The Nature Conservancy and Ecosystem Investment Partners announced today the conservation of 966 acres adjacent to Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The tract had been the refuge’s largest unprotected in-holding.
The property consists of 283 acres of forest and 683 acres of drained agricultural field. Restoration of the agricultural field will involve filling existing drainage ditches with earthen plugs to restore water flows and then planting tree seedlings. Besides providing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, the project will capture runoff and serve as a groundwater recharge area for local aquifers in the Chowan Basin.
“The Dismal Swamp, one of the largest forest blocks in the coastal plain of Virginia, is an ecological treasure. The wetlands here support more than 200 bird species and contain one of the last remaining stands of Atlantic white cedar,” said Brian van Eerden, director of the Conservancy’s Southern Rivers Program. “We are thrilled to see another piece of this world-famous swamp restored and protected for future generations.”
Ecosystem Investment Partners acquired the property, which is located within the acquisition boundary of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, in June 2007. One of Ecosystem Investment Partner’s primary activities on the property was the establishment of a large wetland mitigation bank that will fund the property’s protection, restoration and long-term management.
The agreement announced today assigns The Nature Conservancy the conservation easement for the entire property. The Conservancy and Ecosystem Investment Partners are currently working together on a second similar project to protect and restore a large wetland complex in Louisiana.
“This important project is a great example of how private investors and conservationists can partner to achieve significant conservation outcomes on the ground,” said Nick Dilks of Ecosystem Investment Partners. “Working with our partners at The Nature Conservancy, we look forward to achieving many more conservation victories such as this together.”
This is the second property in as many weeks The Nature Conservancy has announced will be protected in southeastern Virginia. In March, the Conservancy protected three miles of Blackwater River frontage south of Franklin, for a combined total of nearly 1,400 conserved acres.
This latest conservation deal was welcomed by the property’s neighbor, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
“The easement will ensure the long-term protection and conservation of this adjacent parcel,” said Chris Lowie, manager of Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. “We look forward to working with The Nature Conservancy and Ecosystem Investment Partners for the benefit of wildlife and their habitats, which will be restored at this site."
The Nature Conservancy has been involved in conserving the Great Dismal since the early 1970s, assisting with the transfer of 49,000 acres from then-owner Union Camp Corporation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This was the largest corporate gift to conservation in the United States at the time.
“As a youngster, I spent a great deal of time exploring the Dismal Swamp and appreciated firsthand Union Camp's gift to The Nature Conservancy,” said Michael Lipford, Virginia director of The Nature Conservancy. “I'm proud to continue the legacy of protecting the Great Dismal Swamp so future generations can enjoy its distinct natural history.”
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.