Peace Remarks at Brown Tract Ribbon Cutting

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to thank the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority and its members, especially Mr. Frank Pleva of King William, for inviting me here today for this Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. I would also like to acknowledge the work of Jacqueline Shapo in organizing this event today. You all are to be commended for this project. We are living in exciting times! The people of this Commonwealth celebrate a rich history this year and as we commemorate Jamestown’s 400th anniversary, we have been reminded of Virginia’s difficult beginnings when our ancestors attempted to forge this new society.

In the seventeenth century, as you know, the English came looking for wealth and riches but quickly found none. Survival became the hottest commodity. These brave souls had to rely on ingenuity as well as native peoples who introduced them to their agrarian ways which included wonderful new species of produce and industry.

Shortly though restless settlers explored our rivers and waterways: the James, Mattaponi, Pamunkey and Rappahannock and sought to grow and expand the colony. I imagine that they only then found what they were looking for and discovered the true bounty of our land: our rich natural resources. While the treasure found did not come in forms of bars and coins, the landscapes, open space and wildlife afforded them great opportunity for the prosperity they sought. Yet the prospect also was accompanied by great responsibility.

Today, in 2007, this “Virginia Company” remains a profitable enterprise. We are still exploring new territories and we maintain similar opportunities for development and growth..

While it is a basic truism that business and industry are critical to our commonwealth’s sustainability it is equally true that we have an obligation to preserve our natural resources and be good stewards.

Since took I office, your legislature has been hard at work advancing what I call common sense preservation and conservation initiatives. The ground work for recent successes is due in large part to the leadership of Del. Harvey Morgan who is with us today. This afternoon please allow me to review some of the highlights of recent legislative action in area of conservation:

In our effort to meet and fulfill the expectations set forth in the well known Chesapeake 2010 agreement, last year the General Assembly appropriated $200 million in funding for Chesapeake Bay clean up. We added $20 million GF to the Water Quality Improvement Fund for the provision of grants to localities and public service authorities to upgrade wastewater treatment plants within the Bay watershed. This year we passed an additional measure supplying through bonding millions more for the Bay.

In the current budget bill, we have also added $1.0 million GF in additional operating support and 10 positions to increase support for Virginia’s state parks, and maybe most importantly we provided $6.6 million GF for the conservation of land through the Virginia Land Conservation Fund, the purchase of agricultural development rights, and operating support for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.

These legislative actions are certainly in keeping and in the spirit of the Governor’s proclamation establishing the noble goal of conserving an additional 400,000 acres of open space in Virginia by end of 2010.

Bear in mind that conservation is two fold. It’s important not only to conserve open space, but also to provide the public with sufficient access to those natural resources. Offering points of access through public land ownership gives residents and visitors meaningful coastal experiences that not only draw upon the Commonwealth’s natural wonder but also provide glimpses at that same scenic Virginia endearing to the earliest colonists.

We still have work to do. As the Middle Peninsula region becomes more populated and waterfront development increases, localities have the chance to conserve some access sites for various types of recreational activities, including fishing, birding, hunting, boating, picnicking, and sightseeing. These recreational activities associated with Chesapeake Bay rivers, tidal creeks, marshes, lakes, and ponds are vital to the citizens, our economy, and natural maritime heritage of the Commonwealth.

I take these matters seriously. In my private life I am involved with an organization which over the past 17 years has preserved a colonial view shed in Hanover amounting to approximately 110 acres of land surrounded by encroaching development. Like the true conservative President Teddy Roosevelt remarked in 1900, I too recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use our natural resources, but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.

Along with Del. Morgan and other likeminded members such as Del. Rob Wittman, I will continue to work to find ways marry the goals and objectives of enterprise with our shared desire to conserve open space and public access to Virginia waterways. Together we can Reconnect Virginia and pass along that same rich inheritance we were afforded.