New resource conservation director reaching out to 11 counties

AFP Correspondent

LONG SHOP, Va. (May 26, 2015) — The director of Virginia’s 11-county New River-Highlands Resource, Conservation and Development Council has many new projects under way since arriving in Southwest Virginia in August 2014.
One of the latest projects he has worked on is overseeing the filming of a promotional video to tell of some of the agricultural projects his agency has been responsible in implementing.
Marcus Gray was able to make the filming a family day as his wife Jesse, daughter Danielle and baby Robert, joined him.
Their first stop on a bright sunny morning was the Shorter Farm in Montgomery County where Chuck Shorter, a leader in NRHRDC, talked on camera about the conservation practices he has instituted with the council’s help.
The family was accompanying a film crew consisting of — and Eric and Lynn Turner of Star Creative as they visited different kinds of farms including Shorter’s beef farm which also includes goats and geese; a sheep operation; a dairy; as well as musicians in Galax, Va.
The Turners will use shots of these locations and landscapes throughout the northeastern part of the council’s coverage area to develop a two to three minute video, Gray said.
It is intended to promote agriculture and be used by the sponsoring localities and agencies that partner with the council.
These include the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Forestry and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries as well as member counties.
Gray joined the council upon the retirement of long-time director Gary Boring.
He said he has been both working to tie up loose ends for projects that were on-going and meeting people.
“Re-vamping the RCD’s fundraising/marketing strategy has taken up much of my other time,” he said in an e-mail. “The organization now has a social media presence with a Facebook page, Twitter account.”
Gray said he finds that public outreach to tell citizens about program available to folks in the regions is important.
So the council has worked with the National Association of RC&D Councils and USDA to produce two radio programs targeting agricultural producers.
These programs may be found on line at
One program is the Fire Wise Program funded by DOF to help reduce the danger of forest fires engulfing homes in or near the national forests in the area.
This program reaches out to home owners in three to five miles of a national forest. It aims at reducing materials that can fuel a fire near dwellings.
“The Department of Forestry renewed our agreement to reduce fuel loads around woodland homes in the region and allocated $125,000 for this purpose,” he said.
He added he has been attending a high number of meetings to build and maintain relationships with other entities including sponsors such as soil and water conservation districts, planning district commissions, town councils and county board of supervisors.
“I’m working to develop partnerships with other NGOs in Southwest Virginia and jointly apply for mutually beneficial grants promoting local food, environmental education and natural resources initiatives,” Gray said. “Other grants in the works include a hybrid active forest management and public recreation access for recreation (namely hunting and fishing at this time) project with the Ruffed Grouse Society of and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, mobile poultry processing unit for area producers under 10,000 birds and grazing workshops to build upon the $1 million grazing program completed by the RC&D Council in recent years.
“I’m also looking to resurrect stream bank restoration and expand other water quality programs such as Total Maximum Daily Load.”