Working with fire | Conservation Connection | A growing trend | IMBA blazing new trails | Chippokes expands | Trails conference | Salavati named local assistance director | Troop 1188 sees merit | Two new preserves | Mark your calendar
A wall of flame three feet high creeps across the forest floor, blackening tree trunks and steadily devouring the accumulated pine needles, fallen leaves and limbs. In its wake, the singed shoots of young longleaf pines protrude from the blackened earth. For Darren Loomis, they are symbols of hope. He knows they will recover quickly and grow to maturity in a forest more like that of their ancestors.
As DCR's southeast region steward, Loomis oversees the more than 1,000-acre Zuni Pine Barrens. The protected area includes both Antioch Pines Natural Area Preserve and the adjacent Blackwater Ecological Preserve, which is owned by Old Dominion University but managed in partnership with DCR's Natural Heritage Program. And though it may seem counterintuitive, simulated wildfire is bringing new life to these pine and scrub oak sandhills.
"There's an orchid called pale grass-pink that hadn't been seen in Virginia for half a century. But about three years ago, after burning regularly, a little plant popped up," explains Loomis. "Last year's count was 39." Other plants rarely found in the Commonwealth have regained a foothold in the preserves as well. The white fringed orchid can now be found in three places, blooming in big, bright clusters. A single, unusually large specimen of southern purple pitcher plant sat idle for years but finally produced seedlings when the surrounding brush was removed.
An overabundance of woody vegetation in the understory keeps sunlight from filtering down to smaller plants. Historically, low-intensity natural fires swept through the forest, consuming such thick undergrowth but sparing taller trees. In fact, the longleaf pine forests that once covered much of the southeastern United States were home to numerous fire-adapted plants, which relied on wildfire to trigger regeneration and kill off competitors.
Early English explorers found open forests in southeastern Virginia, with longleaf pines towering over a carpet of grasses and wildflowers. Some Native American tribes even set fires to eliminate brush and improve hunting prospects. These forerunners of today's prescribed burns improved growing conditions for wild blueberries and huckleberries and enhanced the habitat of wild turkeys, bobwhite quail and other wildlife.
Colonists gathered the resinous longleaf pine gum for turpentine, pitch, tar and rosin by "boxing," which entailed gouging cavities in the tree trunks. Pitch and tar were essential for sealing ship hulls and tar was an indispensable lubricant for wagon axles prior to the advent of petroleum-based products in the mid-1800s. At Zuni, a solitary stump, almost three feet in diameter, still shows the scars of boxing, which frequently killed mature trees. Longleafs failed to regenerate largely because their seedlings were rooted up by free-ranging hogs.
Longleaf pine forests were nearly eliminated from Virginia by 1850, though botanists documented many smaller fire-dependent plants well into the 1930s, when vast roadless areas in southeastern Virginia still saw wildfire. Today, agriculture, loblolly pines, and development have replaced nearly all of the state's longleaf pine forests, and fire suppression has significantly altered those that remain. Only about 200 individual longleaf pine trees remain in scattered locations within four Virginia counties.
To help restore southeastern Virginia pine communities to their natural state, prescribed burning was introduced at Zuni Pine Barrens in the mid-1980s, and DCR began using fire as a regular management tool in the mid-1990s. "Preserves are divided into burn units," explains Rick Myers, stewardship program manager for DCR's Natural Heritage Program. "At Blackwater Ecological Preserve, we have seven units defined, averaging about 50 acres each, and we're trying to burn each one every two to three years. We burn out there at least two to three times a year, usually in the spring. That's the period of year when historically fire would happen through lightning strikes."
But performing a prescribed burn is a logistical feat. A specific plan must be drafted for each unit, detailing the proper wind and weather conditions under which a burn should take place. When conditions are right, a crew must be amassed and equipped with hand-held drip torches, portable water pumps and wildland fire engines. Nearby landowners are notified, though DCR has received no complaints from the preserve's neighbors.
"Planning and preparation take the most amount of time," says Myers. "Burning itself goes relatively quickly."
