Enviva Forest Conservation Fund helps protect Virginia ecosystems

By U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities | September 03, 2020

The Virginia Department of Forestry has secured a conservation easement on 618 acres located along the beautiful Meherrin River in Southampton County, Virginia. The property, which includes 269 acres of bottomland hardwood swamp, 259 acres of mixed pine and hardwood working forests, and 90 acres of open land, will be permanently protected by this transaction thanks in part to a grant from the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund. The easement will significantly limit development on the property, which is rich in biodiversity, and will promote sound upland forest management via the implementation of a formal forest management plan.

According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program (DCR-NH), the easement is located in a VDOF Longleaf Pine priority conservation area, with 533 acres of the property located within the Branchville Sand Quarry Conservation site. Additionally, the acreage contains about 1.77 miles of frontage on the Meherrin River. The property’s forest cover, fields, edge areas, and streams provide a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and plant species. In fact, the property is home to a rare plant, the crowfoot sedge, that lives within this unique “Coastal Plain Bottomland Forest.” Through the easement, this critical natural habitat will be permanently preserved and continuously enhanced.

“The conservation of this property will help support wildlife and fish populations in the local ecosystem, which is mostly in a natural, undeveloped state. With a working forest conservation easement in place, it will continue to contribute to healthy watersheds, wildlife habitat, rare species preservation, and ecosystem restoration while supporting the local economy,” said Rob Farrell, Virginia’s State Forester. “We are grateful to Enviva, not only for their contribution to the preservation of this property but for their support of several other important conservation projects in the area.”

“Congratulations to the Virginia Department of Forestry on this important acquisition,” said Carlton Owen, CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. “The conservation easement that will preserve this property will allow both management of the forest on a sustainable basis and the protection of areas that are critical to the health and future of species habitat as well as the watershed’s contribution of clean water to the surrounding community.”

“We’re proud to partner with Virginia Department of Forestry to help conserve this forestland, which contains both bottomland hardwood and upland pine forests,” said John Keppler, chairman and CEO of Enviva. “Since the inception of our Forest Conservation Fund, Enviva has helped conserve more than 4,200 acres of ecologically sensitive forests in Virginia. This is the third conservation project we’ve helped fund on the Meherrin River and we are pleased it will help accomplish conservation priorities of the Virginia Department of Forestry as well as the Department of Conservation and Recreation.”

The Fund’s goal is to be a catalyst for investments in forest and habitat conservation in southeast Virginia and North Carolina’s coastal plain. As the fund enters its fifth year of the planned 10-year partnership, 20 projects have been funded with a total commitment of over $2.4 million, including the transaction announced today. When these projects are completed, the Fund will have helped protect an estimated 27,500 acres of sensitive wetland forests and other habitats.