UVA Wise and The Nature Conservancy to Distribute an Additional $140,000 in grant funding to Local Projects

Group of people outside at Breaks Interstate Park

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, The Nature Conservancy, and the Cumberland Forest Limited Partnership are pleased to launch the second round of applications for the Cumberland Forest Community Fund. This program provides an exciting opportunity for organized community groups, non-profits, and local governments to receive funding for projects that continue to develop and conserve the economic, cultural, and environmental landscape of Southwest Virginia.

This competitive local grant program is designed to support nature-based economic and community development projects in seven counties in Southwest Virginia including Wise, Russell, Tazewell, Dickenson, Buchanan, Lee, Scott and the City of Norton. This program aims to enhance local economic development, community capacity, and environmental quality within the seven-county region. 

Funding for the program is provided to UVA Wise from the Cumberland Forest Limited Partnership and The Nature Conservancy. 

“The Nature Conservancy and UVA Wise have been working together for many years,” says Shannon Blevins, Vice Chancellor for Government Relations and Strategic Initiatives at UVA Wise.  “TNC has been a valued partner, and the Cumberland Forest Community Fund is a natural progress to our relationship. The fund is unique and we are pleased to be part of this resource to help increase economic and community development in the region.”

The Cumberland Forest Community Fund will provide $140,000 in funding to projects that support the “triple bottom line” through tangible contributions to local economic development (e.g., jobs, visitor spending, lodging taxes, etc.), increased community capacity (e.g., green infrastructure investments, outdoor recreation/tourism nature-based economic development, etc.) and enhanced environmental quality (e.g., benefits to land, water and air quality).

“The Cumberland Forest Community Fund is one of many ways we are taking an approach to conservation that supports local people”, says Brad Kreps, TNC Clinch Valley Program Director.  “We learned so much with UVA Wise through the administration of our first successful grant round, and now we are excited to see what additional projects we can support to benefit nature and people throughout the region.”

Projects that are eligible for funding include but are not limited to downtown revitalization initiatives; recreational trails and/or greenways; development and/or promotion of natural or cultural assets in local communities; renewable energy projects; outdoor recreation, sustainable forestry or agricultural initiatives; and land or water restoration projects.

In 2021-2022, the first round of the Cumberland Forest Community Fund provided funding for ten nature-based community projects throughout Southwest Virginia. Awarded projects included river access points, outdoor classrooms, trail development and tourism initiatives. One of the award recipients, Breaks Interstate Park, has leveraged the funds to improve sustainable climbing trails to allow access to the park’s 300+ routes.

“We believe this project will significantly improve the sustainability and quality of the park's rock-climbing program, and it comes at a particularly helpful moment due to the increase in climbing use,” says Austin Bradley, Superintendent of Breaks Interstate Park. “The funding provided as part of this grant, has helped ensure that our area can continue reaping the economic impacts of climbing while avoiding the negative impact on our natural resources which have occurred in other areas.”

More information on each 2021-2022 award recipient can be found at www.oxbowcenter.com/communityfund.

Applications for the second round of grants will be accepted now through March 30, 2023. More information on the Cumberland Forest Community Fund, including the program guidelines and application, can be found at  www.oxbowcenter.com/communityfund