75 Acres Added to Rappahannock River Valley NWR (VA)

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced today the protection of 75 acres as part of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, using funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, secured by the Virginia Congressional delegation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and from the Virginia Aquatic Restoration Trust Fund.

Located in Essex County along the Rappahannock River, the Laneview property contains a diverse mixture of tidal marsh, freshwater wetlands, upland forest, and open fields. The tract is in the Jones Point Marshes focus area of the refuge.

“I am pleased to see the addition of this property to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge,” said U.S. Senator John Warner. “The acquisition will protect these valuable lands, provide habitat for numerous species, and enhance the overall quality of the refuge.”

“The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge is instrumental in protecting Virginia’s abundant and diverse wildlife,” said U.S. Senator Jim Webb. “The inclusion of 75 acres in Essex County will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to restore this important habitat in addition to the fourteen refuges already designated throughout Virginia. I will continue to support this initiative in Virginia, and I applaud The Trust for Public Land and their conservation partners for working with local communities and landowners to advance wildlife refuges.”

“The Rappahannock River Valley is host to a broad spectrum of native plant and animal life including four threatened or endangered species and the largest wintering roost for bald eagles in the state,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. I have been pleased through the appropriations process to support the Fish and Wildlife Service’s expansion of the original refuge. These habitats are not only scenic and a joy to visit; but a key nesting ground for migratory birds on the Atlantic Flyway. Thanks in large part to The Trust for Public Land’s tireless advocacy; the Rappahannock Refuge will be further enhanced with the inclusion of these 75 acres of pristine land.”

U.S. Representative Jo Ann Davis, who died on October 6, had been a longtime supporter of conservation efforts along the Rappahannock River, and strongly supported this project.

The purchase of a conservation easement on these 75 acres owned by the Rose family is the first phase of a broader effort. The refuge now aims to protect an additional 90 acres owned by the family with a permanent conservation easement that would help protect important habitat areas on the property while the landowners retain ownership and could continue traditional uses of the property. Funding to complete the purchase of a conservation easement on the second phase was included in the House Interior Appropriations Bill through the efforts of the late Rep. Davis. These funds are now pending in Congress.

“The Rappahannock Refuge draws both wildlife and visitors and the protection of this land is an important step in the conservation of this important area,” said Lynda Frost, program manager for The Trust for Public Land. “We are pleased to have played a part in this effort and are extremely grateful to the Virginia congressional delegation and the many partners who helped make this possible.”

Thousands of waterfowl winter in the Rappahannock River corridor adjacent to the Laneview property, including high priority species such as canvasback and scaup. The upland forest and wooded swamp on the property serve as habitat for other migratory bird species of concern including the Louisiana waterthrush, yellow-billed cuckoo, and wood thrush. Osprey nest on a platform along the property’s shoreline and there are several bald eagle nests near the property. Wild turkeys nest in the open fields, which also provide foraging habitat for many bird species such as the prairie warbler. Conserving the property in perpetuity through an easement will significantly increase shoreline protection along the Rappahannock River while enhancing the refuge’s ability to manage lands with significant habitat.

“We are grateful to the Rose family for making the important decision to conserve this property for present and future generations,” said Joseph McCauley, refuge manager. “The steep wooded ravines and wetlands of this tract provide outstanding habitat for several species of migratory birds. With Phase I completed, we are now hard at work to secure funds to complete an easement purchase on the remaining 90 acres.”

The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1996. The goal of the refuge is to protect 20,000 acres of wetlands and associated uplands along the river and its major tributaries. To date, including the latest purchase of a conservation easement on 75 acres, a total of 7,786 acres have been protected as part of the refuge. For more information visit www.fws.gov/northeast/rappahannock.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.2 million acres nationwide, including more than 16,000 acres in Virginia. TPL helped establish the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge and has protected seven properties totaling 4,150 acres to date.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices, and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.