Natural Heritage Committee
The Natural Heritage Committee (NHC) advises the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and county staff on applying biodiversity information to land-use decision-making, and supports biodiversity education in the County.
The NHC meets on the first Monday of each month.
Committee History and Actions
The roots of the NHC date back to the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan adopted in 1999, which recognized "the importance of protecting biological diversity… for the ecological, aesthetic, ethical and economic benefits to the community."
In 2002, the county formed the temporary Biodiversity Work Group to come up with an initial assessment of Albemarle’s natural biological assets. In 2005 the panel was formalized as the Natural Heritage Committee.
On June 6, 2007, the Committee presented its first annual report to the Board of Supervisors. As part of that report, the NHC recommends an additional layer for the county’s Geographical Information System to give county planners more information on biological resources when making land use decisions. Currently no County funding is available for this or any other related efforts.
More importantly, the NHC will develop and implement a "Rapid Conservation Plan" to help protect areas that are under threat. Long-term, the NHC will develop a "Strategic Conservation Plan" to protect biodiversity at "a landscape scale."
To that end, former committee member Tom Olivier told the board that six sites should be considered as "priority conservation targets." They include three wetlands (Campbell, Preddy Creek, and Pinkerton Slash), two river bluffs (Key West Rivanna and North Fork Rivanna Bluffs), and a large forested area in the southwest portion of the county that Olivier called the Southern Albemarle Mountains.
The Pinkerton Slash area is already covered by a conservation easement, but Olivier says that doesn’t necessarily mean that the biological diversity of the areas will be protected. He recommend county staff develop a program similar to the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) program to protect the fauna and flora in targeted areas.
Olivier also said the committee wants the county to create a plan to help landowners understand the importance of these areas, and to also offer options for how stewardship programs might work.
On April 14th, 2009 the NHC commented on the new proposed weed ordinance, suggesting that the ordinance only apply to developed areas, and provide exceptions for natural landscaping.
The Board of Supervisors appoints between ten and twelve members. Members do not have to be residents of the County. Current members include:
- Anne Bedarf - Term Expires 09/30/2015
- John Murphy - Term Expires 09/30/2012
- Rochelle Garwood- Term Expires 09/30/2013
- Lonnie Murray, Chair - Term Expires 09/30/2012
- Devin Floyd- Term Expires 09/30/2013
Can NHC set policy?
At an August 18, 2009 meeting of the Albemarle County Planning Commission, the question of whether the NHC's reports held any power to stop applications came up in connection with a request from AT&T to build a cell phone tower in the Key West subdivision. County staff had included the NHC's report, which said a site along the North Fork Rivanna River at Red Bud Creek is an important habitat because of the presence of many species of wildflower as well as the dwarf larkspur. Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner explained to the Commission that the NHC report was advisory, but could be used to support a denial if used to justify why a critical slopes waiver should be denied. Both Commissioners Linda Porterfield and Don Franco objected to its use in that manner.
December 2004 report
- County’s Natural Heritage Committee presents annual report, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, June 8 2007, retrieved 3 Jul 2009.
- http://www.albemarle.org/upload/images/Forms_Center/Departments/Board_of_Supervisors/Forms/Agenda/2009Files/20090603/GrassOrdinanceAttachC.htm [Executive summary, Attachment C], Albemarle County, April 14, 2009, retrieved 1 Jan 2010.
- "County Of Albemarle Board Of Supervisors - Boards and Commissions." <http://www.albemarle.org/upload/images/webapps/boards/bc/showrecs.asp?ID=120>Web. retrieved 30 Apr 2012.
- Albemarle County Planning Commission discussion on August 18, 2009