RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today issued Executive Order Twenty Two, establishing the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet, a new initiative to better protect Virginia’s vulnerable natural resources and improve environmental quality across the Commonwealth.
The Secretary of Natural Resources will chair the Conservation Cabinet, leading a united effort to safeguard Virginia’s natural resources and landscape, and support the Governor’s long-term goal of achieving protection of the top ten percent of high conservation value lands in Virginia.
“Protecting and conserving our Commonwealth’s natural heritage is a key component for economic growth and making Virginia a better place to live, work, and visit,” said Governor Northam. “This effort will strengthen our interagency coordination and allow us to bring all of our resources to bear in addressing environmental threats and ensuring best practices across state-driven conservation initiatives.”
Members of the Conservation Cabinet will include the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Commerce and Trade, Finance, Natural Resources, and Transportation. Working with experts and stakeholders, they will create a roadmap that addresses how agriculture and forestry, transportation and municipal infrastructure, energy use and development, and outdoor recreation and tourism interact with our land, air, water, and related ecosystems.
“I am excited for the Conservation Cabinet to get to work,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Building conservation goals and strong environmental protections into economic development, transportation, and other government initiatives will help us create a stronger and more sustainable economy and improve our quality of life.”
“Agricultural stewardship, land conservation, and forest management are all important tools for improving the health of our watersheds, countering climate change, and enhancing community resilience,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am thrilled to join the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet to play a role in this effort.”
Systemic coordination across state government is essential to ensuring that state sponsored or permitted activities do not harm the environment, and identifying and engaging in conservation-related economic and community development and opportunities. The initiative will seek to work with state agencies, localities, nonprofit land trusts, willing landowners as well as partners in both public and private sectors.
“I am proud to serve on the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Working in partnership across secretariats will further our efforts to preserve our natural resources and uphold the highest environmental standards that will continue to make the Commonwealth a great place to live and do business.”
Virginia’s state agencies overseen by other secretaries will also play an important role. Through increased coordination across Virginia’s agencies, departments and programs, the Conservation Cabinet will work to ensure a healthy environment and continued economic opportunities for all Virginians.
“Virginia has an unparalleled multimodal transportation system,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “We look forward to more deliberately coordinating with the Conservation Cabinet to identify and manage smarter, and more environmentally sound transportation decisions.”
“Protecting Virginia’s environment, and ensuring clean air and clean water for all, touches nearly every aspect of our lives. The Northam Administration’s decision to form a Conservation Cabinet recognizes that environmental protection cannot be limited to a single agency,” said Virginia Conservation Network Executive Director Mary Rafferty. “Today’s announcement will help to ensure the interagency communication needed to address many of the Commonwealth's most pressing environmental issues.”
The full text of Executive Order Twenty Two can be found here.
Members of the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet:
Matthew J. Strickler, Secretary of Natural Resources, Chair
Bettina Ring, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
Brian Ball, Secretary of Commerce and Trade
Aubrey Layne, Secretary of Finance
Shannon Valentine, Secretary of Transportation
Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education and Dr. Daniel Carey, Secretary of Health and Human Resources will serve on the Conservation Cabinet as ex officio members.
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