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Virginia CZM Program 2008 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries/Virginia Commonwealth University/Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Project Title:

Assessment of Priority Green Infrastructure

Project Description as Proposed:

Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation are the most significant threats to the nation's wildlife. Several Virginia agencies have attempted to quantify important habitats and their threats. Specific tools used for this purpose include the Virginia Conservation Lands Need Assessment (VCLNA), developed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program (VNH) to identify land conservation priorities based on seven geospatial models (CZM grants FY04 Task 93.06, FY05 Task 92.05), and the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan, developed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). One component of the VCLNA is the Vulnerability Model, a collaborative effort between Virginia Commonwealth University's (VCU) Center for Environmental Studies and the VNH to model predicted growth in the landscape. These tools can identify high priority habitats for Virginia's Species of Greatest Conservation Need, as defined by the Wildlife Action Plan and determine which habitats are likely to be developed within the near future. The VDGIF is proposing to collaborate with VCU and the VNH to update the Vulnerability Model and synthesize existing information into a Priority Conservation Areas spatial dataset for the Coastal Zone of Virginia. Once developed, the team will provide the coastal Planning District Commissions (PDCs) with spatial data for use in their own planning. The team will also create a pilot project in one jurisdiction to evaluate the use of Community Viz software to assist in visualization and decision making using the resulting datasets. A workshop will be held to release the spatial datasets and demonstrate the Community Viz scenarios.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Rebecca K. Gwynn - (804) 367-8351;

Project Status:

Project Completed - 10/1/09 - 9/30/09; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

"Sustainable Communities: Assessment of Priority Conservation Areas and their Vulnerability to Development" (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation represent the most significant threats to the effective conservation of wildlife species and natural, communities.  These repercussions must be managed proactively via a comprehensive planning tool, recognizing that most land conservation occurs locally and that priorities need to be established to guide allocation of limited resources.  A collaboration between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation - Division of Natural Heritage (DCR-DNH), and Virginia Commonwealth University - Center for Environmental Studies (VCU-CES) synthesized conservation information and priorities into a unified dataset of Priority Conservation Areas (PCA). 

Because DGIF did not have an existing conservation planning dataset, the Priority Wildlife Diversity Conservation Areas (PWDCA) dataset was created using existing geospatial wildlife data, guidance from the Wildlife Action Plan, and input from biologists.  The PWDCA was then combined with DCR-DNH's Conservation Sites and Natural Land Network, and VCU-CES's Aquatic Resource Integrity Layer to produce the PCA.  The PCA is a geospatial representation of conservation opportunities using a 1 to 5 ranking from Moderate Opportunities to Imperative Opportunities.  Combining information and priorities from state conservation agencies and a major research institute, the PCA provides a unified tool to guide green infrastructure planning at the regional and local level.  The PWDCA and PCA are available for download at:

To assess the PCA for vulnerability to development, DCR-DNH's Virginia Conservation Lands Needs Assessment - Vulnerability Model was updated.  The revised Composite Vulnerability Model was used to attribute the PCA polygons with average relative vulnerability.  All areas in the PCA have both a conservation opportunities rank and a vulnerability rank.

To test the applicability of the PCA at a local level, a partnership was established with Northampton County.  Using Community Viz software, an extension to ESRI's ArcGIS software for visualizing and analyzing planning scenarios, VCU-CES developed an application to evaluate the current and proposed zoning regulations in Northampton relative to impact on Priority Conservation Areas.  This application was created using input from Northampton County planning staff and the final product delivered to them for their own use and continued development.

A workshop was held at VCU to transfer the results of this project to regional planners.  Planning District Commissions from the Coastal Zone of Virginia were invited to attend.  There were 22 participants.  The first half of the workshop provided information on the development, background, and potential use of the PCA dataset.  A hands-on session, providing experience using Community Viz software, constituted the second half of the workshop.
In conclusion, this project produced a synthesized dataset to guide conservation planning, assessed these areas for risk to development, demonstrated use of this tool within planning and visualization software, and transferred the knowledge to regional planning groups.  It is anticipated that Planning District Commissions will use the PCA and other results of this project within their development of green infrastructure initiatives and to assist counties with comprehensive planning.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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