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Cover Story


Dennis Treacy, chairman of


VIRGINIAforever and Nikki Rovner, vice chair of the organization, say the alliance of environmental and business groups has been an effective advocate at the General Assembly.


Building on consensus T


Nonprofit unites business and environmental groups to support conservation causes by Robert Burke


he premise behind VIRGINIA- forever is that if you can find com- mon ground you can build on it. Now 10 years old, this nonprofit


group — an alliance of businesses and environmental organizations — has become an effective presence in Richmond. Its mission is straightforward and relatively noncontroversial: It wants to get as much funding as possible in the state budget to support land and water conservation. “We can come to the same table


because both sides agree that the state should protect its natural resources, and that [they are] key to the state’s economic development,” says Dennis Treacy, the group’s chairman, who is president of the Smithfield Foundation and will become chair of the Virginia Chamber of Com- merce in late January. A former head of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Treacy just retired as executive vice president and chief sustainability officer of Smithfield Foods.


Photo by Rick DeBerry The group’s seemingly unusual alli-


ance is part of why it has influence, says Nikki Rovner, vice chair of VIRGINIA- forever and associate state director for the Virginia chapter of The Nature Conser- vancy. She’s also a former state deputy secretary of natural resources. “When you walk into a legislator’s office, and it’s somebody from a conservation group and somebody from one of Virginia’s big busi- nesses, [lawmakers] really are interested and respond to that,” she says. The group has a 42-member board


(of which half are on the executive board), but it has just one lobbyist, L. Preston Bryant Jr., who was secretary of natural resources under then-Gov. Tim Kaine. Bryant is with McGuireWoods Consult- ing, a firm that also provides communica- tions support to VIRGINIAforever. Its leadership includes representatives


from some of Virginia’s biggest corpora- tions, including Dominion Resources, Norfolk Southern and Newport News


www.VirginiaBusiness.com


Shipbuilding. Environmental groups include the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Trust for Public Land and the New River Land Trust. Industry groups include the Home Builders Association of Virginia, the Virginia Association for Commercial Real Estate and the Virginia Agribusiness Council. The board meets five times a year


and the organization hosts three events annually, most recently a briefing in mid- December following the release of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget. Treacy says last year was the group’s


best in terms of successfully getting state funding. But the group expects a tougher time in the upcoming General Assembly session. “Unfortunately they’re in budget- cutting mode,” Rovner says. “So ours is just a question of finding funding for the things for which there is no funding in the current budget.” The group’s priorities for the 2018


VIRGINIA BUSINESS 27


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