Chesapeake Conservancy Receives US Forest Service 2019 Regional Forester’s Honor Award

Annapolis, MD – Today, Chesapeake Conservancy received notice that the US Forest Service will honor the Open Space Institute, Chesapeake Conservancy, and the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests Eastern Divide Ranger District with the Regional Forester Honor Award under the category of “Sustaining our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands,” for the partnership Grace Furnace conservation project.

In October 2019, the US Forest Service conserved Grace Furnace, a large tract of land in the James River watershed in southwest Virginia. Chesapeake Conservancy, along with partners, advocated for the Rivers of the Chesapeake Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Collaborative Landscape proposal, which helped acquire federal funds for nearly 4,700 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

“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 Bay watershed by 2030, but we still have a long way to go.”

The Grace Furnace property was purchased for $5 million by the Open Space Institute (OSI), with funding from the Wyss Foundation. “This significant conservation project demonstrates the critical role that protecting upstream forests can play in achieving large-scale watershed protection for the Chesapeake Bay,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “We are proud of the role OSI played in originally securing the property, preventing it from being disassembled and developed. We also congratulate the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, the Valley Conservation Council, and the Department of the Interior for the successful conservation of this property. And of course, we thank our partner, the Chesapeake Conservancy, for leading the Rivers of the Chesapeake collaborative, and for their tireless efforts to protect the irreplaceable Chesapeake Bay.”

“The effort to conserve the 4,672 acre Grace Furnace property resulted in protection of a large “key-hole” parcel surrounded by National Forest on the Eastern Divide Ranger District. The furnace itself dates to the early 19th century and likely supplied iron ore for munitions during the Civil War. The property is nestled along Rich Patch Mountain and a state road borders the property to enhance access to a large block of National Forest ranging in elevation from 1,000 to 3,000 feet,” said Forest Supervisor Job Timm. “The property has over ten miles of trout streams, 14 springs, and access to 1,000 feet of frontage on Craig’s Creek, a popular fishing and boating area and home to the endangered James spiny mussel. The Hoop Hole National Recreation Trail is adjacent to the property and this acquisition provides opportunities to expand this popular trail system.”