‘Enlightened government’ a Va. benefit

Published 9:39 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015

You should get down on your knees right now and thank God, your parents, the winds of Fate, the military — whatever it was that brought you to the state of Virginia.

Virginia has everything — history, good food, wine, mountains, beaches, seafood, forests, rivers, more good food, cities, rural gems and an enlightened government. Not necessarily in that order.

The last item — enlightened government — may not seem immediately apparent, given the status of transportation and taxation in the state. But somewhere along the line, Virginia’s government decided to protect the natural beauty and health of this state’s environment. Bless them.

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The Virginia Master Naturalists (a fairly pretentious name) — of whom I am one — are sponsored by six agencies. Six­! All are concerned with the environment and its health. The first is the Virginia Cooperative Extension office, run by Virginia Tech. Our office in Isle of Wight is run by Janet Spencer, a highly knowledgeable entomologist.

Second is the Department. of Conservation and Recreation, which controls many wildlife preserves, wildlife management areas and the like.

The Department of Environmental Quality monitors the water and air and soil for us, attempting to avoid spills and contamination like the recent unpleasantness in our neighbor to the south.

The Department of Forestry seems simple enough, but not really. They advise commercial growers, are caretakers of bequests like the recent ones from Union Camp/International Paper, and more. They’re busy.

The fifth agency in charge of environmental protection is the best known — the Department of Game and inland Fisheries. They and their rangers set and enforce hunting and fishing limits and ensure healthy populations of deer, bear, fish, etc. Too many deer… not good. Too few…. not good. VDGIF sets bag limits and seasons and controls the harvest. The sixth sponsor is little known — the Virginia Museum of Natural History, whose primary concerns are education and outreach. Six agencies concerned with the environment all committed to the health of our natural resources.

But those are only the beginning. What about the VMRC — the Marine Resources management people — which sets creel limits and seasons, species by species, and then enforces the laws? How about he Nature Conservancy, a private organization dedicated to protecting endangered species and ecosystems, using only donations for their purchases?

Research the Eastern Shore barrier islands, the Dismal Swamp, and the Zuni Pine Barrens to see some of their legacies.

The Department of Health monitors our drinking water and agricultural produce. Then there are the highly specialized organizations, like the Appalachian Trail Club, the Sierra Club, there’s even a Virginia Conservation Network, which links all of the above. Add these agencies to the federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA and what you have is a phalanx of good people keeping our state pristine.

As part of our training, we meet representatives from most of these agencies. They are all intelligent, dedicated, helpful and downright talented. They go out at night to listen for barking tree frogs — an action not in their job description.

They will advise you on what to do about infestations, your crops, your stand of pine trees. They are truly caring people. They care about Virginia’s environment.

Now, if we could just get to those people who throw their fast food bags, coffee cups, plastic bags and other litter out the car windows!

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.