Skip to Main Content

From the Executive Director

It seems each year goes by faster than the last. We are already halfway through 2024, and of course that means it is budget time. You all have either seen or heard a lot of communication on that subject over the past few weeks; while every budget adoption results in a lot of decisions on what to present to the Board, this year was especially so.  On the good side, we have many more positions filled today than we did a few years ago, which means more work getting to the ground. And the General Assembly continues to have an eye on public employee compensation; you all deserve more than we could ever pay you, but nonetheless hopefully the increases help.  With more employees on board, our personnel costs are higher now than they were before, or during, the pandemic. We target 70% of our expenditures being personnel-related as the maximum; we would like that percentage to be lower to allow funds to go to other needs, and that’s about where we are these days.  So, what that means for us is that we need to be careful and strategic in defining how we grow from here. This summer, we’ll be working with the Divisions to review all that we do and the associated costs in order to get a true picture of all of our needs, and also look for any efficiencies that can help us as we move forward to maximize our ability to meet the ever-increasing demands that I know you all are more than familiar with in your work. I’ll also be working closely with the Administration to continue to show the value of the agency to the Commonwealth and the benefits that would come from increased funding.

The midpoint of the year also means changes for our Board. The Chair and Vice Chair positions rotate every July 1, and while Chair Tom Sadler’s term is coming to an end, Jon Cooper’s turn as Chair will begin. Jon (who is from Botetourt County) is a very dedicated hunter, angler, outdoorsman, and habitat manager (some may be familiar that the National Deer Alliance will be hosting a class on habitat management showcasing his work on his family’s property later this summer). He also brings a very measured and thoughtful approach to every issue that comes in front of him and has an appreciation for all the interests that surround the agency. I very much look forward to working with him. Secondly, you may know that our Board also serves staggered terms; this year, we have three positions up for appointment/reappointment as of July 1. Among them, we know we will be getting a new representative for Region 3, as Leon Boyd has served the maximum number of consecutive terms that the law allows. His commitment and contributions to the agency have been huge and his shoes impossible to totally fill; fortunately, while his time on the Board is complete, I expect Leon’s partnership with the agency to continue for many years to come.

Mr. Cooper will be taking over during a busy time for our Board—along with the ongoing hound hunting issue and recent discussions on hot topics like bear mange—the Board’s scheduled workload for this summer includes the Aquatics, Boating, and Nongame regulatory cycle.  Coupled with all of that are the specialized action items and presentations that come before the Board and all its committees. Thank you to everyone who contributes to any of the various parts of our Board meetings; it amazes me how great the content has become and the appreciation that staff presentations create in the members and public who get to see them.

We continue to receive tremendous support from this Administration. The entire team at the Secretariat of Natural and Historic Resources is the best I’ve been privileged to work with, and the agencies that compose the Secretariat are the most cohesive that I’ve seen them. Of course, there are always challenges and limited resources to address them, but life is much better with a team of folks who understand our work and are all committed to working together to achieve as much as we can.

Finally, I thought I’d note that I’m excited to be working with our partners at The Nature Conservancy and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation on the possibility of completing the largest easement acquisition in the history of Virginia. Currently, we are working with both on a potential public access and management easement on more than 44,000 acres in Southwest Virginia, which would provide hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, boating, motorized and nonmotorized trails, and habitat management opportunities, as well as public lands in our elk area. We’ve already secured a grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation for a portion of the funding for this project and are working with partners to seek additional grant funds.  Special thanks to Tom Hampton, Daniel Boggs, Shannon Parker, Becky Gwynn, Jackie Rosenberger, and others who have been working hard to help make this once in a lifetime project a reality.

Click here for our visitor's guide to DWR properties for all the info you need to make sure your adventure is a successful one.
  • July 1, 2024