Virginia Natural Area Preserve System

The Virginia Natural Area Preserve System is a system of protected areas in the state of Virginia. It is managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

As of 2016 there were sixty-three dedicated preserves in Virginia, containing examples of some of the rarest natural communities in the state; in addition, many serve as a home for locally, nationally, and globally rare species.[1]

History

In 1986, the Virginia Natural Heritage Program was formed through a cooperative agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and The Nature Conservancy. In 1988 the program was placed under the control of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). To further the Natural Heritage Program's mission to conserve and manage sites identified as significant natural areas within the state, The Virginia Natural Area Preserve System was established in 1989.[2][3]

The system's first preserve, North Landing River Natural Area Preserve, was established in 1990. By 2007, the preserve system included 50 protected areas.[4] As of 2016, 63 Natural Area Preserves were established in Virginia.[1]

Description

The Virginia Natural Area Preserve System is managed as part of the Natural Heritage Program of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, with the purpose of protecting threatened or rare plants, animals, and natural communities.[5]

To become a part of the system, a Natural Area Preserve must be accepted by the director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, although they may be initially dedicated by other departments and agencies of the Commonwealth of Virginia.[6] Natural Area Preserves may be acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia, or may continue to be owned by independent conservation organizations or other private landowners. Dedication itself is similar to a conservation easement, as it places certain legal strictures on future development of a given portion of land.[1]

Access

Most properties are owned by the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation. However, some are owned by local governments, universities, private citizens, and independent conservation organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy.[1]

Many state-owned properties are freely open to the public for low-impact uses, such as hiking and birdwatching. However, some state-owned properties with rare and/or species and habitats require that arrangements be made with a state-employed land steward prior to visitation.

Privately held properties may restrict public access, although sometimes it can be arranged in coordination with a preserve's owner.[7]

Access to any individual Virginia Natural Area Preserve may be temporarily restricted or closed when it is determined as necessary to protect sensitive plant and animal populations within the preserve, for seasonal migration habitat, or for habitat management and ecological restoration activities, such as prescribed burns. Visitor impactful activities, such as camping, hunting, fishing, timber cutting, campfires, vegetation harvesting, and motorized trail vehicles are typically forbidden at all preserves.[1]

List of Virginia Natural Area Preserves

The following table lists Virginia's Natural Area Preserves as of 2016. Those listed as being accessible "by arrangement" require prospective visitors to contact either state-employed land stewards, private property owners, or both.[1]

