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WHEREAS, public lands in Virginia, including state, local, and national parks, natural areas, forests, wilderness and wildlife management areas, waterways, wetlands, gardens, historical sites, and other types of land, provide residents and visitors with opportunities to enjoy nature, protect and preserve diverse natural resources, and contribute to the economic vitality of the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, more than nine in ten respondents to the Virginia Outdoors Plan Survey consider access to outdoor recreation to be very important or important, and visiting natural areas is the number one outdoor recreation activity; and
WHEREAS, recreation opportunities offered by public lands help families and individuals lead an active lifestyle and reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and other illnesses; and
WHEREAS, 97 percent of sportsmen and sportswomen agree that protecting and conserving public lands for future generations is important; and
WHEREAS, Virginia is home to 39 Virginia State Parks with three under development covering 73,500 acres offering 1,856 campsites, 301 cabins, and 677 miles of trails, with convenient access to boating, fishing, and swimming, and 22 National Park System Units; and
WHEREAS, Virginia’s 65 Natural Area Preserves cover 58,207 acres and harbor over 831 exemplary natural community and rare species locations and provide hiking and water access; and
WHEREAS, the Virginia Department of Forestry manages 24 State Forests that total 68,858 acres across the Commonwealth, and offer 377 miles of recreational trails, 81 miles of roads open to the public, and lakes and rivers that provide opportunities for fishing swimming, and paddling; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Wildlife Resources maintains 46 Wildlife Management Areas, with more than 203,000 acres of land open to the public for wildlife-related recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing; and
WHEREAS, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation protects more than 50,000 acres of open space that allow public access for recreation and education, including 60 miles of designated hiking and biking trails; and
WHEREAS, local governments provide over 850 neighborhood and local parks covering more than 79,000 acres across Virginia; and
WHEREAS, a collaboration among state and local residents, land managers, and community leaders improves the condition of publicly-held lands for the greater enjoyment and enrichment of all Americans; and
WHEREAS, outdoor recreation activities in the Commonwealth generate $21.9 billion in consumer spending, support 197,000 direct jobs, and account for $6.5 billion in wages and salaries and $1.2 billion in state and local tax revenue; and
WHEREAS, National Public Lands Day was established in 1993 as a day of volunteer service to help restore the country’s public lands, and Virginia Public Lands Day was established in 2017 to celebrate the Commonwealth’s natural heritage and to recognize that Virginia’s public lands are a treasured resource; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Conservation and Recreation will celebrate September 26th as a fee-free day and offer special programming including volunteer events across the state parks;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize September 26, 2020, as PUBLIC LANDS DAY in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.