February 2010

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club
Feb. 21st, 2010

We celebrated the beginning of the end of winter with a terrific presentation by Michael Kieffer of the Bull Run Mountain Conservancy.  Not only was he a great speaker but he had slides showing flowers and grass and green trees!!

Five Minute Flash Reports

Treasurer’s Report- David Roos filled in for Lisa Richard this evening.  He reported that we received donations totaling $99.00 at our last meeting which brings our treasury balance to $494.34.  The SSC tries to keep our overhead and expenses to a minimum; we have calculated that if everyone who comes to our meetings can donate approximately $36.00 year this will cover all our costs (meeting space, web hosting, domain names, plastic silverware replacement, etc.)  That said, we want everyone to feel welcome at our meetings so please do not ever feel that a donation (of money or food) is required.  As David reiterated: “In the SSC’s version of America no one goes hungry” or uninformed (scribe’s addition).

David also issued his standard reminder that the SSC is not a 501c3 and therefore, while donations are greatly appreciated, they are not tax deductible.

Candidate’s Report- Jeff Barnett, candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 10th Congressional District, introduced himself and his campaign.  Jeff is running for the simple reason that he is “sick and tired of seeing our country and congress face problems without solving them. The problems are right in front of us but we kick them down the road for the next generation to deal with.”  He also mentioned that it pains him that many think our best years as a country our behind us.  He is running to change this.

§        Jeff served 26 years in the Air Force and currently has two daughters serving in the military; one deployed in Afghanistan and the other an army doctor at Walter Reed.  Although Jeff supports President Obama’s temporary surge in Afghanistan, he believes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were ill-conceived and badly mismanaged and that we need to end our involvement as quickly and responsibly as possible.
§        On housing, he believes we let the big banks turn housing markets into casinos.  Congress not only watched it happen but has done nothing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
§        On transportation, he commented that we must improve our present infrastructure while also moving our transportation plan past simply “widening and lengthening what we’ve inherited.”
§        On jobs, Jeff has great ideas for creating both short and long term job opportunities.
§        Jeff stressed that he believes we can take on our problems, build consensus and come up with solutions to solve them.

If you would like to learn more about Jeff’s campaign please visit his web site at www.jeffbarnettforcongress.com

Scribe’s note:  There are currently three candidates competing to become the Democratic nominee in the 10th: Richard Anthony, Jeff Barnett, and Julien Modica.  This race will be decided by means of a primary.  The winner will run against incumbent congressman Frank Wolf.

Fauquier Wine Ordinance- Brian Roeder of Barrel Oak Winery joined us to provide details on the hot topic of a wine ordinance.
§        The ordinance has been under discussion in Fauquier County for over two years; local winery owners support a responsible wine ordinance which would protect their business interests while also ensuring that the wineries continue to be good neighbors.
§        The wineries in the county have created a “Wine Council” to address the issues of noise, traffic and light pollution.
§        In the past year, there have been no substantive complaints against any of Fauquier’s 20 wineries.
§        The counties’ wineries produce many jobs as well as substantial sales tax revenues.
§        There is an ongoing debate as to whether wineries should be considered agriculture or entertainment.  Brian pointed out that most owners incurred a significant amount of debt building their wineries and that in order to build a reputation and a customer base they must do more than simply make wine.  It is not enough to “build a winery and they will come.”  You must draw people in by creating a complete experience for them through special events, music, wine tastings etc.
§        The current wine ordinance exists in a dynamic state of flux; the winery owners believe it still needs work.  All 16 members of the FWC strongly oppose the ordinance in its current form as it would severely harm the wineries of Fauquier County.
§        The county attorney has advised the Board that Commonwealth law does not allow most of the provisions being considered to be passed.
§        A vote is expected on this issue in the next three to four months.  Meanwhile, county leadership is trying hard to find a solution.
§        For background information and a link to the ordinance on line visit:  http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/government/departments/BOS/pastagendas/01-14-10/wineries_agrq.htm

Balanced Growth Alliance- Brian then switched topics and gave us an overview of the work of the BGA.  Because I don’t take shorthand (though I may need to learn), I’m pasting below some information from the BGA web site: http://www.balancedgrowthalliance.org/home.html.  I encourage everyone to visit the site and learn more about this increasingly active organization.
§        “The Balanced Growth Alliance (BGA) is a new Fauquier organization whose mission is to design and implement a long-term pro-economic development plan and cooperative business network for the County that integrates our unique cultural, historic, environmental, and agricultural identity into the county’s planning review and approval process.”
§        “To prevent sprawl, now is the time to develop core principles that guide and encourage sensible and desirable economic development.  These principles must then be applied through Fauquier’s planning approval processes.”
§        The BGA’s core mission is: “to sustain Fauquier’s essential character by advocating actions that promote economic opportunity in harmony with productive farm lands, connected neighborhoods, scenic beauty, and responsible resource management.”
§        Brian emphasized that the BGA is working to break down barriers between the various groups (e.g.  pro-business, pro-conservation) in the interest of coming up with collaborative solutions which transcend any one group’s interests.
The BGA spent last year figuring out who they are.  They have now elected officers, filed for non-profit status and are ready to bring the community into their discussions.  If you are interested in participating please contact Brian at brian@barreloak.com or Ike Broaddus at ike@gurunet.net

Community Announcements

www.sundaysupperclub.org- Linda encouraged all to visit our highly informative website.  On the site you’ll find: fascinating articles, links to contact your elected officials, opportunities for activism, wonderful recipes from the SSC as well as a calendar chock full of interesting events.  For the next 10 days alone the list includes: the sidewalk summit for improved Medicare for all, VADP’s “Voices of the Exonerated, Innocence and the Death Penalty” event, tools for change workshop, SSC planning committee meeting (trust me, you don’t want to miss this), 5th annual mountain top removal week in DC, and the “restoration of rights” roundtable.  Come see your monetary contributions in action on our great web site!

