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Highlights of the Natural Resource Management Plan

As the county’s largest landowner, much of the responsibility for preserving Fairfax County’s rich natural and cultural resource heritage rests with the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority holds this heritage as a public trust to preserve for current and future generations.

–Natural Resource Management Plan

And that's what the Natural Resource Management Plan is all about. In 2003, only about 26,000 acres of county land (excluding parkland) remained undeveloped. That's only about nine percent of Fairfax County. As this undeveloped land shrinks away, parklands play a critical role in preserving what's left.

Park Authority Leadership

Traditionally, resource management plans are done on a park-by-park basis. Preparing an agency-wide plan for a large,suburban park system is a fairly new concept. In addition to resource management,the plan also covers the vital role of volunteers and partnerships, as well as cooperative efforts with other county agencies; such as the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, and the Department of Planning and Zoning. Following are highlights of the plan's elements and goals.

Natural Resource Planning: This section talks about the “big picture.” It sets up the necessary policies and procedures for gathering vital information about parklands, such as natural resource inventories, along with establishing categories for natural and developed parkland. This enables the Park Authority to make the most effective and informed decisions about resource management, with an eye on best practice and effective partnerships.

Vegetation: Fairfax County retains areas of rich vegetative diversity, often found on parklands. This element of the plan is about knowing what kinds of plants are on parklands (taking inventories), monitoring their health,and managing vegetation for long-term vitality. This involves preserving rare and significant plants, and controlling invasive plants that threaten the natural environment.

Wildlife: Thanks to conservation efforts, Fairfax County still has a rich diversity of wildlife in our parks, including river otter, bald eagle, fox, deer, beaver, reptiles, amphibians and birds.This element involves assessing the health of parkland animal populations,helping to preserve rare and significant wildlife, promoting bird and other habitats, and using best practice to mitigate and resolve wildlife conflicts within the community.

Water Resources: Water resource preservation is one of the most important issues facing the county. Fairfax County has 980 miles of streams, many of which have been dramatically degraded over time by pollution, stormwater runoff and erosion. This element of the plan focuses on preserving water quality,rebuilding and revitalizing stream valleys, and protecting county streams,ponds,wetlands and rivers from further degradation or destruction.

Air Quality: With an increased number of Code Red air pollution days in Northern Virginia, increased attention is being given to air quality. This element covers ways and strategies by which the Fairfax County Park Authority can be a good partner and support the efforts of other government agencies striving to improve air quality.

Human Impact on Parkland: This part of the plan covers two areas.The first is how to plan parks for the comfort and enjoyment of citizens,while protecting natural, fragile resources at the same time.This latter part involves mitigating the damage done to parklands through overuse or improper use, such as encroachment (e.g., dumping grass clippings or cutting down plants on parklands), littering, and vandalism.

Education: Even though this is the last element listed in the plan, it is one of the most important.It involves stewardship education, ways to inform you and me, our children, Fairfax County employees and citizens of the simple things we can do to help the Park Authority protect our natural resources and quality of life in Fairfax County.

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