The Nature Conservancy has long recognized the importance of America’s public lands. Americans look to our beloved landscape not only to support and enrich our lives, but also in overcoming times of crisis.
From the Civil War to the Great Depression, America has turned to conservation to sustain and heal our nation.
Today, the Conservancy supports policy initiatives such as America’s Great Outdoors and urges a permanent commitment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Of course, the Conservancy also has a long history of working with local, state and federal entities to establish and expand popular and iconic places. While the sites below represent only a fraction of our projects in Virginia, we hope these highlights will inspire you to explore and protect our great outdoors.
After all, this land is your land.
Dragon Run State Forest was created in 2008 when federal Forest Legacy funds enabled Virginia’s Department of Forestry to acquire the first of several large tracts from the Conservancy. Today’s nearly 10,000-acre state forest is part of a network of conservation lands covering a remarkable 23 percent of the Dragon Run watershed, a critical feeder of fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay. Dragon Run itself offers one of Virginia’s finest blackwater paddling experiences, and the state forest is open to the public for outdoor recreation.
The Great Channels
In 2004, the Conservancy purchased the largest privately owned tract in Washington County to protect key intact forest in the Clinch Valley. Thanks to a partnership with the state, the nearly 5,000-acre Brumley Mountain site is now open to the public as Channels State Forest. The namesake Great Channels of Virginia, 400-million-year-old sandstone formations etched into Brumley’s crest, are protected within The Channels Natural Area Preserve.
Rappahannock River Valley
The Conservancy transferred Tobys Point to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in 1999. As part of a coalition with several other conservation organizations, the Conservancy works with the refuge toward a goal of protecting 20,000 acres along the Rappahannock and major tributaries. Visitor opportunities include fishing, hunting, paddling, photography, wildlife observation, environmental education and interpretive programs.
Generals Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee and Robert E. Lee were among the former owners of property that today belongs to all Virginians as Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve. The Conservancy purchased and then transferred this 1,000-acre natural area to the state in 1996. Resembling the hump of a bison charging from surrounding hills, Buffalo Mountain is an iconic landmark in Floyd County, and its summit rewards hardy hikers with spectacular 360-degree views.
Expanding Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge has been central to the Conservancy’s partnership with state and federal agencies and even singer James Taylor to preserve globally important habitat for migratory birds. Conservancy contributions to the refuge include Skidmore Island in 1987 and, more recently, Wise Point. Opportunities abound for birding, wildlife watching, fishing, boating and photography.
Since 1989, the Conservancy has worked with Russell County and the commonwealth to protect and expand The Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve, one of the most popular and ecologically important resources in the Clinch Valley. This state preserve follows Big Cedar Creek for two miles to its confluence with the Clinch River. The Pinnacle offers views of the namesake towering rock formation and scenic waterfalls, fishing in Big Cedar Creek, hiking, birding and wildlife watching.
Great Dismal Swamp
The Conservancy brokered the nation’s first major corporate donation of conservation land in 1973, helping establish Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge through Union Camp’s gift of nearly 50,000 acres. Now more than 110,000 acres, the refuge is a magnet for migratory birds and for birders seeking to extend their life lists. Boating, hiking, biking, photography, wildlife observation, hunting and fishing also are popular options.
The Conservancy purchased 80 acres in 1975 to establish the Rann Preserve on Ivy Creek. Over the next several years, the Conservancy worked with citizen groups and officials from Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville to protect the entirety of the former Riverview Farm, which faced impending development. Renamed Ivy Creek Natural Area, the 215-acre preserve today is Charlottesville’s preeminent site for environmental education and recreation.
Starting in 1967, the Conservancy assembled close to 3,000 acres to build Mason Neck State Park and Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge. These efforts followed from a grassroots campaign led by Elizabeth Hartwell to encourage the protection of Mason Neck and its bald eagles. The park now offers a wide variety of nature programs and recreation such as hiking, biking and paddling.
A 1957 Conservancy booklet — published with support from partners — helped galvanize the public, the media, government officials and other organizations in calling for a park at Great Falls on the Potomac River. The National Park Service protected the land in 1960, and Great Falls Park opened to the public in 1966. Only 15 miles from the nation’s capital, Great Falls Park hosts a half-million visitors annually for activities ranging from picnics to hiking.
January 04, 2012
Daniel White is a senior conservation writer for The Nature Conservancy based in Charlottesville, Virginia.