Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: November 1, 2019
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky, Alena.Yarmosky@governor.virginia.gov

Governor Northam Announces 315-Acre Expansion of Virginia’s Natural Area Preserves

Commonwealth enhances protection of Appalachian Trail viewshed using ConserveVirginia smart map model

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that during the month of October, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) added 242 acres to the Natural Area Preserve System, and conserved 63 acres of land through two open-space easements with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). These additions span four natural area preserves across the state that protect significant natural communities, supply vital habitat, protect rare species, improve water quality, and provide viewshed and development buffers. The land parcels were identified through ConserveVirginia, the data-driven land conservation strategy launched by Governor Northam in April.

“Virginia is home to unique natural lands and cultural treasures, and we must preserve them for current and future generations to enjoy,” said Governor Northam. “The ConserveVirginia model allows us to make strategic choices about what lands to acquire, ensuring that we are using our resources to protect the most important and valuable sites first. I’m pleased that Virginia is taking a significant step forward to conserve these areas for all Virginians and strengthen the resilience of our Commonwealth.”

“With our ConserveVirginia model in place and integrated into the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation scoring criteria, it was possible to identify these high-value lands and align them with available funding,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Every one of these parcels hits multiple categories in the model and highlights the best conservation lands in Virginia, protecting biodiversity, water quality, and our precious natural heritage resources.”

DCR added 140 acres to Antioch Pines Natural Area Preserve in Isle of Wight County with grant funding from the VLCF. This preserve is on the Blackwater River, a designated state scenic river, and the addition will protect 13 acres of wetlands and more than 8,500 feet of streams. The upland area of the addition will be restored to a longleaf pine savannah.

DCR added 6.5 acres to Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve in Floyd County, one of Virginia’s top ecological and scenic resources. This acquisition was funded with a grant from the VLCF and private donations. The wooded parcel contributes to an intact forested viewshed along the entrance road to the preserve and a buffer from development.

Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve, in Franklin County, received a 33.5-acre addition along the Pigg River and Route 220. This section of the river is a blueway and provides habitat for a state and federally endangered fish species. This acquisition was funded by a VLCF grant.

The PATC, with grant funding from the VLCF and the DuPont Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) settlement, purchased approximately 125 acres in Rockingham County. Simultaneously, PATC donated 62 acres to DCR and dedicated two open-space easements on the remaining 63 acres. The 62 acres donated to DCR will be added to Deep Run Ponds Natural Area Preserve in Rockingham County, connecting it to the boundary of Shenandoah National Park. This parcel will protect high-conservation value forests and important habitat for migratory birds, while providing a buffer to the numerous rare species already protected by the preserve.

“To close on four properties in one month is a huge accomplishment for the DCR team and the entire Commonwealth,” said DCR Director Clyde Cristman. “Protecting these rare, special lands benefits all Virginians and is made possible by the hard work of the DCR team, our dedicated partners in conservation such as PATC and VLCF, and our private supporters and volunteers.”

Established in 1989, Virginia’s Natural Area Preserve System protects rare plants, animals, and natural communities. Most preserves in the system are owned by DCR, but some are owned by local governments, universities, The Nature Conservancy, and private landowners who have dedicated land for natural area preservation. State natural area preserves are managed by DCR Virginia Natural Heritage Program staff.

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