Agencies conserve 4,000 acres in Blackwater, Nottoway watersheds

Published 11:35 am Thursday, February 21, 2013



RICHMOND—The Virginia Department of Forestry working cooperatively with the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, partnered with several groups to conserve 4,119 acres of land in Southeastern Virginia during 2012.

They include the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, The Nature Conservancy, Isle of Wight County, a private investment company and International Paper.

The Forest Legacy funding, applied for by The Nature Conservancy, enabled the purchase of two conservation easements and the creation of a new State Natural Area Preserve in the Nottoway River and Blackwater River watersheds.

A total of 216 acres was conserved along the Nottoway River in Southampton County through the purchase of a conservation easement on property owned by Goodwood Virginia, a subsidiary of Conservation Forestry, a forestland holding company based out of New Hampshire.

The property is comprised of floodplain forest that will be protected through the easement and upland pine plantation that will be actively managed by Goodwood Virginia for its forest and wildlife resources.

Conservation Forestry, an investment organization that aligns private equity with conservation capital for the purpose of acquiring and managing large forest landscapes, has land holdings throughout southeastern Virginia and 11 other states.

Along the Blackwater River, VDOF and DCR worked with Isle of Wight County to secure an easement on 2,348 acres of timberland owned by the county. The property has more than five miles of river frontage and one of the state’s largest stands of old-growth cypress trees.

The county plans to utilize the property for public recreation as well as for income-producing timber management. This transaction created the 815-acre Blackwater Sandhills Natural Area Preserve, managed under DCR’s Natural Heritage Program.

The third and largest acquisition project added 2,855 acres to the South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve along three miles of the Blackwater River in Suffolk. Forest Legacy funding contributed to the protection of more than 1,500 acres of the property, which was purchased from IP.

The property five miles south of Franklin contains the largest remaining longleaf pine seed trees in the state. One of the South’s prized timber trees, longleaf pine is a species that VDOF is actively re-establishing across its former one million-acre range in southeastern Virginia.

The property will protect 23 rare plant species and three rare animal species, including the orange-bellied tiger beetle that depends on the deep sand soils for survival. The site also provides lowland habitat along the Blackwater River for the rare Atlantic White Cedar, a tree species found only sporadically in southeast Virginia.