Gerry Eitner announced that the Communities of Peace “Emissary of Peace” program is being recommended to the Fauquier County School Board for adoption.  For information on this program visit: http://www.communitiesofpeace.org/programs/emissariesofpeace.html

Guest Speaker

We were pleased to be joined by Michael Kieffer, executive director of the Bull Run Mountain Conservancy, for a presentation on “A Natural History of the Bull Run Mountains.”  Michael has been with the BRMC for 11 years and spoke passionately about the purpose and the goals of this important organization.  Founded in 1995 with the mission of “protecting the Bull Run Mountains through education, research, and stewardship”, the BRMC manages public access on the southern 800 acres of the 2,500 acre Bull Run Mountains State Natural Area Preserve.

The BRMC has many educational programs which target all age groups and aim to teach conceptual knowledge which will inspire people to get involved and stay involved with preserving our natural resources.  These programs include the very popular Halloween Safari as well as week-long and day long nature camps (including a herpetology camp), day hikes and a Forest Breakfast.

As Michael mentioned early on, the most remarkable thing about the BRMC is that, in spite of the ever expanding growth in this region, this area still exists!

Introducing the BRMC (geological facts taken from the BRMC website as I could not keep up with Michael’s fact sharing- sadly high school science and geology classes were a LONG time ago.)
§        BRMC is located in Prince William County at17405 Beverly Mill Dr.
§        Bull Run Mountain is part of the complex of isolated monad nocks in the Virginia and Maryland Piedmont.  This small outlying mountain was formed when a long synclinal ridge of Cambrian quartzite resisted erosion, while the softer surrounding rocks were eroded down.  This resistant quartzite rock, standing almost on edge, forms striking and conspicuous outcroppings along the ridge of Bull Run Mountain.
§        Michael stressed that it is important to understand the geology of this region.  “If you don’t understand the rock that is underneath you, you won’t know what is on the top.”
§        For more geological information visit the “Research” page of the BRMC website.
§        BRMC qualified for the designation of “State Natural Area Preserve” based upon their population of Table Mountain Pines.  These trees are geographically separated from the Blue Ridge population and have genetic dissimilarities which make them a conservation priority.
§        Some of the most pristine streams in Virginia fall off the mountain and into the Goose Creek and Occoquan Watersheds.

Random (and often fascinating) Facts About the Trees and Plants Found in the BRMC
§        The pine cones of the Pitch Pines only open after a fire.  The natural burn cycle used to be 25 years but now is far greater due to fire control plans.
§        Chestnut Oak trees can live 500-600 years.  A blight in the early 1900’s wiped out the American Chestnut.
§        Beech trees come in under the chestnuts. Beech tree bark is very thin- fire causes the sap to boil and the trees to literally pop.
§        The forest here is not lush due to the diversity-limiting sandy soil.  Water availability is what limits the height of plants.
§        Tree and plant life present here include: beech, dogwoods, red maple, butternut, wild sarsaparilla, wild raspberry, hemlock, liverwort, rhododendron, poison sumac, spotted wintergreen, pink lady slipper…

Rattlesnake Facts (if these interest you, consider herp camp)
§        Boulder fields are prime rattlesnake territory; plant life tends to be larger and deer have trouble accessing it.  The rocks provide an important source of protection and warmth for the snakes.
§        Rattlers here take 5-7 years to reach sexual maturity after which they breed every 2 or 3 years.  In colder climates sexual maturity may come as late as 11-12 years.

Research and Education Programs at the BRMC
§        BRMC conducts baseline studies on entities such as streams, moths, beetles…  It is necessary to have a baseline in order to recognize changes.
§        Raising money for these sorts of “basic knowledge” programs is a difficult task.
§        The BRMC conducts summer camps for kids and also has 7 interns, ages 13-15.
§        One of their goals is to teach kids how to work.  They strive to enable the kids to “look in the mirror and know you are making the world a better place.”
§        Michael spoke passionately about the need to allow young people a chance to simply sit quietly and take in the natural world around them.
§        Michael hopes to grow the membership of the BRMC (currently around 612) into the thousands.  Membership numbers are important as they demonstrate local support to the state and to the foundations that fund you.
§        Basic membership fees range from $15/student to $35/family and membership benefits include: support of scientific research and management of the natural area, quarterly newsletter, an invitation to the annual membership picnic, and substantial discounts on all programs, trips and events.  Please visit the website to join!

Unintended Consequences
“In order to save the land you must know what you are saving.”
Michael shared this story of unforeseen fall out from human actions.  Man got rid of the buffalo in part to have room for cattle to graze.  Then they got rid of the prairie dogs as cattle were breaking their legs in the prairie dog holes.  The buffalo used to lie down and create wallows in the prairie grass; water would be collected in these wallows and would then filter into the aquifers.  Water would also collect in the prairie dog burrows and trickle into the aquifers.  Without these species, the west is now suffering from drastically reduced water reserves.

Scribe’s note- While I often feel inadequate in capturing our wonderful speaker’s presentations, this month I know for a fact that I missed many of the details (some because of the scientific language, others because I got distracted looking at the beautiful slides.)  I encourage all of you to visit the BRMC website at http://brmconservancy.org/ and find out how much you have to learn from Michael and the others at the BRMC about this beautiful area we call home.

Other links of interest:

http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/documents/napbook4web.pdf

www.virginiaoutdoorsfoundation.org

Save the Dates
You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

March 14th- Trista Scheuerlein of the Rappahannock Farm to School Program

April 11th- Beth Panilaitis of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

May 16th-  TBA  Please note we are meeting on the 3rd Sunday of May as we want to avoid a conflict with Mother’s Day.