The Institute for Environmental Negotiation is working on a multi-year project to help build local economies in the coalfields of southwest Virginia with local partners. IEN convened and facilitated a day-long meeting in September of 2010 on Building Local Economies in Southwest Virginia. The purpose of this forum was to bring together a diverse array of people who are striving to boost local economies and build resiliency in the coalfields region of Southwest Virginia. This event attracted approximately 60 participants from a variety of community leaders, organizations and groups. Through assessing the opportunities and barriers for collaboration needed to sustain the local economies, IEN facilitated leading the group to a series of creative solutions supported by the stakeholders. The group collectively arrived at several priorities including establishing a regional collaborative for local food systems planning, downtown community planning with outdoor recreation and ATV access, as well as enhancing community based assets, and regional collaboration and cross-sector visioning.
The biodiversity of Southwest Virginia’s Clinch River is of global significance. The Clinch River watershed supports more rare species of freshwater mussels and fish than any river system in North America. Communities in the region wish to protect this biodiversity while encouraging economic growth in the region.
IEN is assisting an innovative and collaborative multi-year planning effort to build local economies in the coalfields of Southwest Virginia, focusing on the Clinch River Valley. Participants represent many Clinch River communities, regional and state officials, and outside experts. Through working at a watershed scale with several local partners, this grassroots effort has developed significant ownership and momentum with applicability for communities in Appalachia and beyond.
Utilizing a consensus-based approach, project partners are articulating and prioritizing goals for connecting downtown revitalization, outdoor recreation, entrepreneurship, water quality and environmental education along the Clinch River, and developing an action plan to realize the prioritized goals as part of the effort. Strategies are being identified to connect downtown revitalization with outdoor recreation along the Clinch River. The project connects to cultural and natural heritage efforts including Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway, Round the Mountain, Crooked Road, and other artisan networks. Finally, the effort builds upon the unique cultural and ecological assets of the Clinch River to distinguish and create new possibilities in the communities along the Clinch as distinctive cultural and ecological areas, particularly around environmental education and entrepreneurship opportunities.
For more information, please visit Clinch River