Preserve name County or
counties[8]
Area[8] Owner[8] Public
access?[8]
Notes
Antioch PinesIsle of Wight1,017 acres (4.12 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Bald KnobFranklin79 acres (0.32 km2)DCRNo
Bethel BeachMathews105 acres (0.42 km2)DCRYes
Big Spring BogGrayson50 acres (0.20 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Blackwater Ecological PreserveIsle of Wight318 acres (1.29 km2)Old Dominion UniversityBy arrangement
Blackwater SandhillsIsle of Wight815 acres (3.30 km2)Isle of Wight CountyNo
Buffalo MountainFloyd1,140 acres (4.6 km2)DCRYes
Bull Run MountainsFaquier,
Prince William
2,486 acres (10.06 km2)Virginia Outdoors FoundationYes
Bush Mill StreamNorthumberland103 acres (0.42 km2)DCRYes
Camp Branch WetlandsFloyd80 acres (0.32 km2)PrivateNo
Cape Charles Coastal HabitatNorthampton29 acres (0.12 km2)DCRYes
The CedarsLee1,797 acres (7.27 km2)DCRBy arrangement
The ChannelsWashington,
Russell
721 acres (2.92 km2)Virginia Department of ForestryYes
Cherry Orchard BogSussex,
Prince George
354 acres (1.43 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Chestnut Creek WetlandsFloyd244 acres (0.99 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Chestnut RidgeGiles233 acres (0.94 km2)PrivateBy arrangement
Chotank CreekKing George1,108 acres (4.48 km2)PrivateNo
Chub SandhillSussex1,066 acres (4.31 km2)DCRYes
Cleveland BarrensRussell1,288 acres (5.21 km2)DCR/The Nature ConservancyBy arrangement
Clover HollowGiles25 acres (0.10 km2)DCRBy permissionAccess permitted only for the purpose of data collection and monitoring.[9]
Cowbane PrairieAugusta63 acres (0.25 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Crawford's KnobNelson1,387 acres (5.61 km2)PrivateBy arrangement
Crow's NestStafford2,872 acres (11.62 km2)Stafford CountyYes
Cypress BridgeSouthampton535 acres (2.17 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Dameron MarshNorthumberland316 acres (1.28 km2)DCRYes
Deep Run PondsRockingham706 acres (2.86 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Dendron SwampSussex636 acres (2.57 km2)DCRBy arrangementContains the 19-acre (7.7 ha) Charles C. Steirly Natural Area, an essentially virgin bald cypress swamp that was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974.[10]
Difficult CreekHalifax819 acres (3.31 km2)DCRYes
Dundas Granite FlatrockBrunswick11 acres (0.045 km2)PrivateBy arrangement
Elklick WoodlandsFairfax226 acres (0.91 km2)Fairfax County Park AuthorityBy arrangement
False CapeVirginia Beach3,573 acres (14.46 km2)DCRYes
Fletcher FordLee54.5 acres (0.221 km2)The Nature ConservancyBy arrangement
Folly Mills Creek FenAugusta29 acres (0.12 km2)PrivateBy arrangement
Goshen PassRockbridge936 acres (3.79 km2)DCRYes
Grafton PondsYork375 acres (1.52 km2)Newport NewsYes
Grassy HillFranklin1,440 acres (5.8 km2)DCRYes
Grayson GladesGrayson31 acres (0.13 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Hickory HollowLancaster254 acres (1.03 km2)Northern Neck Audubon SocietyYes
Hughlett PointNorthumberland204 acres (0.83 km2)DCRYes
Johnsons CreekAlleghany99 acres (0.40 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Magothy BayNorthampton286 acres (1.16 km2)DCRYes
Mark's and Jack's IslandAccomack2,000 acres (8.1 km2)The Nature ConservancyBy arrangement
Mill Creek SpringsMontgomery222 acres (0.90 km2)The Nature ConservancyBy arrangement
Mount Joy PondAugusta274 acres (1.11 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Mutton Hunk FenAccomack516 acres (2.09 km2)DCRYes
Naked MountainNelson278 acres (1.13 km2)PrivateBy arrangement
New Point ComfortMathews105 acres (0.42 km2)The Nature ConservancyYes
North Landing RiverVirginia Beach3,441 acres (13.93 km2)DCRNoAfter a decade of closure due to illegal activities, this preserve was scheduled to re-open for public use in 2016 or 2017.[11]
Northwest RiverChesapeake2,774 acres (11.23 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Ogdens CaveFrederick131 acres (0.53 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Parkers MarshAccomack759 acres (3.07 km2)DCRYes
Parramore IslandAccomack7,000 acres (28 km2)The Nature ConservancyBy arrangementAccess permitted for research or educational purposes only.[12]
Pedlar Hills GladesMontgomery1,036 acres (4.19 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Pickett's HarborNorthampton123 acres (0.50 km2)DCRBy arrangement
PinnacleRussell891 acres (3.61 km2)DCRYes
Poor MountainRoanoke933 acres (3.78 km2)DCRYes
Redrock MountainSmyth640 acres (2.6 km2)DCRBy arrangement
Savage Neck DunesNorthampton298 acres (1.21 km2)DCRYes
Sweet SpringsMontgomery235 acres (0.95 km2)PrivateBy arrangement
South Quay SandhillsSouthampton,
City of Suffolk
3,586 acres (14.51 km2)DCR/The Nature ConservancyBy arrangement
Unthanks CaveLee171 acres (0.69 km2)DCRBy permissionAccess permitted only for the purpose of data collection and monitoring.[13]
Wreck IslandNorthampton1,380 acres (5.6 km2)DCRYes

See also

References

  1. "Natural Area Preserves". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  2. "Virginia DCR - Natural Heritage Program". LandScope America. NatureServe. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  3. "§ 10.1-214. Virginia natural area preserves system established". Code of Virginia. 1989. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  4. Virginia's Natural Area Preserve System (PDF). Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. 2016. p. 16. Retrieved December 15, 2016.
  5. "Natural Area Preserves". LandScope America. NatureServe. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  6. "§ 10.1-213. Dedication of natural area preserves". Code of Virginia. 1989. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  7. Middleton, Leslie (October 6, 2016). "Preserve walks celebrate VA Natural Heritage Program's 30th year". Bay Journal. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  8. Information included in this column is sourced from individual pages listed at: "Natural Area Preserves". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  9. "Clover Hollow Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  10. "Charles C. Steirly Natural Area". National Natural Landmarks. National Park Service. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  11. "North Landing River Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  12. "Parramore Island Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
  13. "Unthanks Cave Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
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