By Carol Vaughn —
A $400,000 grant awarded to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources will help purchase 789 acres of woodland in Accomack County for migratory bird habitat, fishing, hiking, hunting, and public access.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in June announced $4.8 million in grant awards from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, which will help conserve more than 6,100 acres throughout Virginia.
The 19-member VLCF board approved the awards at its June 10 meeting.
It was the second award made this year for the Eastern Shore Forest Conservation Initiative. DWR in February was awarded $421,875.
Another grant of $292,287 was awarded for the initiative in 2019.
The 789 acres include 10 parcels, including upland pine or mixed hardwoods forest and forested wetlands. Many of the properties are adjacent to or near existing public conservation lands, including Doe Creek Wildlife Management Area near Onancock, and other properties being acquired by DWR or near lands held in conservation easements.
DWR will acquire the property, which includes 692 acres of wetlands and which has been managed as industrial timberland for more than three decades, from Lewis Lumber.
The property “is one of the best opportunities to continue development of a chain of conservation lands in Accomack and Northampton counties” that support goals of conserving priority coastal habitats, including for at-risk species, according to the grant application.
The overall initiative includes acquiring, conserving, and improving more than 8,600 acres of forest in Accomack and Northampton counties, at a total cost of nearly $11 million.
Improving forest quality on the property could double food resources available to migratory birds in the region, according to a project summary.
The Delmarva Peninsula, including Virginia’s Eastern Shore, supports between seven and 10 million birds annually during the fall migration.
Additionally, the acquisitions will expand opportunities for the public for wildlife viewing, hunting, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor recreation, according to DWR.
There are more than 2 million people located within a 60-mile radius of the properties.
DWR properties are open year around for public access unless safety or resource needs dictate otherwise, according to the application.
DWR will collaborate with the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission and the Virginia Tourism Corporation to promote the properties for public access and compatible recreation, according to the application, which said the project is anticipated to be completed within two years.
Other funding includes several DWR funding sources, NFWF Acres for America, NCWC Conservation Grant, National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant, NAWCA, TNC, DU, and The Wildlife Foundation of Virginia.
Additionally, the VLCF board in June approved two awards in Northampton County: $255,549 to the Department of Conservation and Recreation-Natural Heritage Division for acquisition of a 4.5-acre addition to the natural area preserve at Pickett’s Harbor and $142,298 to DCR for a conservation easement on 44 acres at Pickett’s Harbor to protect mature maritime forests adjoining the nature preserve and the largest natural lake known on the Eastern Shore.
The area supports one of the largest concentrations of land birds on the Atlantic coast each fall, according to the announcement.
The projects are among 22 around Virginia that received funding in this round of awards.
“The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grants program uses our groundbreaking ConserveVirginia smart map to help ensure we spend our limited resources wisely on lands with the greatest conservation value,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a press release.
“I am excited to see the variety of projects that will be made possible through this round of grants as we work to preserve these spaces for future generations,” he said.
ConserveVirginia is based on “smart map” technology including drawing information from 21 different mapped inputs.
“Today’s announcement shows once again why the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation is Virginia’s most important land conservation program,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler, adding, “This geographically diverse array of funded projects meets high standards for protection of water quality and other natural resources and enhances equity by providing new public access to Virginia’s great outdoors.”