The Secretary of Natural Resources advises the Governor on natural resources issues and works to advance the Governor’s top environmental priorities. The Secretary oversees five agencies that protect and restore the Commonwealth’s natural and historic resources. The Secretary’s office and all of the natural resources agencies work together to uphold the provisions of Article XI of the Virginia Constitution:
Virginia’s land conservation investments are essential to making the Commonwealth a wonderful place to live and visit. Land and water conservation protects the places we love, supports a high quality of life and fosters economic growth and prosperity. In 2016, the Trust for Public Land reported that every $1 invested in land conservation returns $4 in economic value in natural goods and services in the form of improved air and water quality, carbon sequestration, and enhanced fish and wildlife habitat1. Governor Northam is dedicated to ensuring the highest conservation outcomes from state funds spent on protecting land.
The Chesapeake Bay is the world’s greatest estuary and one of our nation’s most significant natural resources. As a Commonwealth we must ensure that we are responsible stewards of the Bay so that future generations can enjoy this natural treasure as much or more than we can. The Bay provides recreation for Virginians and visitors, billions of dollars in economic activity, and tremendous numbers of jobs and products. We are working with all of the other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, along with the federal government and the District of Columbia, to improve the Bay’s water quality and wildlife.
Climate change is an urgent and pressing challenge for Virginia, the United States, and the world. The Commonwealth is already feeling the impacts of global warming in the form of rising sea levels, increased flooding, and more extreme weather events. The Commonwealth has decided to act boldly to reduce climate pollution and mitigate the impacts of a warming world.
As sea levels rise and climate change causes more significant and frequent weather events, Virginia must increase its resilience to sea level rise, flooding, and natural hazards. To address this growing risk for the Commonwealth and its citizens, Governor Ralph S. Notham signed Executive Order 24- Increasing Virginia’s Resilience To Sea Level Rise And Natural Hazards on November 2, 2018. This executive order provides a pathway to increased resilience to these hazards in the Commonwealth and includes a provision for the Commonwealth’s first Coastal Resilience Master Plan, with the goal of aligning state efforts and assisting local governments in reducing flood risk through planning and implementing large-scale flood protection and adaptation initiatives.
Through the Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard, a first of its kind for any state, Virginia will improve flood protection in coastal areas by discouraging building in floodplains and incorporating sea level rise projections that have been developed based on the best available science and adopted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It is important that no segment of the population, especially individuals most impacted and vulnerable, should bear disproportionately high or adverse effects from pollution. To ensure that all people and perspectives have a voice, the Commonwealth requires a consistent, action-oriented approach to incorporating environmental justice into decision-making. As a result, former Governor Terry McAuliffe established the Advisory Council on Environmental Justice via Executive Order 73 to provide independent advice and recommendations to the Executive Branch on environmental justice issues. Governor Northam looks forward to continuing this work under his leadership via executive order 29, ensuring the protection of all Virginians and our natural resources.
Virginia’s 400 year history is difficult and complex, and Governor Northam is dedicated to telling the full and true story of our past. During the 2020 legislative session, the Governor championed legislation and budget priorities to advance historic justice and equity in Virginia.
In 2019, the Northam Administration also took several important steps to honor the tribal history of Virginia Indians and ensure they have an enduring home to continue their sacred traditions in the Commonwealth.
Science shows us that biodiversity loss and climate change are contributing to more frequent disease outbreaks. As forests and wetlands disappear, pathogens like Ebola, Zika and coronavirus jump more easily from animals to humans. Virginia recognizes the interconnected nature of our environment, climate change, and human health. This is why Governor Northam is committed to the protection of Virginia’s unique biodiversity and natural habitats.
In 2019, Governor Northam issued an executive order establishing the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet, an initiative to better protect Virginia’s vulnerable natural resources and improve environmental quality across the Commonwealth. The Secretary of Natural Resources chairs the Conservation Cabinet and leads the united effort to safeguard Virginia’s natural resources and landscape, and support the Governor’s long-term goal of achieving protection of the top ten percent of high conservation value lands in Virginia.
Secretary of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218
Department of Conservation and Recreation
The Department of Conservation and Recreation works with Virginians to conserve, protect, and enhance their lands and improve the quality of the Chesapeake Bay and our rivers and streams, promotes the stewardship and enjoyment of natural, cultural and outdoor recreational resources, and insures the safety of Virginia’s dams.
Department of Environmental Quality
The Department of Environmental Quality is dedicated to protecting Virginia’s environment and promoting the health and well-being of the citizens of the Commonwealth. We accomplish this by planning and implementing environmental programs and by resolving issues efficiently, openly, fairly and consistently.
Department of Wildlife Resources
The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) mission is to protect Virginia’s wildlife and habitat and promote outdoor recreation. DWR’s range of wildlife conservation responsibilities and opportunities includes hunting and fishing, wildlife watching, public lands, boating, and outdoor recreation.
Department of Historic Resources
The Department of Historic Resources’ mission is to foster, encourage, and support the identification, stewardship, and use of Virginia’s significant historic, architectural, archaeological and cultural resources.
Marine Resources Commission
The Marine Resources Commission serves as stewards of Virginia’s marine and aquatic resources, and protectors of its tidal waters and homelands, for present and future generations.