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Dragon Run State Forest expands

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On May 21, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) added 2,400 acres to the Dragon Run State Forest, which now totals 4,188 acres. The state forest is near Shanghai in King and Queen County. A total of 8,200 acres in the Dragon Run watershed have now been put into conservation by TNC. Above, Governor Tim Kaine (right) accepts the key to the forest from Michael Wolf of Hancock Timber Resource Group of North Carolina, who has partnered with TNC to conserve 6,700 acres near Dragon Run. Joining them are state forester Carl Garrison III (left) and Michael Lipford, the TNC Virginia director and vice president. To see a Dragon Run Forest map, visit SSentinel.com. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

Standing in the Dragon Run State Forest in King and Queen County on May 21, Governor Timothy M. Kaine announced that Virginia and The Nature Conservancy have purchased 4,188 acres of “environmentally extraordinary land” within the Dragon Run watershed from the Hancock Timber Resource Group.

The Dragon Run State Forest is about 3 miles east of Route 14, near Shanghai and King and Queen Elementary School.

This purchase brings the total land conservation under Governor Kaine to 335,000 acres, well on pace to meet his goal of preserving 400,000 acres during his term.

“The purchase of this property will add significantly to our protected state forest land,” said Governor Kaine. “It will also ensure that this ecologically important land will never be developed and will be enjoyed by Virginians for generations.”

The Commonwealth’s investment comes through a Virginia Public Building Authority bond for public land acquisition approved by the General Assembly in 2008. The Commonwealth will use 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.

Dubbed the “second most ecologically important watershed in the Chesapeake Bay” by the Smithsonian Institution, Dragon Run includes the northern-most tidal bald cypress swamp community on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Ninety bird species, such as bald eagles and prothonotary warblers, are found in the area, along with 55 species of fish. The waters provide vital nurseries for perch, rockfish, and alewives, which are important for Chesapeake commercial fishermen and sportsmen.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) originally purchased 4,188 acres from Hancock Timber Resource Group in November 2008. Of that, 2,411 acres are being acquired by the Virginia Department of Forestry with bond funds and added to Dragon Run State Forest. The state forest is used to demonstrate forest management that promotes sustainable forestry, contributes to the local economy, and promotes healthy wildlife habitat.

Michael Lipford, director of TNC, said, “The Dragon Run watershed is one of the few watersheds in eastern Virginia that remains primarily undeveloped, rural forest land.  This partnership between Hancock Timber Resource Group, the Commonwealth of Virginia and TNC represents our shared interest in conserving the ecology and traditional industries this special place supports.”
“It is important to recognize that this project will produce benefits far from the site itself,” Lipford said. “By protecting large forest tracts in the Dragon Run watershed, we are also helping to protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.  Just downstream, the Conservancy is restoring native oyster reefs in the Piankatank River, and the protection of this watershed enhances those efforts.”

Mike Wolf, director of North American Forest Operations at Hancock Timber Resource Group, said, “The Hancock Timber Resource Group, the Commonwealth of Virginia and TNC have a long history of working together to protect environmentally sensitive land. We are very pleased to be able to work with TNC and the Department of Forestry to once again protect more land in the Dragon Run watershed.”

This is the most recent transaction between Hancock Timber Resource Group and TNC in the Dragon Run watershed. With this purchase, a total of 6,700 acres of Hancock land have been conserved in this area.

In April 2008, The Virginia Department of Forestry created the Dragon Run State Forest, a 1,811-acre property in King and Queen County, which borders a major tributary to the Dragon Swamp, which feeds into the Piankatank River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

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posted 05.27.2009

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