Natural Resource Issues

The following natural resource issues have been identified as the primary issues in the Culpeper District and most, maybe all, have one thing in common — stormwater runoff reduction plays a key role in conservation management.

All efforts focused on water quality, watershed health and watershed protection, ultimately have to address the management of stormwater runoff regardless of how the land is being used. Stormwater runoff management is reducing how much and how fast water runs off the land and reducing the potential pollutants in the runoff. Stormwater does not happen just with land development although the term tends to get used more in that context than in agriculture or forestry. Stormwater runoff is water that leaves any landscape when a precipitation event delivers more water than the land is capable of absorbing or storing. Stormwater runoff occurs in town from lawns, roads, roofs, driveways, etc. It occurs in the countryside from cropland, pasture land and hayland, lawns, roads, roofs, etc. It also occurs from forests. It is the slowing and capturing of the runoff that supports the most effective management options. Runoff reduction strategies sometimes come with a lot of “packaging” but the principles are not new. Forestland cover is the best at intercepting and storing precipitation for many reasons: canopy and trunk interception and storage, forest floor debris build up, organic soils allowing infiltration, little if any soil compaction, etc. Once land is converted from forest cover to agriculture, houses, parks, roads, etc. for most any use, the runoff amount and speed increase substantially and since non forest land uses have a lot more human activity, the pollutants increase also.

Keeping more water on the land and ultimately in the soil supports many things: better forage production on grazing lands and haylands, better crop production, better groundwater recharge for local water supply, better filtering of pollutants, less overloading of streams from high rainfall events and thus reduced streambank erosion and improved water quality. Reducing the amount of “forestland loss” in any watershed can help reduce future impacts.

** For a list of natural resource issues, see the tab in the header.