Productive working farms and forest land. Clean rivers and streams. Thriving communities. Preserved cultural heritages. An extraordinary place to live, work, and visit.
Protecting the things that matter to people in the Shenandoah Valley is no small task. And Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley would never try to do it alone. As a relatively new staffer, I’ve seen how partnerships are really at the heart of our work.
We challenge ourselves to bring affected parties into everything we do. Not only does this allow us to tackle issues and opportunities with a broad perspective and deep understanding, it also expands our toolbox, meaning that we can rely on the unique expertise of our partners to deliver impactful, tangible results.
In our spring 2023 ridge & valley, you read about our work on utility-scale solar proposals in our region. This is a complex issue! And it requires an approach that considers farmers’ aim to diversify income streams, the urgency to add renewables to the energy portfolio, neighboring communities’ long-term vision in the comprehensive plan, and the environmental concerns that accompany any large infrastructure project. In this work, we rely on so many partners—statewide environmental and energy policy groups, municipalities, farmers and agricultural agencies, neighboring community members, local watershed groups, and the list goes on.
For other issues, we are fortunate to have the capacity to be a go-to hub—connecting partners with resources the Alliance team spent years cultivating, possibly in a totally different area of work. A great example is our small role in the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project’s (SVBHP) work to ensure the deep history of the Black experience in the Valley is documented and accessible.
Maya with SVBHP team members, Monica Robinson, Taya Whitley, and Jesslyn Rivera.
After learning about SVBHP’s goal to expand its Roots Run Deep tours Valley-wide, we reached out to them with the idea to connect with Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA), a group the Alliance helped establish during the successful fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Since the pipeline was defeated in 2020, ABRA has reorganized itself as a regional technical resource, and there was an opportunity to further our mission of preserved cultural heritages by connecting ABRA and SVBHP.
ABRA is digitizing the Roots Run Deep tours and accompanying stories and photos into a beautiful web-based platform where visitors can click through a map to discover a past perspective that has sometimes gone untold. A next step in this project is supporting SVBHP to host and document memory parties where members of the Black community come together to enhance one another’s accounting of their lived experience, all to be archived for generations to come in the new digital platform.
To quote one of the Alliance values, “we can’t do this work alone, nor would we want to!”
We are grateful for our ongoing partnerships, and we get more done because of them.
In just one year as Community Engagement Manager for the Alliance, Maya Alexander has made significant new connections for the Alliance and our conservation partners in the Valley, and she has strengthened many existing relationships. If you haven’t already met Maya, hopefully you will have an opportunity soon.