CLIFTON FORGE, Virginia (WDBJ / Governor’s Office Release) – Governor Ralph Northam has announced the reopening of the Green Pastures Recreation Area in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The Commonwealth of Virginia will work with the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service to restore and manage Green Pastures as satellites for nearby Douthat State Park, according to the governor’s office.
This area was one of the few federal recreational areas in the country reserved exclusively for African Americans during the segregation of the 20th century.
On Friday, the governor and federal officials signed a shared stewardship agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the US Department of Agriculture to “coordinate a response to growing environmental challenges and natural resource concerns across Virginia.”
The Memorandum of Understanding “provides a framework for state and federal agencies to improve cooperation as they pursue their common goals of reducing the risk of forest fires and taking action against threats to forest and ecosystem health,” said the governor.
“Segregation affected every aspect of the lives of Black Virginians, including when and where they had access to recreational spaces,” said Governor Northam. “People came to Green Pastures from all over for barbecues, church outings, and celebrations with friends and family. Through this federal partnership, we will protect the land of this historic site and share the legacy of Green Pastures with a wider audience. “
“The restoration and reopening of green pastures has long been a priority of Governor Northam’s historic justice initiative,” said Matthew J. Strickler, Secretary of State for Natural and Historical Resources. “I am delighted that we have been able to work with state and federal partners to pay proper tribute to this place and to ensure that it is accessible and memorable to all Virginians.”
“The signing of this shared stewardship agreement is a symbol of the long-standing relationship between the US Department of Agriculture and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Minister of Agriculture and Forests Bettina Ring. “The United States Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Forestry have worked together on the Virginia Interagency Coordination Center, forest health initiatives, water quality protection, urban and community forestry, and long-leaf pine restoration. By working together and with one another, we can help ensure that we have healthy forests, healthy people, and healthy communities across the Commonwealth. “
“Through shared stewardship, we have an unprecedented opportunity to work together to set landscape priorities, implement projects of the appropriate size, jointly manage risks, share resources, learn from each other and build capacity to improve forest conditions,” said Angela Coleman. Assistant Director of Forest Services, US Department of Agriculture. “This collaborative approach will have a direct and positive impact on the Virginians’ land management practices.”
“The Natural Resources Conservation Service is excited to work with our sister agency, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, to renew our commitment to partnering programs and prioritizing based on local needs,” said Terry, chief executive of the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Cosby. “By leveraging funding and expertise, we can do more to conserve natural resources, improve water quality, and protect biodiversity than we could ever do individually, and we hope to see this approach in every state across the country to replicate. “
“The Department of Conservation and Recreation will be responsible for restoration, operation, and maintenance as part of the Virginia State Parks system,” said Clyde Cristman, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. “It is important to recognize that Green Pastures was originally built because African American families were barred from using the outdoor recreational opportunities at Douthat State Park – only 11 miles away – and other public places in the central Appalachian region.”
“We look forward to welcoming everyone to Green Pastures as an outpost of Douthat State Park,” said Dr. Melissa Baker, director of Virginia State Parks. “After the restoration work has been completed, visitors can meet up with family and friends again and enjoy the connection to nature while learning about its important history.”
State and federal agencies say they will prioritize the surrounding George Washington and Jefferson National Forests as well as other Virginia forests under the agreement. They plan to improve forest conditions in the face of challenges such as fire, flooding, insect and disease outbreaks, and invasive species.
“The Virginia Department of Forestry is proud to be one of the southern states to have signed a shared stewardship agreement,” said Rob Farrell, Virginia state ranger. “We are grateful to our federal partners for their support of Virginia’s vision for sustainably managed forests and we expect future successes together.
“Restoring pastures and signing a shared responsibility agreement provides a tremendous combination of benefits for our outdoor men and women and our wildlife resources,” said Ryan Brown, executive director of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. “This will reinforce efforts under our agency’s collaborative arrangement with the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, which is the oldest such arrangement in the nation, and the preservation of green pastures will add to the passion for the nature of all Virginians, past and present of the country, appropriately recognize topical. “
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