RICHMOND, VA | October 23, 2009
The Nature Conservancy today joins conservationists throughout the commonwealth of Virginia in recognizing Gov. Kaine’s historic commitment to land conservation. Gov. Kaine’s commitment to conserving the farms, forests, natural areas and scenic vistas of Virginia has nearly doubled the acreage that Virginia conserves annually and has put the commonwealth on target to reach his 400,000-acre goal.
The Nature Conservancy, which has been active in the commonwealth for nearly 50 years, contributed to this effort by working with partners to protect more than 41,650 acres towards the governor’s goal.
“We have been extremely fortunate during the past four years to have Governor Kaine’s leadership,” said Michael Lipford, director of The Nature Conservancy in Virginia. “Ultimately, what he has done is focus attention on and implement land conservation as a cornerstone of Virginia's environmental policies. In doing so, he is leaving a permanent legacy on the ground, and he should be very proud of that. The Nature Conservancy is proud to have played a role in this historic conservation achievement.”
The Nature Conservancy worked with the commonwealth of Virginia and other partners to protect some of Virginia’s most important lands and waters. Six of these projects are highlighted below:
- Dragon Run — In May 2009, The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Department of Forestry and Hancock Timber Resource Group partnered to protect 4,200 acres along Dragon Run. Dubbed the “second most ecologically important watershed in the Chesapeake Bay” by the Smithsonian Institution, Dragon Run includes the northern-most tidal cypress swamp community on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Ninety bird species, including bald eagles and prothonotary warblers, are found in the area, along with 55 species of fish. The waters provide vital nurseries for perch, rockfish and alewives that are important for Chesapeake commercial fishermen and sportsmen.
- Big Woods — In September 2006, The Nature Conservancy acquired 4,915 acres in Sussex County from International Paper Company to protect habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. More than 4,000 acres of this property will be transferred to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Department of Forestry. Both agencies will provide public access to the property.
- Rappahannock and Rapidan River Easement — In March 2007, The Nature Conservancy worked with the city of Fredericksburg and other local, state and federal partners to protect over 65 miles and over 4,000 acres of important riparian habitat upriver from Fredericksburg from development.
- Great Dismal Swamp — In April 2009, The Nature Conservancy and Ecosystem Investment Partners protected 966 acres in the city of Chesapeake. The property was the largest remaining unprotected in-holding of Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Dismal Swamp is one of the largest forest blocks in the coastal plain of Virginia, supporting more than 200 bird species and containing one of the last remaining stands of Atlantic white cedar.
- Laurel Fork — In late 2007, The Nature Conservancy partnered with the Goodall family to acquire a conservation easement on nearly 1,700 acres of private land in Highland County in the Laurel Fork Highlands Conservation Area. This remote region of the state contains high-elevation red spruce and northern hardwood forest communities, state-rare plant and animal species, and habitat for the endangered northern flying squirrel. Laurel Fork is also an important cold water fishery and native brook trout stream in the headwaters of the Potomac River.
- Raccoon Creek Pinelands — In November 2007, Bill Owen donated a 1,406-acre easement in Sussex County to The Nature Conservancy to protect working forestland and habitat for two state-rare plants and the Eastern big-eared bat, a state-threatened species. The Conservancy is working with Mr. Owen and a variety of state and federal partners to restore longleaf pine to portions of the property. Mr. Owen received the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award to honor his easement donation and ongoing restoration efforts.
“There are terrific individual projects and stories behind the numbers,” says David Phemister, director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy in Virginia. “The true meaning and value of the governor’s commitment to conservation rest in the protection of individual places, which collectively amount to a tremendous achievement. The governor’s leadership and that of General Assembly members from both parties who supported the vision mean future generations will enjoy these same places and the many values they provide all of us. Land conservation is, in the end, an affirmation and celebration of the lands and waters that make Virginia such a special place to live."
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.