To conserve and protect
Biscuit Run grant pushes state past Kaine’s 400K-acre conservation goal
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Gov. Timothy M. Kaine today announced that more than 400,000 acres has been conserved since the first fiscal year of his administration in 2006. Several major acquisitions in Albemarle, King and Queen and Rockbridge counties, along with end-of-the-year easement recordings, helped the Commonwealth meet one of Gov. Kaine’s signature goals. The final total is 424,103 acres.
“This land conservation goal is one that strongly resonated with me personally, and it obviously resonated with other Virginians as well,” Gov. Kaine said. “It was truly a team effort among state agencies, land trusts and private landowners to make this a reality.”
Kaine made his announcement at the new Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center at Monticello near Charlottesville. The center is the first World Heritage site in the United States, and one of only five visitor centers in the country, to earn LEED Gold certification, the second-highest level that can be attained. The Monticello property overlooks the state’s most recent acquisition, the 1,200 acre Biscuit Run property. Acquired December 30, 2009 in a bargain sale, the property is slated to become a Virginia State Park managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The Biscuit Run property is a mix of rolling hills, open fields and woodlands with the stream, Biscuit Run, traversing the property. It is within hiking and bicycling distance of Charlottesville. A public master planning process will be held prior to any development. Once developed, it will become the first state park in this region of Virginia.
As of Nov. 30, the state was almost 15,000 acres short of 400,000. However, 26,234 acres in conservation easements were recorded and several major land acquisitions totaling roughly 9,584 acres were finalized before the end of the year.
“For all of us involved, reaching this goal is something that we will look back on with tremendous pride,” said L. Preston Bryant Jr., Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources. “Gov. Kaine’s vision and passion set the tone for the countless people who worked to make this happen. Future generations will continue to reap the benefit of these actions long after we are gone.”
A number of recent purchases utilized a Virginia Public Building Authority bond for public land acquisition, which was proposed by Gov. Kaine and approved by the General Assembly in 2008. The Commonwealth has used these bond funds to protect large tracts of important conservation lands at several key sites across the state. All of the acreage acquired with bond funds will provide recreational opportunities to the public.
“Virginians expect to be able to explore and enjoy those lands purchased with public funds,” Kaine said. “We have been mindful of the fact that we are stewards of their lands and resources.”
Two of the new acquisitions are state forest projects. More than 5,300 acres were added to the existing Dragon Run State Forest in King and Queen County. A new state forest was established with the purchase of 2,353 acres in Rockbridge County known as Moore’s Creek.
“The purchase of these properties will add significantly to our protected state forestland,” said Robert S. Bloxom, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “It will also ensure that this ecologically important land will never be developed and will be enjoyed by Virginians for generations.” People can boat, hike and observe wildlife in state forests.
Both forestry projects were purchased using the Virginia Public Building Authority bonds. Two acquisition projects still to be completed are also using VPBA bond funding. Initial steps toward protecting these properties have already been taken, but final acquisition of the 4,400 acre Sussex County parcel known as Big Woods and the 4,232 acre Short Hills in Rockbridge and Botetourt counties is still being completed. Short Hills will become a wildlife management area, while about half of Big Woods will become a state forest and the other half will become a wildlife management area.
The final purchase of the year, Biscuit Run, used monies from the 2002 State Parks and Natural Areas General Obligation bond.
In all of the acquisition projects mentioned, agencies were able to use state bond funding to leverage federal or other funding sources to complete the acquisitions.
Kaine announced his goal of conserving 400,000 acres of Virginia lands shortly after taking office in 2006. Results of efforts to reach that goal include the creation of five new state forests, three new state parks, three new wildlife management areas, and 13 natural area preserves. The preservation of open space was a key component of Governor Kaine’s Renew Virginia initiative, a yearlong effort to promote renewable energy, create green jobs, and encouraging preservation of the environment in Virginia.