The Nature Conservancy has acquired a 438-acre natural area to protect a globally-rare plant community as well as significant habitat for endangered freshwater mussels. Cleveland Natural Area Preserve encompasses approximately 1.5 miles of frontage along the Clinch River just outside the town of Cleveland in Russell County, Virginia. The tract is part of an ecological hotspot with national significance for its remarkable concentration of rarities both in the water and on land.
"Acquiring this property is an important extension of our effort to preserve a functioning ecological system," said Bill Kittrell, director of the Conservancy's Clinch Valley Program. "Creating this network of nature preserves around Cleveland protects the rare natural communities on the land, but also the quality of the water in the river for animals and for people who depend upon it for consumption and recreation."
Together, the Conservancy and Virginia's Department of Conservation and Recreation have permanently protected nearly 1,000 acres in the Cleveland area since 1999. The new preserve connects with Cleveland Barrens Natural Area Preserve, which the Conservancy transferred to the state last December. While the property will be dedicated as part of the State Natural Area Preserve system, the Conservancy will retain ownership, and the preserve will be managed by its Clinch Valley Program, based in Abingdon, Virginia.