Because every precaution is taken to maintain control of the blaze, burns average three to four hours. That can be a long, hot time in the required protective clothing. Fire breaks, often dirt roads, define each unit to ensure that a fire never leaps out of control. Crew members stationed along these borders monitor the fire. Others light low-intensity fires within the forest, beginning near a fire break and moving against the wind. The wind pushes the fire a short distance before it runs out of fuel, then the crew lights the next band of underbrush.
Each burn reduces the risks associated with the next by consuming years of accumulated debris. Fire moves more quickly through a previously burned unit but with less intensity and height.
"Fire begets fire," as Loomis puts it. "Plants that are adapted to fire are typically flammable themselves because they need regular fire to clear out the competition."
However, full recovery takes decades. "I expect 20 years from now we'll be getting toward our goals," speculated Loomis. "You'll see a lot more herbaceous plants. Right now we have a lot of woody stuff. I look forward to coming back in 20 years, even 50 years."
In the meantime, as fire continues to reshape and restore the forest, more rare plants will take root. Loomis already has his eye on the next candidate: "There's a lily undescribed to science-but they know it exists-that is believed to be living in a part of Blackwater Preserve. We burned over that unit this year, and that can often stimulate it to flower. So I've identified a cluster of lilies, and now I'm just waiting for them to bloom."
Wholly Owned Subsidiary
In several recent speeches, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. referenced a statement by former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson: "The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment." That thought-provoking notion has major implications for DCR, where our mission is both to conserve Virginia's natural and recreational resources and to promote their wise usage.
Over the years, our state park system has grown to include 34 parks that provide access to some of the Commonwealth's most outstanding landscapes. We continue to develop facilities that complement and enhance the historic, cultural and natural resources visitors come to enjoy. Doing so, we pump money into local economies via the construction sector and create new openings for park staff and seasonal workers. The long-term economic contribution of our parks, particularly those in rural areas, is even more significant. Seven million state park visitors who come to camp, fish, hike and bike also provide more than $150 million to Virginia's economy annually. Visitors spend tourist dollars at nearby shops and restaurants; about 40 percent bring their money from outside the state. This phenomenon was carefully quantified in a study by DCR and the U.S. Forest Service. The study credited New River Trail State Park's blueway with an annual economic impact in Southwest Virginia greater than $2 million. Richmond firm Chimura Ecomonics and Analytics projects a similar impact in Southside Virginia of almost $2 million for the to-be-built High Bride Rail-Trail State Park.
But DCR's contribution to Virginia's economy doesn't stop with state parks. As the state's lead agency in its efforts to address nonpoint source pollution, DCR has an important role to play in safeguarding the Commonwealth's land and water quality. By promoting better site design and low-impact development and through our stormwater management and erosion and sediment control programs, DCR is addressing the runoff from streets and parking lots that often threatens the quality of our streams and rivers. This is turn helps Virginia remain an attractive location for families and businesses.
DCR is also engaging homeowners and lawn care companies, who are being asked to do their part. Under the moniker "the Chesapeake Club," DCR recently worked with the EPA and our Bay partners to spearhead a high profile advertising campaign urging Northern Virginians to forgo lawn fertilizer until autumn. The campaign's nontraditional message appeals to homeowner's appetites: "The lunch you save may be your own." The partnership also took the novel step of involving private lawn care firms that offer Bay-friendly services. And by focusing on crabs-or rather, crabcakes-the campaign touches on a larger economic issue: an entire industry suffering because of degraded waters. Secretary Murphy points out that just 20 years ago there were 200 oyster shucking houses and 75 crab picking houses in Virginia. Today there remain only 20 and 10, respectively.
Farm runoff remains a major concern for the Bay cleanup, and it is imperative that we work with farmers to develop conservation practices that are good for the environment and their bottom line. DCR's Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program provide vital assistance to farmers. And by helping farmers implement conservation practices, we almost invariably help them operate more efficiently. DCR programs give farmers the tools to apply fertilizer more efficiently, provide reliable water sources for livestock and pay rent on buffers. The Staunton News-Leader recently profiled a Shenandoah Valley farmer who extolled the virtues of state and federal cost-share programs and CREP, crediting them with improving both water quality and the health of his livestock.
