Longwood Foundation based its Baliles Center conservation strategy on the development and demonstration of comprehensive, integrated stewardship plans for their agricultural operations, forests, shorelines, wetlands, riparian areas and wildlife.
To oversee the process, the Longwood University Faculty Advisory Council and the Natural Resources Advisory Council were formed to set forth key environmental and educational objectives and to assist with resource planning and management issues. The Faculty Advisory Council consists of representatives from each of the University’s three colleges, key departments and student activity programs. The Natural Resources Advisory Council consists of senior level representatives from core partners, relevant state and local agencies, and consultants.
A critical first step taken by the Longwood University Foundation, Inc. was the decision to conduct an initial feasibility study to determine how the Baliles Center could best serve various populations within Longwood University, Virginia’s Northern Neck, and other educational institutions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The study provided an excellent overview of the issues, potential problems and opportunities associated with the new task of managing the donated Baliles Center property.
The former Baliles Center executive and program directors put a great deal of effort into securing the resources and appropriate expertise needed to compile detailed stewardship plans. The plans are very different in scope, detail and format from one another—reflecting the varied groups who worked on them, consisting of faculty members, students and consultants, and the resources at their disposal.
Typically the teams’ efforts were relatively low cost, done through in-kind resources and foundation grants. Normally, each topic area addressed within the planning process included a resource assessment and inventory, initial management scenario and a recommended plan. These efforts were summarized in two overall management plan maps showing terrestrial and aquatic elements derived from the teams work.
A notable addition to some of the stewardship planning elements was the inclusion of an evaluation and monitoring component to evaluate the project results, measure environmental indicators and communicate the findings to others. The stewardship plan development and implementation process at the Baliles Center is, by design, a work in progress that will follow the adaptive management model. This model is based upon the belief that effective resource management strategies evolve over time and are rarely successful during the initial phases. Instead, managers iteratively learn from each stewardship action and readjust their approach after the results are measured and evaluated against stated objectives.
The management team will complete stewardship plans for its riparian buffers, wildlife corridors and ponds after implementation of the shoreline, forest and wetlands plans. Meetings have been held with staff of the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program to discuss the need for integrated shoreline management including land use, riparian and shoreline plans to foster healthy aquatic environments. In addition to addressing typical riparian buffers, attention will be directed to wildlife corridors and passageways throughout the property.
As funding becomes available, buildings will be renovated and new structures added to support educational programming using green building principles. Renovations and new construction will be designed so that a typical homeowner could reasonably replicate more sustainable building practices.