Institute for Environmental Negotiation

Empowering communities to create shared solutions

Faye Crawford Cooper

The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute is pleased to award the 2011 Gerald P. McCarthy Award for Leadership in Environmental Conflict Resolution to Ms. Faye Crawford Cooper.  For more than 30 years, Faye Crawford Cooper has worked in the field of land conservation and natural resource protection.   Her conservation ethic is soundly based on her family farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where, as a 6th generation Scots-Irish resident, she learned to appreciate and respect land, water, and wildlife.

As a young conservationist in the 1980s, she served as Director of Stewardship with the Virginia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. She coordinated the protection and management of Conservancy-owned natural areas statewide. In 1990, she brought TNC principles to a new land protection initiative as a founding member and eventually the executive director to the Valley Conservation Council, a private land trust that promotes land use policies and conservation methods that protect the natural and cultural resources of the Shenandoah Valley region.  At the time of VCC’s founding, there were few privately protected acres in the Shenandoah Valley region.  VCC’s outreach and partner facilitation over the last 20 years have significantly contributed to the permanent protection through conservation easements on more than 122,000 acres and thousands of additional acres enrolled in agricultural forestal districts.

Because of VCC’s success in promoting conservation easements in the Valley region, Faye was tapped by the VA Outdoors Foundation to open their Staunton field office where she served as VOF’s Shenandoah Valley regional manager for five years.  During her tenure, she helped hundreds of landowners secure permanent easement protection for thousands of acres of working farm and forestlands, natural habitat, and Civil War battlefields. Faye currently serves as the Virginia Liaison for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Action Program (HAP), a four-state initiative to build partnerships among state and federal agencies, non-governmental entities, and communities to conserve and restore the natural resources and ecosystems of the underserved Appalachian region.

Through her recent project work, Faye has demonstrated outcomes that support HAP’s strategic program goals. In addition to other projects, she has facilitated the recent acquisition of several critical natural areas, including the Moore’s Creek State Forest and Short Hills Wildlife Management Area, both of which are important “ecological hubs” in Rockbridge County. Faye has worked with many partners, including VCC, TNC, and the City of Harrisonburg, to restore nearly a mile of channelized Blacks Run that traverses the popular Purcell Park.  With more than 300,000 park visitors each year, this highly visible natural stream restoration project offers ongoing opportunities to educate the public about the value of clean streams and forest buffers.

Over the last 3 years, she also has been a key partner in the development and implementation of a water quality “clean up” plan for Smith Creek in Rockingham and Shenandoah counties. In her free time, she has served as an active volunteer on various community, regional, and statewide Boards – including VCC, VA Conservation Network, Augusta Historical Society, VA Wilderness Committee, and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.  She also is an avid gardener and supporter of the local foods movement, serving as a founding member of the Staunton Farmers Market.

Faye holds a degree in Psychology from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and a Masters Degree in Special Education from the University of Virginia, which have served her well in the emotion-packed and often behaviorally challenged conservation arena.

The award is given to an individual who demonstrates leadership in preservation and protection of the commonwealth’s environment; supports collaborative problem-solving through actions, contributions and/or educational programs; and acts as a role model to other groups and individuals for the resolution of environmental issues.

The Gerald P. McCarthy Award for Leadership in Environmental Conflict Resolution was created in 2004 to honor McCarthy, its first recipient, and his efforts to protect and promote environmental literacy and mediation in Virginia. McCarthy is executive director of the Virginia Environmental Endowment.