In the New River Valley, natural resources support the local economy in numerous ways. Breathtaking views and natural landscapes contribute to the quality of life that attracts new businesses and residents to the region. Natural resources also provide less visible services, such as mitigating flood impacts, filtering air pollutants, enabling groundwater recharge, pollinating crops, and conserving soils. The objective of natural resource planning is to ensure the continued availability of natural resources and the benefits they provide for current and future generations.
Natural resource planning in the region includes participants representing local governments, regional non-government organizations, state agencies, as well as several dedicated citizen representatives. The regional commission can assist local governments and communities by identifying, conserving, and preserving their natural resources.
The Regional Commission continues to support communities along the New River in advancing the New River Water Trail. Giles County launched the New River Water Trail in 2010. In 2020 the Regional Commission received funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission to better understand how and where to expand the New River Water Trail. The project team plans on applying for implementation funds in 2022.
Since 2016, the Regional Commission has been hosting local and state government representatives, businesses, university educators, student groups, advocacy groups, and the public, in conversations about the New River watershed. Quarterly meetings are open to the public and typically held in a hybrid environment so people can join remotely. The meetings provide an opportunity for those interested in the watershed to share updates on projects and programs while preparing for joint activities such as the region-wide river clean-up called, ReNew the New, which takes place each fall. ReNew the New was expanded to a regional event in 2016. 5 tons of trash and 159 tires have been removed from watersheds in the region by 589 volunteers.
Many services native plants provide are bird, bee and butterfly habitat, reduced lawn maintenance, and support of healthy water systems. The New River Valley Regional Commission began collaborating on the Plant SWVA Natives Campaign in 2019. Since then, the project has grown to include partners across Southwest Virginia.
The objectives of the Plant Virginia Natives and its regional counterparts, like Plant SWVA Natives, are to increase demand and use of Virginia native plants; increase the availability of native plants at local plant retailers; increase understanding and identification of what a native plant is, why it is important, and what it looks like; increase Virginia grown native plant stock; and, increase collaboration and coordination among partners interested in native plant education.
Natural disasters and their aftermath have long affected humans and the built environment. Hazard mitigation is about preventing or minimizing the physical, financial, and human impacts of natural disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) describes hazard mitigation as “sustained actions taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk from hazards and their effects.” While the region’s primary natural hazard is flooding, residents and businesses will be familiar with the impacts of drought, wildfire, severe winter weather, tornados, and high winds whether they rise to the level of a presidential-declared disaster or not. The Regional Commission supports our members in identifying strategies and projects both local and regional to reduce the loss of life and/or property due to these natural hazards. Our support of these efforts includes the five-year plan update and grant writing and administration for the FEMA grant programs that support mitigation work.