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NVCT Expands Heronry

Over the last two decades, Northern Virginia Conservation Trust has worked closely with Stafford County and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to complete a vision for a connected natural preserve on the Crow’s Nest Peninsula. With the pressure of development growing, the tracts adjacent to the preserve are increasingly vital, not just to the local wildlife but our entire region. This past winter, the project realized another major milestone when NVCT purchased a 113-acre stretch of land adjacent to our existing Great Blue Heron Rookery. 

“Preserving this critical tract is a part of a long-running, coordinated conservation effort between DCR, Stafford County, and NVCT. We are extremely grateful to our partners and the donors who made this project possible,” NVCT Executive Director Alan Rowsome said. “Their support and generosity have allowed us to dream big and make a real impact in this unique and threatened place.”

The majority of the funds necessary to purchase this vital land were raised through the largest fundraising campaign ever undertaken by NVCT. In just under three months, with gifts ranging from $5 to $35,000 - including two private donor matching pledges - residents from across the region made significant personal contributions to ensure that this special place will be protected for all time.

These generous individual gifts were supplemented with a grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation for nearly half of the project costs. A second grant from the Community Foundation for the Rappahannock River Region was also key in making the purchase possible.

"Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve is a crown jewel among Virginia natural areas,” DCR Director Clyde Cristman said. “This addition represents top priorities of Governor Northam’s ConserveVirginia land conservation initiative for both Natural Habitat and Ecosystem Services, and Floodplains and Flooding Resilience. This latest project, and the overall protection of Crow’s Nest, are excellent examples of what can be achieved when partners work toward a common conservation goal.”

This land purchase achieves several goals that NVCT has been working towards, including the creation of a protected buffer around the sensitive heron rookery site. The addition will assure the preservation of foraging habitat for the significant Great Blue Heron population in the preserve and provides them potential future nesting grounds. 

Acquiring this new tract will also safeguard habitat for many other wildlife and plant species by supporting stable populations and providing opportunities for those species to adapt to the changing climate around them. The broader area surrounding the newly conserved property is notable for its preservation of vital natural lands and waters in Stafford County and will play a key role in ensuring water quality for Potomac Creek, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay.

The carbon sequestered on this newly protected site by trees, grasses, and other vegetation helps species adapt to changing weather patterns and provides buffers from floods and other natural disasters. Large natural swaths of land like this property are becoming more and more rare, but because of wonderful partnerships and timely bold action, this 113-acre preserve addition will now be protected in perpetuity for the many plant and animal species that call it home.

Since acquiring the land in February, NVCT has been hard at work with Stafford County and DCR on this property. Signs are being erected that outline the property lines right now. Bird counts for a baseline numbers are being scheduled as well. This will allow the progress of the different species that call this land home to be tracked over time. 

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