At one time, our agency was called the Department of Conservation and Economic Development. The change was driven by more than just semantics. There are times when economic and natural resource priorities are not the same. Nevertheless, we continue to recognize that the two are interwoven and interdependent. Virginia's economy will suffer if we fail to protect the environment and conserve our cultural, historic and recreational resources.
Anne and John Olsen's Northumberland County home overlooks Barrett's Creek, a tributary of the wide and winding Great Wicomico River. And nestled between the house and the pine-studded shoreline, Olsen cultivates a garden of immense variety. Pea gravel pathways meander past blueflag irises, oakleaf hydrangeas and pink-blossomed mountain laurel to open on the scenic inlet below.
Not everyone enjoys a Bay view right out their back door, but for more than half of all Virginians, the Bay begins in the back yard-whether they can see it or not. The waves lapping the Chesapeake shore start as raindrops. They trickle across lawns into gurgling brooks, eventually flowing into the wide, tidal rivers that feed the Bay. Unfortunately, such runoff often carries with it excess fertilizer and sediment from eroding riverbanks.
"You want to encourage all the life in your soil and use organic chemicals," advises Anne, "You don't want things washing into the Bay. You're going to be eating the fish. You're going to be eating the crabs... And whatever you put on your plants here is going to end up there without any doubt."
Anne is among a growing number of Virginians who embrace a Bay-friendly approach to lawn care, replacing some or all of their grass with hardier native perennials. Sometimes motivated by environmental concerns, sometimes unnerved by unsightly or dangerous erosion, and sometimes prompted by local ordinances that require buffers, these Virginia homeowners find Bay-friendly landscaping an attractive, low-maintenance alternative.
For those who enjoy prime waterfront real estate, shoreline buffers of trees and shrubs are often required by law. These buffers are a cost-effective way to filter pollution from rainwater runoff. Consequently, most of the 84 towns, cities and counties covered by the Commonwealth's Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act now require that new developments leave them intact. And although the vegetation may screen sweeping water vistas, it keeps some of Virginia's most coveted land from eroding into the Bay.
In planning their yard, the Olsen's thinned the woods surrounding their home, leaving select trees and shrubs. By pruning the shrubs, Anne has shaped them to allow views of the water along the garden path. Beneath them she planted beds of flowers and smaller plants, consciously varying the colors and blooming seasons. The garden serves to bridge the human and natural worlds, lending the home a sense of place.
On a recent May weekend, the Olsen's hosted some 100 guests as part of a Northern Neck garden tour. Many were homeowners looking for ideas and advice.
"What I most like to emphasize to people," says Anne, "is not to rush into things. To find out what other people have done in the same situation, go on garden tours, visit the Master Gardeners, go online." She urges aspiring gardeners to "think native and find out what you've already got on your property before you start tearing it out."
Because they are adapted to Virginia's soil and climate, native plants can thrive with minimal fertilizer and watering. Bird-watchers also find that the seeds of native perennials such as serviceberry and winterberry draw migratory songbirds as reliably as a feeder-and are not ransacked by squirrels. Anne is particularly glad to have kept the highbush blueberry shrubs that dot her garden. The native bush thrives along sunny stream banks and turns a brilliant red each autumn.
Mountain laurel clings to well-drained riverbanks, and the proud owner of new waterfront estate may well find the prolific shrub already growing in the backyard. Most regard its blossoms as a harbinger of summer, but the evergreen also provides wintering wildlife with valuable nesting cover. A relative, swamp azalea, prefers wet soil.
Wildflower plantings are another attractive way to link the shrubs and trees of a riparian buffer with a modest grassy lawn. Among the showiest indigenous flowers are bufferfly weed and Turk's cap lily. The latter is largest member of the lily family and known to attract hummingbirds.
