George Washington And Jefferson National Forests Add Key Lands
Roanoke, VA (October 31, 2019)—The USDA Forest Service, the Open Space Institute, and the Chesapeake Conservancy announce a Land and Water Conservation Fund success in protecting a significant property within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The purchase of the 4,664.5-acre property in Botetourt county, Virginia will preserve a local historic asset, enhance recreation access and protect the water quality of Craig Creek, a tributary to the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. The property is one of the largest tracts to be acquired for conservation purposes in Virginia in decades.
“The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are committed to managing lands to sustain healthy forests and clean water. The addition of the Grace Furnace tract to Forest System Lands highlights the success of collaboration among federal agencies and partners that help us sustain our natural resources,” said Joby Timm, Forest Supervisor.
The acquisition of this tract, which is bordered by the National Forest on three sides, not only enhances Forest Service management, it also ensures protection for freshwater streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The tract supports 14 freshwater springs, 10 miles of trout streams, and borders 1,000 feet of Craig Creek. The tract contains potential aquatic habitat for the federally listed endangered James spiny-mussel and two State-listed threatened species (Atlantic pigtoe mussel and Orange madtom fish).
“This important acquisition continues the legacy of the Jefferson National Forest in protecting water resources, conserving wildlife, and providing recreational access to public lands,” said District Ranger Dan McKeague.
The Open Space Institute (OSI) purchased the Grace Furnace Property in December 2016 and conveyed it to the Forest Service on October 10, 2019, which prioritized this project for funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s premier land conservation program.
Chesapeake Conservancy coordinated the Rivers of the Chesapeake Land and Water Conservation Fund Collaborative Landscape proposal that provided partial funding for this important project and generated significant partner support for land conservation across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars—to acquire critical lands and protect our country’s best natural resources.
Addition of the property to the Forest System Lands protects the historic Grace Furnace, an iron-ore furnace located on the property that dates from the early 19th century. The property is located adjacent to the Forest Service Hoop Hole National Recreation Trail and the property provides access to Craig Creek, a popular recreation waterway for boating and fishing.
“Permanently protecting the ‘Grace Furnace’ property is a tremendous achievement in large-scale land conservation that will benefit both nature and people,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI. “We are grateful for the support of the Wyss Foundation and to all those who advocate for our nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. And we congratulate our partners at the USDA Forest Service and the Chesapeake Conservancy for their unwavering commitment to protecting this property.”
“The protection of the Grace Furnace property is the result of a public-private partnership that will safeguard this unique natural area for generations,” said Greg Zimmerman of the Wyss Campaign for Nature, a Wyss Foundation initiative to accelerate the pace of land conservation. “This land will forever be open to the public for recreation and available to wildlife for habitat; and all the while protecting critical water resources, including the James River and the Chesapeake Bay.”
“With its beautiful trees and wild trout streams at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, the Grace Furnace property is big, special and inspiring,” said Joel Dunn, president and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy. “This successful project highlights the importance and power of combining philanthropic and public investments in protecting our planet, which are both required to conserve land of this caliber and size. The addition of these 4,664.5-acres to the National Forest makes a significant contribution toward our goal of protecting 30 percent of the Chesapeake watershed by 2030, but we still have a long way to go.”
A celebration event this spring will kick off a public engagement process following guidance set forth in the National Environmental Policy Act and the Jefferson National Forest Plan to determine how the property will be managed into the future. For more information about your National Forests, visit the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests homepage www.fs.usda.gov/gwj/
The mission of the National Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
The Open Space Institute (OSI) protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York, OSI has grown to become a partner in the protection of nearly 2.2 million acres in North America. A leader in environmental conservation, OSI leverages our knowledge and attracts resources for strategic investments to make innovative land conservation happen. Visit OSI online at www.openspaceinstitute.org
About the Chesapeake Conservancy
Chesapeake Conservancy’s mission is to conserve and restore the natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake Bay watershed for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. We empower the conservation community with access to the latest data and technology. As principal partner for the National Park Service on the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, we helped create 153 new public access sites and permanently protect some of the Bay’s special places like Werowocomoco, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Fort Monroe National Monument. www.chesapeakeconservancy.org
About the Wyss Foundation
The Wyss Foundation is a private, charitable organization committed to creating and expanding protected areas. Over the past two decades, the Wyss Foundation has invested over $600 million to help conservation partners protect over 50 million acres of land across the globe. In 2018, the foundation launched the Wyss Campaign for Nature, a 10-year, $1 billion commitment by Hansjörg Wyss – the Wyss Foundation’s founder and chairman – to help protect at least 30 percent of the planet by 2030.
About the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
Established by Congress in 1965, LWCF is a visionary and bipartisan federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties for the protection of irreplaceable lands and improvement of outdoor recreation opportunities across the nation. No taxpayer dollars are used to support LWCF. The program has permanently protected nearly five million acres of public lands including forests, natural resources, state and local parks and recreation areas. The program is due to expire September 2015, but there are efforts in the U.S. Congress—such as S. 890—to reauthorize the program and fully fund it at its authorized amount of $900 million.