An agreement conserving 272 acres of mountainside in Randolph County will preserve habitat for endangered plants, bats, and rare cave-dwelling insects as part of a larger project aimed at protecting a broad swath of West Virginia’s iconic mountain forests.
In the agreement, The Nature Conservancy has purchased a conservation easement on property owned by Thunderstruck Conservation, LLC. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that allows a private landowner to maintain ownership of property while restricting certain uses.
In this case, the easement will permanently prevent commercial logging, mining and residential development on the property, which is surrounded by the Monongahela National Forest, not far from the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area and the proposed Roaring Plains Wilderness Area, as well as, the Conservancy’s Bear Rocks Preserve.
“This is a beautiful piece of Appalachian mountainside, with a trout stream and a forest with rare plants like running buffalo clover and white monkshood,” said Rodney Bartgis, West Virginia state director for the Conservancy. “But there is more than meets the eye here. Beneath the surface there are caves and sinkholes that provide habitat for rare species like the Virginia big-eared bat and cave-dwelling insects – called springtails – that spend their entire lives in the caves of West Virginia.”
Many of these species live only in the biologically rich forests of the Central Appalachian Mountains – a region that runs from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and is considered one of the world’s most diverse broadleaf temperate forest areas.
Because of its proximity to the nation’s capital and other population centers, this part of West Virginia has been a popular location for recreational development. This easement, however, allows just one home on the 272 acre protected area, Bartgis said.
The easement announced today is one part of an ongoing project to protect 1,800 acres of spruce and high-bush cranberry forest in West Virginia through a partnership with Thunderstruck Conservation’s affiliate, Sustainable Land Investments. Sustainable Land is a private capital investment firm that provides opportunities for investment in ecosystem services.
The purchase price of $796,500 was funded by the West Virginia Department of Transportation Division of Highways using money identified in the Appalachian Corridor H Final Environmental Impact Statement, Volume III, Mitigation Document as approved in April 1996 for the identification and analysis of unique habitat to be purchased for preservation as determined by the WVDOT Division of Highways, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the WV Division of Natural Resources.
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.
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