RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced $5.89 million in Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grants.
He said the grants will fund a total of 19 conservation projects and protect more than 17,000 acres of land across the Commonwealth. They will be used by private land trusts, local governments, and state agencies to acquire and project significant lands in the following categories: farmland, forestry, historic resources, natural areas, and parks and open space.
“These 17,000 acres of newly-conserved lands will generate tremendous benefits for the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “We are protecting our precious natural resources, building resilience to climate change, and ensuring Virginia remains a great place to live, work, and visit.”
The board is made up of 19 members that are appointed by the governor, the Senate Committee on Rules, and the speaker of the House of Delegates.
The grant applications were reviewed and scored by an interagency workgroup that recommended projects to the board, which approved the awards on Nov. 22. The scoring criteria aligns with the ConserveVirginia, a new data-driven land conservation initiative.
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Here's a breakdown of local areas that received a grant:
Eastern Shore Forest Conservation Initiative in Accomack & Northampton counties: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries received $292,287. DGIF seeks a grant to assist in acquiring, conserving and improving forestland through its Eastern Shore Forest Conservation initiative. This proposed multi-tract fee-simple acquisition presents outstanding opportunities to expand existing Wildlife Management Areas, facilitate natural marsh migration, support coastal resiliency, provide new public lands for wildlife-related recreation, and improve habitat for migratory birds and species of greatest conservation need in an area of hemispheric importance.
Piney Grove Vernal Pools in Sussex County: The Nature Conservancy received $367,000. TNC hopes to acquire 350 acres of forestland and grant an open-space easement over 115 acres of adjacent land on TNC’s Piney Grove Preserve to DCR to establish a new, 465-acre state natural area preserve. TNC’s Piney Grove Preserve comprises one of the largest blocks of fire-maintained southern pine savanna in Virginia and supports one of just two breeding populations of the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in the state. TNC and state conservation agency partners will restore pine savanna habitat on the tract to facilitate growth of the red-cockaded woodpecker population in support of range-wide recovery efforts for the species. This acquisition will ensure permanent protection of four vernal pools on the tract that support populations of several state-rare amphibian species.
Cypress Bridge Swamp Natural Area Preserve Addition in Southampton County: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation received $52,000. This project proposes acquisition of 18 acres to be added to the Cypress Bridge Swamp Natural Area Preserve. The tract falls within four categories of ConserveVirginia. The project and preserve are located in one of Virginia’s essential conservation sites, encompassing five different natural heritage resources deemed critical for biodiversity conservation in Virginia, including one irreplaceable element found nowhere else in the Commonwealth. The parcel is a key inholding at the preserve.
Blackwater River Park and South Quay Natural Area Preserve in the City of Suffolk. City of Suffolk Parks and Rec received $400,000.The city proposes to acquire an undeveloped 338-acre property adjacent to the Blackwater River. The property is also adjacent to South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve. Upon acquisition, the city intends to subdivide the property and transfer approximately 200 acres to DCR to expand the preserve. The city intends to develop the remaining 138 acres into a public park with paddle craft access to the Blackwater River.
Gateway to Cape Charles Public Access in Northampton County: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation received $237,888. This proposal is to support the purchase of land and existing improvements to provide permanent public access to a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk within the town of Cape Charles in Northampton County. An existing parking area and entrance trail, including several hundred feet of boardwalk, was constructed prior to the establishment of the Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve. These amenities have become a well-used visitor entrance, associated by the public with DCR, even though they are on private land. The land supporting these improvements, which directly adjoins the preserve, has been listed for sale, making protection of the site urgent. Federal funds were used for boardwalk construction, and federal matching funds will provide 50% of the estimated cost of this project. The 16-acre property would be added to the preserve, where visitors walk through one of the few remaining examples of globally rare maritime forest.