By Edana Colegrove
The Blue Ridge Land Conservancy will host a virtual Conservation Celebration and Auction on September 27 to celebrate another year of conserving land.
During the celebration, the BRLC also will present the A. Victor Thomas Environmental Stewardship Award to honor the late former governor of Virginia, Gerald Baliles, and his wife, Robin Baliles.
The award is presented annually to individuals who have greatly contributed to land conservation and environmental protection in Virginia.
During his time as governor from 1986-1990, Baliles was an advocate for the environment. He created a Cabinet-level position for a Secretary of Natural Resources in 1986, signed the Chesapeake Bay Agreement to promote bay cleanup and restoration in 1987, and promoted initiatives for better water and air quality. As a dedicated member of the Virginia Environmental Endowment Board, Mrs. Baliles will be accepting the award on behalf of herself and her husband.
In 2019, the family began working with BRLC on a conservation easement for Baliles’ two family properties in Patrick County, with the aim of preserving it for future generations. After their parents’ divorce, Baliles and his younger brother, Larry, were raised by their grandparents on their farm on Virginia 8, known fondly by the family as “The Home Place.”
His youngest brother, Stuart, lived with their aunt, Adleen, and her husband, T. H. Griffith, on land originally owned by Baliles’ great, great grandfather, Lee Baliles, since the 1860s.The Griffiths’ Cottage property on Virginia 57 is set on rolling meadows and hills, with a view toward Bull Mountain, a place where Baliles and his brothers used to hike and explore.
His interest in preserving land and the environment continued to grow, and his adulthood gave him more of a voice and platform to advocate for the things that were important to him.
For more information on the virtual event, or to RSVP, visit partyforland.org. Admission is free, and a special dinner menu is available for take-home meals through local restaurants.
The Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, founded in 1996 and based in Roanoke, protects more than 25,000 acres of land and 60 miles of rivers and streams in 20 Virginia counties. For more information, visit brlcva.org or call (540) 985-0000.