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RISE - Responsible for Impacting Sustainable Environments: NVCT's 30-Year Journey of Conservation

Written by Aaron Kershaw

2024 marks the 30th year of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT), and we find ourselves standing at a critical juncture in our organizational life cycle. This year, we proudly announce our theme: "Rise to the Occasion," encapsulating our renewed commitment to land conservation and the promise of an even more impactful next three decades. Throughout this conservation journey, our focus has remained consistent: adding and sustaining abundant, thriving natural places for the people of Northern Virginia.

However, today, we believe that rising to the occasion will mean being more strategic in our approach, identifying critical areas of our region that are most at risk of development and essential to protect. In those places, we must be undeterred in safeguarding natural habitats to secure a bright future for Northern Virginia's nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

NVCT believes 2024 will be a celebration of our past and a challenge to RISE (Responsibility to Impact Sustainable Environments) in the future.

In our prior 30 years, NVCT achieved many significant milestones by demonstrating an energy and willingness to address grassroots environmental concerns and connect with our community. Since our founding in 1994, NVCT has protected nearly 9,000 acres in urban and rural areas. Our work protects Northern Virginia's nature and wildlife and helps mitigate climate change, a crisis that we cannot afford to ignore collectively and as an organization. Through collaborative partnerships and strategic conservation efforts, NVCT has worked tirelessly to safeguard the region's unique landscapes and cultural heritage.

In our 30th year, NVCT remains dedicated to combating climate change in Northern Virginia. We support and champion reforestation and carbon sequestration through strategic land conservation efforts.

Protecting biodiversity, creating wildlife corridors, and preserving watersheds highlight our efforts to focus on climate-resilient conservation. We engage communities, promote sustainable practices, and conduct ongoing research, underscoring our commitment to a climate-conscious future for Northern Virginians. When we stand together to celebrate our next 30 years, bold climate action and strategic partnerships will define success.

Unique landscapes in Virginia are special but also in considerable danger, and we are proud to work daily to ensure their preservation. To date, one of our most remarkable success stories has been integrating hundreds of acres into the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve by partnering with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Stafford County. Crow's Nest is one of our region's most biodiverse and essential sites, and we have the opportunity to complete the vision of a connected preserve there in the years ahead.

Little Hunting Creek, a cherished local treasure in Fairfax County, is also one of the region's most significant impact locations. Through a combination of private conservation easements, land purchases, land donations, and neighborhood events, we are providing new outdoor recreation access while connecting protected lands along the creek shoreline.

More recently, NVCT established Terborgh Terrace Gardens, its first community garden project in Arlington, to combat food insecurity in our region.

The property, gifted to NVCT by longtime resident Anne Terborgh and managed in partnership with FOUA (Friends of Urban Agriculture), is a glimpse into the increased community engagement we will provide in the future.

As NVCT now charts its course for the next 30 years, a strategic conservation plan of action is shaping to safeguard many other critical places. Prioritizing preservation efforts has become paramount in an era of fast-moving development pressure and growing climate change impacts. This science-based plan ensures that our organization continues to be a guardian of the region's natural beauty and resources. Simultaneously, a complete organizational strategic plan will debut this year to address the challenges and opportunities ahead. Focusing on innovative programs, community education, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts will help answer the question, "Who will NVCT be moving forward"?

This dual-pronged approach reflects NVCT's commitment to holistic conservation. The organization understands that protecting the environment goes hand-in-hand with fostering community and inclusivity.

As NVCT embarks on this new chapter, the "Rise to the Occasion" theme is both a call to action for our community stakeholders and a declaration of NVCT's self-determination to enhance the impact of our work.

RISE is also the theme of this year's annual fundraising gala at River Farm, which will be the second time the historic property has hosted the event in recent years. "An Evening at River Farm: Rise to the Occasion" is scheduled for June 7th from 6 to 9 pm. Its goal is to celebrate conservation champions and raise critical funds to support our bolder and more strategic approach to identifying endangered land for conservation. We hope you will be there to help us RISE!

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