Dragon Run Special Area Management Plan

Advisory Group Ė Traditional Uses/Habitat Work Group

July 16, 2002




  1. Welcome


  1. Goals Review


  1. Brainstorm to Develop Action Plans


  1. Adjourn






Neal Barber (VA Economic Development Partnership; Middle Peninsula Land Trust); David Birdsall (Resource Management Service, Inc.); Dorothy Miller (Essex); Davis Wilson (Middlesex); Pat Tyrrell (Tidewater RC&D); Andy Lacatell (TNC); David Milby (VA DOF); David Fuss (MPPDC)


Goals Review


David Fuss asked the group to review the goals and objectives of the project and to consider action plans to achieve those goals and objectives. He explained that it was the groupís responsibility to recommend specific actions to the Dragon Run Steering Committee to achieve the goals and objectives that are part of the Memorandum of Agreement being considered by the MPPDC and the four Boards of Supervisors.


Brainstorm to Develop Action Plans


The discussion began with a description of the effort by the Tidewater RC&D Forestry Committee to develop a brochure that promotes the economic value of forestry, including secondary benefits such as environmental benefits. Initially, this product was targeted for the Boards of Supervisors and Planning Commissions with presentations beginning in the winter. The Forestry Committee, however, soon decided that the brochure should be intended for public consumption, also. This effort is consistent with Goal II, Objective B from the Dragon Run SAMP.


The work group decided that it could complement that work by promoting the economic benefits of farming and forestry, as well as the benefits of the natural features in the Dragon Run. Mr. Barber promoted the idea of developing a marketing/communication plan by focusing on the following questions: Who is the audience? What is the message? What methods will be used to convey the message? Who will implement the plan?


The audience is to be the decision-makers, such as Boards of Supervisors and Planning Commissions. It may also be useful to target the constituents of those decision-makers. The message to decision-makers is that they need to promote farming and forestry as money-making industries for the counties and that they need to protect those industries as the base of the economy. The Dragon Run Steering Committee should deliver the message via presentations to Planning Commissions/Boards of Supervisors, including materials to be distributed. The local news media could also be used before, during, and following the presentations.


Data and information for the presentations could be collected from existing data sets (e.g. IMPLAN) and organizations (e.g. American Farmland Trust, Farm Bureau, Extension Service). The group should also try to seek endorsements from the following organizations: TNC; CBF; MP Land Trust; Tidewater RC&D; SWCDs; Farm Bureau; VA Forestry Association; Society of American Foresters; VA Deer Hunters Federation; Ducks Unlimited; Turkey Hunters Association; American Tree Farming; Save the ĎOle Piankatank; Friends of Dragon Run.


It was noted that Virginia loses more than 50,000 acres of timberland per year. An example of the problem was noted for Gloucester, where the timber value is taxed in addition to the real estate tax. Due to this situation and the roadside buffer ordinance that was passed, the message from Gloucester is that they do not really want forestry.


There is a need to look at future land use. This precipitated a discussion of the matrix of comp plans and zoning ordinances that David Fuss had prepared for the Local Government work group. It was noted that there is a lot of crossover between the issues of the Local Government work group and the Traditional Uses/Habitat Management work group. It was proposed that these two groups meet together next month to raise the profile of actions to revolve around timberland and agricultural land preservation.


The discussion then shifted to tools of timberland/ag land preservation. The Nature Conservancy did a study in Chesapeake to justify the development of the Purchase of Development Rights program and promoted the fact that farming and forestry generate much more revenue in taxes than they consume in public services. Other options mentioned were: Transfer of Development Rights, Sale of Conservation Tax Credits, and Conservation Easements.


The main easement holders in the Dragon Run Watershed would be the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Friends of Dragon Run. Mr. Wilson proposed that the counties offer generous tax breaks for conservation easements by setting the tax rate at the same level for many years into the future. At the same time, he does not think that easements are very desirable to landowners because people want to get money for giving up the easement and they donít want to give away something if they donít get something in return. Mr. Birdsall suggested that there needs to be adequate development pressure to sell the land and that the landowner wants to keep the land before the landowner would consider selling development rights. Mr. Barber suggested that the group recommend educating the professionals (e.g. attorneys, estate planners, accountants, bankers) about the utility and advantages of easements. One way to do this is to demonstrate the potential buildout from development pressure. Mr. Birdsall noted that market swings can cause drastic changes in the real estate market. He has recently received twice the number of calls about land purchases because of the dropping stock market. People are beginning to invest in real estate instead of stocks.


The consensus about conservation easements was that the group should continue to convey the message that they are available to landowners as a land protection tool. The Tidewater RC&D Forestry Committee plans to pursue a class in February concerning conservation easements and preserving ag/forest land (partnering with VA Tech).


Conversation then switched to Goal III with the idea of acknowledging the good conservation measures that people have taken. Annual Conservationist of the Year awards could be given for best conservationist, most improved, using Best Management Practices, etc. We could solicit recommendations from the Game Warden, Dept. of Forestry, or Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Another idea is the concept of a Dragon Celebration for landowners Ė possibly some kind of picnic like the one held at Big Island by the Friends of Dragon Run.




David Fuss agreed to find a suitable meeting time for the Local Government and the Traditional Uses/Habitat work groups to meet in August. The meeting was adjourned.