DCR's newest dedicated Natural Area Preserve established in Isle of Wight County
VDOF, DCR and TNC partner to conserve forestland and water resource
Isle of Wight County has created a conservation easement on 2,348 acres of forestland that fronts the Blackwater River. This will conserve a large block of forestland, protect a vital source of drinking water for residents in South Hampton Roads and enhance the public’s recreational activities in the county.
The Virginia Department of Forestry, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and The Nature Conservancy worked together to make this conservation easement a reality. Funds to secure the easement were provided by the USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy Program and by TNC through a grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Fund.
The easement will be jointly held by VDOF and DCR. Approximately a third of the property will become the Blackwater Sandhills Natural Area Preserve – DCR’s 61st such preserve in Virginia – and will include 500 acres of Tupelo-Gum-Baldcypress bottomland that helps protect more than five miles of the Blackwater River. This river is an important source of drinking water for residents of Norfolk. The other two-thirds of the forested property will be the responsibility of the VDOF, which will oversee the management of the resource for timber, wildlife and recreational use. The entire tract will remain the property of Isle of Wight County.
“Isle of Wight County is honored and very pleased to have other agencies join us in our efforts to preserve and maintain such unique natural resources,” said Al Casteen, chairman of the IOW Board of Supervisors. “We in a rural county are particularly aware that we in the present have an obligation to those in the future to be responsible stewards of our natural beauty and bounty. We greatly appreciate the work and help from all concerned to make that goal a reality for this particular property.”
State Forester of Virginia Carl Garrison said, “This easement will forever protect from development a key forested property that fronts a critical source of clean water while increasing recreational opportunities and enhancing wildlife habitat in the area. It’s a big win for residents of Isle of Wight County and all the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
Michael Lipford, executive director for The Nature Conservancy in Virginia, said, “The property’s old-growth cypress forest offers a rare and inspiring glimpse of the majestic forests that once graced Virginia’s coastal region. Thanks to the state and Isle of Wight County, this treasured link to our past will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and will contribute to conservation of the Blackwater River’s water quality, flood storage and wildlife values.”
DCR Director David A. Johnson said, “DCR is proud that a portion of this property will be dedicated as the state’s 61st natural area preserve. With the addition of Blackwater Sandhills, the state’s natural area preserve system now totals 51,394 acres. In addition to protecting old-growth forest, we are preserving sandhills habitat that is suitable for re-establishment of native longleaf pine.”
Including this conservation easement, VDOF’s total easement holdings stand at 22,972 acres conserved – more than half of which (13,660 acres) have been protected during the McDonnell administration.
Note: News organizations wishing to visit the property should contact Don Robertson of Isle of Wight County at 757-365-6202.