice initiative,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “I am pleased that we have been able to work with state and federal partners to pay appropriate tribute to this place, and ensure it is accessible and properly remembered to 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 Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “The United States Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Forestry have collaborated on the Virginia Interagency Coordination Center, forest health initiatives, water quality protection, urban and community forestry, and longleaf pine restoration. Working with and through each other, we can help ensure 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 landscape-scale priorities, implement projects at the appropriate scale, co-manage risks, share resources, learn from each other, and build capacity to improve forest conditions,” said United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Associate Chief Angela Coleman. “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 partner and prioritize programs based on local needs,” said United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Terry Cosby. “Leveraging funding and expertise enables 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 every state across the nation.”
“The Department of Conservation and Recreation will be responsible for restoring, operating and maintaining this as part of the Virginia State Parks system,” said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman. “It’s critical to acknowledge that Green Pastures was originally built because African American families were excluded from taking advantage of the outdoor recreational opportunities at Douthat State Park—only 11 miles away—and other public places in the central Appalachian region.”
“We look forward to welcoming all to Green Pastures as an outpost of Douthat State Park,” said Virginia State Parks Director Dr. Melissa Baker. “Once restoration work is complete, visitors can once again gather with family and friends and enjoy a connection with the outdoors while learning about its important history.”
State and federal agencies say they will align their priorities for the surrounding George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, as well as other Virginia forests, under the agreement. They plan to work to improve forest conditions in the face of challenges such as fire, flooding, insect and disease outbreaks, and invasive species.
“The Virginia Department of Forestry is proud to be among the Southern states who 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 anticipate future successes together.
“The restoration of Green Pastures and the signing of a Shared Stewardship Agreement provide a tremendous combination of benefits for our outdoorsmen and women and our wildlife resources,” said Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Executive Director Ryan Brown. “This will enhance 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 held by all Virginians, past and current.”
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