It all started back in 2009, when members of the Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains (FBRM) decided that the Blue Ridge should be recognized as a special conservation corridor to help protect its natural and cultural values. The following year, FBRM partnered with the National Wildlife Federation to help coordinate local efforts to conserve the region. One of their first steps was cataloging key land uses; local ecological, cultural, and historical resources; and the various threats to the region to help build support for a coordinated effort. They hired graduate students Gina Claeys and Mark Hofberg to help pull the pieces together in 2011 and 2012, and sponsored a fundraiser at the home of Friends members Jane Pratt and Jed Shilling.
But the concept finally crystalized last fall at Bluemont Vineyard where 60 participants – representing conservation and citizen’s groups, landowners, business owners, and others – spent an energetic October day brainstorming ways to protect their beloved Blue Ridge Mountains, and relaxed with local wine after their hard day’s work. Out of that Blue Ridge Summit emerged some common themes about what people value in this region, what they want to protect, and how they want to protect it. Since then, a core group has worked with The Downstream Project to distill more than two dozen sentiments shared at the summit down to six common principles, and to create a structure for a new coalition of individuals and groups committed to protecting the Blue Ridge.
The idea behind the Blue Ridge Coalition is simple: a regional treasure like the Blue Ridge deserves regional support and attention. By working together, local groups can share information, coordinate action, and plan for a future that preserves the unique natural and cultural heritage that defines these iconic mountains.
On November 12, the founding partners – FBRM, Piedmont Environmental Council, The Mountain Institute, National Wildlife Federation, Land Trust of Virginia, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, and The Downstream Project – will officially launch the Blue Ridge Coalition at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Interested groups are invited to learn about the coalition, sign on to its Blue Ridge Declaration of Conservation Principles (listed below), and join the Blue Ridge Coalition.
The Blue Ridge Declaration of Conservation Principles
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a source of beauty and inspiration; a place for recreation and renewal. They enhance our mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. We honor and respect them.
The mountains are a source of clean water, fish, wildlife and biodiversity. We endorse and protect the right of all living things, now and in the future, to benefit from mountain ecosystems.
The mountains are essential for sustainable social and economic development. We make choices and take actions that ensure long-term sustainability.
The mountains are an integral part of our cultural and natural heritage. We take that heritage into account when we make decisions that affect the mountains.
It is a privilege to live in the mountains, and with privilege comes responsibility. We support responsible stewardship of mountain lands and waters.
We are stronger and more effective working together than we are individually. We commit to working together to protect the Blue Ridge Mountains.
(Update 11/13/14: Check out the new Blue Ridge Coalition website!)