How We Work

Virginia's Pinelands

Through creative partnerships, land acquisition, ecological management, and other conservation strategies, the Conservancy's Virginia Pineland Program works to protect vast expanses of wetlands and rare forests in southeast Virginia that are home to centuries-old cypress swamps and rare longleaf pine savannas.  

At Piney Grove Preserve we're working to restore the longleaf pine of the commonwealth's founding forest and the northernmost population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, Virginia's rarest bird.

Despite its proximity to a major metropolitan area, this region supports an exceptional array of over 100 rare plants, animals, and natural communities. Five significant river systems - the North Landing, Northwest, Meherrin, Nottoway, and Blackwater rivers -  provide important wildlife corridors and collectively support a third of the state's non-tidal wetlands.  The Northwest River provides drinking water to 60% of the City of Chesapeake, while the Nottoway River is one of several sources of drinking water for the City of Norfolk.

Our Conservation Strategy

Guided by conservation science, the Conservancy works with a variety of partners to protect the forests, lakes, wetlands, and unique habitats of the Virginia Pinelands. Below are some of the ways we work:

  • Land protection:
    We purchase land or interests in land and accept donations of land or easements from willing sellers and donors. The Conservancy brokered a donation of nearly 50,000 acres to establish the now 130,000 Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, an early milestone for the Conservancy in Virginia.
  • Science-based conservation:
    Using its science-based methods, the Conservancy partners with state and federal agencies to restore natural fire regimes. The Conservancy uses fire and timber management at 2,700-acre Piney Grove Preserve to restore habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers. The Conservancy partners with the College of William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology, as well as state and federal agencies, to monitor the red-cockaded woodpecker population.
  • Land management
    The Conservancy is working with private landowners to restore globally rare pine savanna habitat.  Through the Virginia Aquatic Restoration Trust Fund, we are restoring forested wetlands to establish strategically located wildlife corridors.  The Conservancy partnered with International Paper (IP) and Virginia’s Natural Heritage Program to conduct a biological survey of IP land at South Quay.
  • Conservation easements
    A conservation easement is a legal agreement, recorded with the deed, that restricts the type and amount of development that can take place on the land. The Conservancy works with private landowners to secure easements along river corridors, protecting water quality and riparian habitat.  The Conservancy served on an advisory board encouraging the City of Chesapeake to enact a new purchase of development rights program to protect open space. The city purchases development rights from willing private landowners, who then retain ownership while permanently keeping their lands as open space or in agricultural use. 
  • Education and outreach:
    We foster a conservation ethic and appreciation for nature through education and outreach. The Conservancy works to influence land-use planning and is helping local communities learn about development approaches that preserve local character, history, traditions, and, ultimately, the ecosystem itself.
  • Help to shape public policies:
    The Conservancy has committed at least $10,000 in private funds toward a new state initiative, the Virginia Invasive Species Council, to combat invasive species and has joined a coalition of public and private groups to launch Virginiaforever, a campaign to garner increased public support and state funding for conservation.
  • Community-based conservation:
    The Conservancy is working with individuals and public agencies to expand the protection of Great Dismal Swamp. Using partnerships with large landowners and cooperative management agreements with timber companies, we’re working to protect the natural heritage of this region.
Program Milestones and Achievements
  • The North Landing and Northwest rivers support the greatest diversity of rare plants and animals in Virginia east of the Blue Ridge.
  • Since the early 1970s, the Conservancy has worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Great Dismal Swamp, one of the largest contiguous forests in the eastern U.S.
  • The Conservancy’s Piney Grove Preserve was nationally recognized through the Audubon Society’s “Important Bird Area” program.  
  • The Conservancy helped develop a Purchase of Development Rights program to protect thousands of acres and thwart urban sprawl from Virginia Beach to the Chesapeake Bay.
Contact Information
Virginia Pinelands Program
The Nature Conservancy
530 E. Main Street, Suite 800
Richmond, VA  23219
(804) 644-5800 ext. 1119

Piney Grove Preserve Blackwater River Preserve North Landing River Preserve