Drought advisory continues

The “Drought Warning” enacted in August 2023 by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality was lifted on Feb. 1st.

However, a “Drought Advisory” continues for the Shenandoah
drought evaluation region.

This includes the counties of: Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Page,
Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren counties.

Although recent rain and snow have increased current moisture levels in soil, streams, and rivers a drought advisory remains in effect.

Long term precipitation deficits remain in the Shenandoah Valley.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Safer internet day

Safer Internet Day is celebrated every February to raise awareness for safer and better internet, especially for children and young people.

Parents, caretakers, teachers, and policy makers are encouraged to join together on Tuesday, February 6th.

Talk about internet safety, speak up about cyberbullying and contact a policy maker to encourage them to make the internet safer.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

WCSO arrest a Wise County man for exploitation of a minor

Used by permission by the Warren County Office employee Sergeant Terry Fritts

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) reports in an email the arrest of a Wise County man for solicitation and exploitation of a minor.

It took less than two weeks for WCSO investigators to apprehend the man who reportedly solicited a Warren County Minor.

The suspect made unsolicited contact with an officer who was acting as a Juvenile.

The adult male suspect began to transmit unsolicited obscene materials and asking for lewd photos of who thought was a minor.

Through the continued contact officers were able to identify the man as a suspect out of  Wise County Virginia.

Wednesday, January 24 Warren County Investigators traveled to Wise County and took Aaron Wayne Smith into custody.

Smith has been charged with 5 counts of use of a communication system to facilitate certain offenses involving children.

The 43-year-old Smith is also facing 5 counts of possession, reproduction, distribution, solicitation, and facilitation of child pornography.

Smith is being held without bond awaiting February 15 9 a.m. Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court appearance.

Warren County Sheriff’s Office is an active member of the Northern Virginia/DC Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force coordinated by Virginia State Police.

Anyone with information regarding Smith or any case involving the solicitation of, or exploitation of minors should contact the WCSO.

Anyone with information should contact Sergeant M.R. Ramey at 540-635-7100.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Virginia Senate passes bill fining visible handguns in vehicle

The Virginia Senate passed a bill that would create a $500 civil penalty for firearm owners who leave handguns on a car seat or any area that is visible to passersby.

The bill still needs to pass the House of Delegates and is expected to be vetoed by Governor Youngkin.

Sponsored by Senator Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, said the bill is a “light touch” on gun control.

This bill is one of the first gun control measures of the session.

It highlights the differencing view points of gun crimes.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Throwing shade VA program

Virginia Department of Forestry used by permission from VDF Communication Specialist Cory Swift-Turner

The Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF) is partnering with three Virginia nurseries to launch a new pilot program featuring discounts on native trees and shrubs.

“Throwing Shade VA” helps nurseries promote native trees through customer discounts of $25 on eligible trees valued at $50 or more.

Incentives to purchase native species of trees and shrubs, which are adapted to their natural environment and thus more likely to thrive.

Native plants offer environmental benefits than ornamental species and provide food and habitat for wildlife, especially essential pollinators.

Three nurseries responded to DOF’s request for participation in the pilot program.

Burke Nursery & Garden Centre (Burke), Woodstock Gardens (Woodstock) and Coastal Landscapes & Nursery (Virginia Beach) all volunteered to participate.

The program is funded through state water quality improvement funds, the DOF is using to reimburse the participating nurseries for the
discounts.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

VDOE approves JMU lab school

The Virginia Board of Education (VDOE) approved James Madison University’s Lab School for Innovation and Career Exploration in partnership with Blue Ridge Community College and
Rockingham County public schools.

The lab school will foster innovation, grant career exposure
to students, and serve as a preprofessional teacher development that sustains JMU’s teacher preparation and licensure efforts.

Governor Youngkin has $100 million funded to lab schools
through the General Assembly.

The VDOE is working with 20 more lab schools of higher education to open in 2024.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Woodstock Police department seeks national accreditation

The Woodstock Police Department is applying for a new accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

CALEA is an independent credentialing authority that maintains and updates standards for police agencies across the United States and is considered the “Gold Standard of Public Safety”.

Woodstock would be the first agency in Shenandoah County to join the commission.

Funding for the initial accreditation process will be up for consideration in the town’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

SNP issues ticketing program for Old Rag

photo credit Scott Bradley Hesson with permission

Following a two-year pilot program, Shenandoah National Park (SNP) will apply a permanent ticketing system to access Old Rag Mountain from March through November.

The system will improve visitor enjoyment, congestion on the trail and public safety, and better protect the environment and wildlife.

Potential visitors can find more information, including where tickets are required and how to obtain them at https://go.nps.gov/oldragticket.
The permanent system will closely follow the pilot program. Beginning March 1, 2024, all visitors
are required to have a day-use ticket, in addition to a park entrance pass, to access the Old Rag area.

Day-use tickets for Old Rag Mountain for the 2024 season will be available starting February 17, 2024, at 10 a.m.

Tickets cost $2.00.

A total of 800 tickets will be available each day from March 1 to November 30, and 400 will be released 30 days in advance and the remaining 400 will be released five days in advance.

Tickets are valid for the day of arrival only and are not transferable.

A day-use ticket does not guarantee a parking spot.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

 

Youngkin issues executive order on AI

Governor Youngkin issued an Executive Order 30 on Artificial Intelligence (AI), which implements AI Education Guidelines for the classroom protecting the individual data of all Virginians.

The Commonwealth contains the largest number of cybersecurity companies and personnel on the East Coast.

Virginia colleges and universities lead the nation in technology research and development, and critical national security and military intelligence, undeniably exposing Virginia to unique AI effects.

The Governor’s Executive Order mixes strong protections for Virginia residents and businesses while recognizing opportunities presented by AI.

As one of the first states in the country to issue AI standards, Virginia is leading the way on guidelines and pilots.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.