The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) expanded its natural area preserves by 315 acres in October. The preserves are designed to protect rare plants, animals and natural communities.
The department decided on the land parcels based on data provided by ConserveVirginia, an initiative launched by Gov. Ralph Northam to identify land for conservation.
“Virginia is home to unique natural lands and cultural treasures, and we must preserve them for current and future generations to enjoy,” Northam said in a news release. “The ConserveVirginia model allows us to make strategic choices about what lands to acquire, ensuring that we are using our resources to protect the most important and valuable sites first. I’m pleased that Virginia is taking a significant step forward to conserve these areas for all Virginians and strengthen the resilience of our Commonwealth.”
About 242 acres were added to the state’s land preserves and another 63 acres were conserved through open-space easements with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).
The department expanded the Antioch Pines Natural Area Preserve in Wight County by 140 acres to protect wetlands and streams, the Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve in Floyd County by 6.5 acres to protect forests and the Black Knob Natural Area Preserve by 33.5 acres to protect endangered fish. The preservation was funded by private donations and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.
The PATC bought 125 acres from Rockingham County; 63 acres were used for the open-space easements and the remaining 62 acres were donated to the DCR to protect migratory birds.
“With our ConserveVirginia model in place and integrated into the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation scoring criteria, it was possible to identify these high-value lands and align them with available funding,” Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler said in a news release. “Every one of these parcels hits multiple categories in the model and highlights the best conservation lands in Virginia, protecting biodiversity, water quality, and our precious natural heritage resources.”
Most of the land is owned by the DCR, but some is owned by local governments, universities and The Nature Conservancy. The preserve expansion also includes some private land that owners dedicated to preservation.