Hampton Roads Land Conservation Summit Advances Discussion on Sea Level Rise, Water Quality, and Resiliency Solutions

A coalition of Hampton Roads leaders explored solutions to sea level rise, climate change, and other key water quality and habitat issues at a land conservation summit Friday in Virginia Beach.

Virginia’s United Land Trusts, Wetlands Watch, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) hosted land conservation agencies, government officials, nonprofit organizations, and other key stakeholders to advance solutions for land preservation in the low-lying Hampton Roads region, which is particularly threatened by sea level rise.

In Hampton Roads, organizers said, there has not been extensive coordinated policy and resources for land conservation, a key tool in tackling climate change impacts.

“Land conservation is more than about having open space for public access or an attractive view of wetlands, forest, or farm field. It’s also a strategic tool to build resiliency for sea level rise by retaining water and enhancing natural resources,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation Hampton Road’s Director Christy Everett said.

By strategically conserving more land, local leaders noted that they can not only increase resiliency for flooding areas, but also preserve open space for outdoor recreation and public use, create wildlife habitat, improve water quality, as well as protect important natural resources. 

“It takes a lot of leadership in this space to do this work. And it can’t happen without community buy-in,” Executive Director of Wetlands Watch Mary-Carson Stiff said.

Amid rising development pressure and the loss of tree canopies and wetlands, stakeholders identified opportunities for land conservation, including tools like rolling easements and land banks that repurpose vacant or foreclosed properties.

Hampton Roads has the highest rate of sea level rise on the East Coast, experiencing a foot and a half of relative sea level rise over the last century. Rates are projected to more than double in the years to come.

This has deleterious effects for surrounding areas. Repeated flooding in coastal areas can contribute to septic system failures, economic losses for businesses, and increased pollution washing into the Chesapeake Bay. Rising sea levels can also lead to the loss of wetlands, which are important natural filters that help clean the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information on climate change issues facing the Bay watershed, including CBF projects in the Hampton Roads region, check out our story map.


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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