Nearly 1,600 acres on the rim of the New River Gorge will be protected for future generations thanks to a conservation partnership between the landowner, The Nature Conservancy, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and the Mountain State’s hunters and anglers. The partners announced the agreement today.
The land is being purchased as an addition to the Beury Mountain Wildlife Management Area and closes a gap between it and the New River Gorge National River, managed by the National Park Service. The purchase of this land ensures long-term access for hunters and the public for hiking and wildlife and nature viewing.
“The landscape along the New River is one of the largest and least fragmented blocks of forest in the Central Appalachians,” said Rodney Bartgis, West Virginia Director for The Nature Conservancy. “The diversity of plant and animal life in and around the Gorge is among the highest of temperate deciduous forests anywhere on Earth, and the scenery is spectacular. The wildlife management and recreation opportunities of this property are a great complement to those natural attributes.”
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources was interested in the tract, but did not have all the money on hand to complete the transaction at once. The Nature Conservancy stepped in to facilitate the transaction between the Division of Natural Resources and the landowner On Monday, the Conservancy purchased the 1,585 acre tract from Greenbrier Forest Products. The Division of Natural Resources will purchase the tract from The Nature Conservancy over the next two years using funds generated from the sale of hunting licenses, along with a $20,000 grant from the West Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, and will manage the land as a wildlife management area.
“When sports men and women, the State, and conservation organizations work together, we can accomplish some great conservation results,” said Frank Jezioro, Director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, “This project ensures West Virginians will continue to have the incredible opportunities to hunt and fish and watch wildlife that the New River Gorge area provides.”
“We are very glad to be able to provide support for this project,” said Charlie Nichols of the West Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. “This will help to ensure that all hunters, now and in the future, will have long-term access to one of West Virginia’s important hunting areas.”
The Greenbrier Forest tract adjoins National Park Service lands for over six miles. In 2008, the Conservancy worked with the Division of Natural Resources to expand the Beury Mountain Wildlife Area by 4,600 acres. Combined with the new purchase, the wildlife management area and adjacent Babcock State Park will grow to nearly 12,000 acres of state-owned land on the plateau overlooking the New River Gorge. “We are happy to be working with the Division of Natural Resources to expand the lands they manage, buffering the area from development pressures,” Bartgis said.
Excitement over the purchase was expressed by Fayette County County Commissioner Matt Wender. “We have come to really appreciate how much of an attribute our natural beauty is for both motivating local people to stay here and for attracting visitors to come. Property like this becoming public land protects that quality and enables our citizens to enjoy this place for generations to come.”
“I am glad to have been part of bringing the landowner and the Nature Conservancy together to make this project happen,” said Jim Woltz of Woltz and Associates, the auctioneering firm that handled the sale of the tract. The firm, based in Roanoke, Virginia, has helped place over 12,000 acres in conservation. “This project helps protect the natural and recreational assets that have helped build the local economy in Fayette County, while meeting the landowners desire to sell. This is a win for business and conservation.”
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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