RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam announced two budget proposals aimed towards protecting Virginia’s natural resources and sites of cultural significance for people of color, including Black and Indigenous communities.
Northam is proposing $10 million to create the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Conservation Fund. The funding would be put towards conserving historic and cultural sites with importance to Virginia’s Black communities, Indigenous tribes, and other racial minorities.
According to a statement released by the governor’s office on Wednesday, Dec. 15, legislation will be introduced in 2022 to attempt to make the fund permanent.
If approved, the money will also be used for rehabilitating those sites and providing interpretation of the landmarks. These efforts could apply to historic schools, churches, cemeteries, burial sites, sacred tribal sites, and other endangered historic sites.
“Land conservation has many purposes. It protects scenic vistas and viewsheds, supports wildlife and ecosystem health, and provides places for outdoor recreation,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Ann Jennings. “Governor Northam’s investments and creation of a BIPOC conservation fund shows conservation must also play an important role in ensuring historic justice and that places of importance to all Virginians are protected in perpetuity.”
The other proposal would be for $12 million towards helping tribal nations reacquire land that was taken from them. The stewardship of these ancestral and historic lands would be returned to the Tribal nations.
Northam says that acquiring these lands will help tribes practice sacred traditions, share their stories and celebrate their history.
“Protecting the historic landmarks of all people helps us tell a more inclusive and accurate story of the past,” said Northam. “All of Virginia’s history deserves to be told and this funding will make that happen.”