Students attend conservation summit

Steve Baker, a member of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors and a local farmer, talks with students at the Massanutten Regional Governor's School for Environmental Science and Technology Youth Conservation Summit. Courtesy photo

The Massanutten Regional Governor’s School for Environmental Science and Technology in Mount Jackson, in partnership with the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District, hosted the first MRGS Youth Conservation Summit.

Seniors from Kara Bates’ agro-ecology class planned and organized the Oct. 26 summit from the theme and objectives to the agenda, schedule and topics of discussion.

The students, who were from Harrisonburg and Page, Rockingham and Shenandoah counties, chose “Building a Brighter Tomorrow” as the theme. There were three objectives: identify the problems, recognize what steps are being taken to address these problems, and theorize future solutions to come up with a plan of action.

Representatives of local, state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations served as discussion leaders at 10 tables arranged throughout the cafeteria. Students divided into groups and visited three tables where conservation leaders explained their organization’s mission and responsibilities.

Discussion topics included impaired streams, invasive species, when farmland is converted to residential areas, climate change, heat islands, food deserts, loss of biodiversity, storm water runoff, pollution and erosion. Solutions discussed included urban forestry, land management, conservation easements (putting farmland into protective programs), porous pavement, bio soil, rain gardens, preserving soil and water quality, no-till farming, reducing chemical use, incentives for clean/green, self-sustaining, fencing animals out of streams, green infrastructure, community green areas, forest bathing (relaxing in the forest), benefits of forest fires,  the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program, and cisterns.