-One of the departments I support at William and Mary is the Center for
Conservation Biology, a group dedicated to studying avian species that reside and pass through the Commonwealth. Their decades of survey data on birds of prey and migratory shorebirds allows
them to provide mapping resources on roosting, nesting, and feeding (stopover) areas for these species. I am exceedingly grateful to have been invited out with them for three field trips (a
welcome break from desk work!) where I witnessed firsthand the banding process for Northern Saw-Whet Owls, Peregrine Falcons, and Bald Eagles. As a child, I heard all sorts of caterwauling Barred
Owls and whinnying Screech Owls along the Pamunkey River at night, so seeing the Saw-Whet Owls might be my favorite of these trips.
-As a result of my experiences with our bluebird nest box at home and my outings with CCB, I do not support trap-neuter-return efforts for controlling feral cat populations. Feral cats kill more wild birds than any other man-made problem facing our wild bird species, more than building collisions, more than run-ins with wind turbines or electrical lines, and more than vehicle strikes. While I understand the desire to control feral cat populations, I believe that TNR perpetuates the negative impacts feral animals have on our native species.
I am a proponent of point-of-use production: domestic solar, geothermal heat, wood & biomass stoves. Why, you might ask? Point of use production results in less need for infrastructure, fewer
eminent domain land seizures, and allows for personal energy management. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico showed just how dangerous offshore drilling can be, both for the
environment and those who depend upon natural resources for their livelihoods, not to mention for those who work on offshore oil rigs.
Solar production in particular holds a key attraction for our rural district: the ability to provide electricity during lengthy electrical outages, be they natural disasters or man-made attacks. When Hurricane Isabel hit our area back in 2003, my parents' home was without electricity for nearly 2 weeks straight. The gas stations in the Mechanicsville area ran out of gasoline and people relying upon generators were back in the dark. If you have a private well, as I do, you know that when the power goes out, so too does your water and your ability to flush your toilet. The day of the 9/11 attacks, I remember going with a friend after school to fill his car with gas. None of the card readers at the station would work; they were all tied to processing centers disrupted by the plane crashes in New York City. The aging infrastructure of our power grids and the interconnectedness of our financial systems leaves us exposed to critical interruptions, interruptions that can easily send residents into third world living conditions with no access to clean water, no way to safely manage raw sewage, and potentially no way to purchase gasoline for back-up systems. It is incumbent upon any elected official to take these threats into consideration and look outside of the traditional fossil-fueled tool box for solutions.
Virginia has great potential for solar energy and currently lags behind neighboring states in capturing this renewable energy resource. Gov. McAuliffe's announcement in late September that a large solar farm will be developed on the Eastern Shore is promising. If elected to represent the 97th District, I would support measures that increase Virginia's renewable energy production by both individuals and utilities. Individuals must be given cost-effective opportunities to employ renewable energy resources for their private use. Many of Virginia's current incentive programs are aimed at localities, business, or utility companies.
Virginia is a naturally beautiful state. What if our leaders worked as hard at home as they do in office to protect her resources? Emulation can be just as powerful as regulation in changing the way people approach their world. If you are interested in caring for our environment, there are many civic-minded groups who can help you such as Master Naturalists and educators at your public library.
An easy way to make changes at home is to carve out a spot in your yard or garden for a few native plants. Our pollinators will thank you! Purple coneflowers, bee balm, and phlox are plants you can enjoy as well for their blooms. As you can see in the slideshow above, bees love sunflowers, too. If you have an arbor, try growing our native coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) to bring in the hummingbirds. In the fall, your coneflowers might even attract goldfinches.
Three years ago my family visited Tangier Island, located 12 miles out into the Chesapeake Bay. The island is famous for its soft shell crabs and unique dialect. The island may become
uninhabitable in as little as a few decades: the one-two punch of erosion and rising sea level has already chipped away at the island's dry landmass and recent hurricanes resulted in significant
flooding. Right on the Tangier Island visitor's
website you can view just how much land mass they lose per year. Why do I bring this up? Climate change is having a direct impact on Virginia's economy and culture. Coastal communities are at greatest risk from immediate effects of climate change such as
storm flooding, erosion, and subsidence-related instability. The question at this point should not be "Is climate change happening?" but "What can or should we do about climate