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spectr17
09-18-2007, 05:44 PM
Governor Announces Acquisition Of State's 50th Natural Area Preserve

9/17/07

Richmond, Virginia - Governor Timothy M. Kaine today announced that a 244-acre site in Floyd County has become the Commonwealth's fiftieth Virginia Natural Area Preserve. Chestnut Creek Wetland Natural Area Preserve, acquired by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, increases the preserve system to 42,295 acres protecting 317 different rare species and natural communities.

"These areas preserve habitat for rare and endangered species, and this acquisition is a direct result of the overwhelming voter approval of the 2002 general obligation bond package," Governor Kaine said. "In many ways, the natural area preserve system represents the highest and most valuable form of land conservation in the Commonwealth."

Natural area preserves are lands known to contain rare and endangered species or significant natural communities. The Chestnut Creek Wetland preserve supports two extremely rare species - a Bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) and a Mitchell's satyr butterfly (Neonympha mitchellii) - along its wetlands and small streams. Both are listed as "globally rare," meaning they are found in fewer than 100 sites worldwide.

Chestnut Creek Wetland Natural Area Preserve was purchased using funds from the 2002 State Parks and Natural Areas General Obligation Bonds and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant received with cooperation from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The 2002 and 1992 general obligation bonds have been the major funding source for the acquisition of the state's natural area preserves. The 1992 bonds provided nearly $11 million and the 2002 bond $13.2 million for preserve acquisition. The 1992 bonds led to the acquisition of 16 new preserves and added acreage to nine existing ones. To date, the 2002 bonds have led to four acquisitions leveraging $2.35 million. DCR is actively pursuing additional acquisitions using 2002 bond funds.

"DCR's natural heritage staff have identified more than 1,800 sites across the state that contain one or more rare species or significant communities," said DCR Director Joseph H. Maroon. "Only the upper tier sites warrant protection through state acquisition and management. Natural heritage staff has been extremely diligent in acquiring and actively managing these most sensitive sites. We greatly appreciate all of the landowners and organizations who have worked with us over the past 20 years to protect these special places."

Virginia's fiftieth natural area preserve comes 17 years after the first preserve was acquired in 1990. The 3,440-acre North Landing River Natural Area Preserve in Virginia Beach was the first. Of the 50 sites, 36 are owned and managed by DCR. Other state agencies, local governments, nonprofits or private landowners own the remaining 14.

"There is much more to managing these preserves than just watching trees grow," said Tom Smith, DCR's natural heritage director. "Many sites require very active management to maintain optimal conditions for the species and natural communities the site supports. Working with the public and law enforcement are major parts of the management mix demanding significant amounts of time and resources."

Natural area preserves are accessible to the public at some level. Nineteen sites have parking areas, trails, interpretive signs or wildlife observation platforms to promote nature and wildlife observation. Due to resource limitations and staffing shortages some are closed and only accessible during special guided hikes or for schools or other groups through appointment with regional natural heritage staff. DCR is working with the state Board of Conservation and Recreation on a plan to provide more public use at certain preserves.

For more information on the Virginia Natural Area Preserve system and the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, go to DCR's website at www.dcr.virginia.gov (http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/) and click on "Natural Heritage."

Media Contact:
Kevin Hall (804) 225-4260 Cell (804) 393-9406 or Gary Waugh/DCR (804) 786-5045 Cell (804) 840-3927