Virginia Gets 66th nature preserve

Watchful Eye
Governor Ralph Northam addresses the crowd during the dedication ceremonyPhoto Credit: Office of the Governor: Jack Mayer

Two days before Thanksgiving Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam dedicated Piney Grove Flatwoods as Virginia’s 66th natural area preserve.

This newest preserve is located just west of Wakefield in Sussex County, and it’s part of a 10,000-acre conservation area that includes Big Woods State Forest, Big Woods Wildlife Management Area, and The Nature Conservancy’s Big Woods.

According to Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Piney Grove Flatwoods supports several rare species, including the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, two amphibians, two plants, and a fish. Through the use of prescribed fire, selective cutting, and the reintroduction of longleaf pine, a patchwork of open pine savannas, isolated wetlands, and swampy bottomlands is taking shape.

The Nature Conservancy received a grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation in 2020 to purchase Piney Grove Flatwoods Natural Area Preserve and a Natural Area Deed of Dedication was recorded in September. The deed provides the highest level of permanent land conservation possible in Virginia and prohibits land uses that would harm natural heritage resources.

“We have worked hard to preserve more than 120,000 additional acres to benefit Virginians,” said Northam of the conservation record during his administration, and Virginia has awarded over $21.5 million in land conservation funding and grants on his watch.

“Virginia's natural area preserves have protected many of our rarest ecosystems, water quality, cultural heritage sites, and scenic views. Conservation efforts like this allow species to adapt to changing climates and are key to protecting Virginia’s environment,” the governor said in a statement.

“Permanent protection and management of Piney Grove Flatwoods Natural Area Preserve will benefit animals and plants found in only a handful of places,” said Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde E. Cristman. “This is a conservation success story for Virginia and the entire United States. The Commonwealth could not have a better partner than The Nature Conservancy in protection and stewardship of our natural heritage resources.”

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