How We Work

Forests and Woodlands

Virginia’s forests produce and filter the water you drink and the air you breathe, so we owe our very existence to these natural systems. At a time when we’re losing hundreds of wooded acres across the state every single week, our duty is clear: protect — and in many cases, restore — the healthy, connected forests on which our lives and livelihoods depend.

Forests for the Future

By the mid-1800s, the diverse longleaf pine savannas that once graced a million acres across southeastern Virginia had nearly vanished. Today, you can count the state’s surviving mature trees, but The Nature Conservancy and our partners are now devoting thousands of acres to growing our longleaf forests of the future.

To boost this effort, we transferred more than 2,000 acres of former commercial timberland, which we purchased in late 2015, to the state’s Big Woods Wildlife Management Area in Sussex County. We will work to acquire thousands of additional acres over the next few years to expand longleaf restoration at Big Woods.

The Big Woods expansion encompasses Assamoosic Swamp, a natural water filter just upstream from where Norfolk takes its drinking water from the Nottoway River. “Our Big Woods
partnership helps protect clean water for 800,000 people downstream in Hampton Roads,” says program director Brian van Eerden.

Learning and Burning

To rejuvenate pine-oak forests in western Virginia, the Conservancy and partners in the Central Appalachian Fire Learning Network have reintroduced fire across thousands of acres on our Warm Springs Mountain Preserve, adjacent George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and state lands. Now years of measuring post-burn effects will improve how we light future fires.

According to Conservancy forester Jean Lorber, the analysis affirmed a host of positive responses, especially from repeat burning. “But we need to experiment to find better ways to restore open woodlands,” Jean adds, “so we’ll be trying new ignition techniques and patterns to reach our goals for forest health and diversity.”


Since establishing our Clinch Valley Program in 1990, the Conservancy has worked with local communities to promote sustainable economic and recreational opportunities that are consistent with protecting the region’s lands, waters and way of life.

To help maintain healthy forests that protect water quality for people, fish and globally rare fresh water mussels, we launched the Conservation Forestry Program in 2002 and now manage some 22,000 acres to model sustainable forestry practices. 

The program emphasizes long-term stewardship, making our forests healthier, more diverse and more valuable places in the future.  Our improved management of the Clinch Valley’s forests is also creating new opportunities for the Conservancy to collaborate with partners


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