ZOOM! That sums up our story for 2020, in more ways than one.
Zoom video conferencing technology emerged and surged in early 2020, leaving glitchy video call alternatives in the dust, and becoming our lifeline of communication in a year spent hiding from a pandemic. At the West Virginia Land Trust, we closed out of our offices, retreated to our homes, glued ourselves to our computers, and logged into Zoom encounters with each other, Board members, partners, and supporters. Travel stopped, personal meetings and gatherings and events all became virtual. We hunkered down.
But this shutdown did not mean a slowdown. In a year that was a slog in so many ways, the West Virginia Land Trust focused on what it does best, and zoomed its way forward, doubling its previous “big year” by closing transactions on 14 conservation properties!
Those lands, now permanently protected, show West Virginia’s great conservation potential: two protected properties for an environmental education organization; 1,600 “forever wild” acres in the heart of WV’s national Boy Scout property; a 5,000-acre parcel demonstrating intensive forest reclamation that will offer trails for hiking, mountain biking, and equestrians as part of a larger regional economic development project; the site of a Revolutionary War fort; river protection and/or boating access on the Potomac, Elk, and Cheat Rivers; and more.
2020 showed how important properties like these are for the state and its communities. Our existing preserves served as refuges and playgrounds for people, in addition to the wildlife that occupies them. With people cooped up indoors, we are encouraged folks to go outside, explore one of our nature preserves, and get some much-needed fresh air. Time in nature not only has a calming effect on your brain reducing anxiety and depression, but it also increases creativity and work productivity, while boosting your immune system and lowering your blood pressure.
Now, with an expanded roster of lands permanently protected, we look at a new suite of opportunities: Twenty preserves in 17 counties, which we aim to develop and manage for public benefits—ramps to rivers, trails for bikes and hikes, drinking water protection, wildlife habitat, and historical and cultural sites.
We’re excited to be zooming ahead with our community of like-minded souls, making the most of the Mountain State’s natural assets.
See you outdoors!