New tool helps with land use

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, April 6, 2023

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A new, free digital tool can give local leaders access to the information they need to make wise decisions regarding land use and development throughout Virginia.

The Virginia Land & Energy Navigator incorporates layers of geographic information data related to farmland, forests, utility infrastructure, conservation easements, disturbed lands and more, to support land use planning and decision making at the local level. The tool is now live, allowing users to see the precise locations of various resources and infrastructure through an intuitive interface.

There is concern among the agricultural community that large-scale solar build-outs may permanently hinder future use of prime farmlands and forever alter Virginia’s rural landscape. VaLEN could help local leaders make the best siting decisions for those utility-scale solar projects.

“This project will increase every locality’s ability to make complex land use decisions with access to some groundbreaking information all under one source that has been practically impossible to compare before the impressive work done by Virginia Cooperative Extension and stakeholders,” said HB 894 work group member Zach Jacobs, a legislative specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Led by Extension and funded by Dominion Energy, VaLEN represents a collaborative effort of state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and local government and industry working to balance renewable energy goals in the context of broader conservation and economic development interests.