One of the cardinal rules of Bay-friendly landscaping is that it be site-specific and site-sensitive. Landscapers often begin by testing the soil's moisture and pH, then select plants suited to the environment. Once in place, a Bay-friendly lawn requires less mowing and will spring back into bloom each year. And by absorbing and filtering runoff, these attractive, natural spaces help safeguard the fragile Chesapeake ecosystem.
For more information on Bay-friendly landscaping: www.nps.gov/plants/pubs/chesapeake/toc.htm
For more information on Virginia Cooperative Extension's Master Gardeners: www.vmga.net
For more information on DCR and Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance: www.dcr.virginia.gov
Trudging down a forest road in Pocahontas State Park, Rich Edwards looked right at home in his drab green work clothes and leather gloves. The International Mountain Bike Association's trails specialist, Edwards has traveled throughout North America instructing volunteers and park staff in sustainable trail development.
The day before, however, he was shaking hands with DCR Director Joseph Maroon before an audience of trail advocates in Richmond. The pair signed a memorandum of understanding that Maroon called "an important step in formalizing the already fruitful partnership between DCR and IMBA." The agreement affirms DCR's support for mountain bike use throughout the state park system and ensures continued help from IMBA trail crews.
"Since the MOU was announced yesterday morning, I've had two or three requests for copies from various county agencies," said Edwards. "It sets an excellent precedent." In fact, the National Park Service inked a similar deal with IMBA on the heels of DCR, which may mean even more trails for Virginia mountain bikers in the years ahead.
But the trails don't build themselves. That's why a diverse group-including state parks staff, local professionals and volunteers-attended Edwards's workshop on mechanized trail building. Following a classroom session and the chance to test drive machinery in an open field, Edwards led his brightly clad band of neophytes to a remote corner of the park for a hands-on lesson.
"Being a planner, I don't know much about equipment, so this is real enlightening," said Mike Kelly, who works for the City of Suffolk. "It's interesting to see what kind of equipment they use for trail building. That's going to be very important when we're trying to figure out how to get the work done."
Scott Allison is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts chapter based in Richmond. "The whole idea, being a M.O.R.E. member, is to expand on my hand-building techniques," he explained. "We have more opportunities coming up in larger parks, and hopefully I'll get the opportunity to use mechanized equipment to speed up the process."
Wielding spades and rakes, the participants were eager to help reroute the Old Mill Trail but sheepish when it came to maneuvering a two-ton traildozer through the hillside tree trunks. Edwards began the process, cutting a level path into the hillside using a compact piece of heavy machinery with an excavating arm. He took care to avoid the roots of a nearby white oak and keep disturbed soil out of the creek below.
IMBA actively promotes respect for natural resources, knowing that increased access for mountain bikers depends on a record of stewardship. Contemporary trail building focuses on erosion control both to preserve the trailbed and to keep sediment out of streams. "When it's raining, go out on a trail and you can really see what happens- and what can go wrong if you don't build it right," added Allison, who learned the basics of trail design at a prior IMBA workshop.
IMBA's network of volunteers who have undergone standardized training programs makes the group an appealing partner for Virginia State Parks. "Mountain bikers can definitely offer a lot in terms of trail knowledge and volunteer services," said Edwards. "State parks own some of the nicest land in the state and nicely managed facilities, specifically land that also has cabins and lodges."
"People don't ride my section of the national forest - I live in Harrisonburg - even though it's closer to D.C. Everybody drives to Douthat because they can get a cabin and ride two big loops that are all single-track."
The acquisition of neighboring Walnut Valley Farm expanded Chippokes Plantation State Park by 363 acres, or almost 20 percent, and it didn't cost a dime. Instead, like Chippokes Plantation before it, the farm was a gift to the Commonwealth.
Mrs. Lucy Reasor of Virginia Beach donated the land in memory of her late husband Woodrow, specifying only that Ray Mitchell, whose family has farmed the land for more than a century, retain tenancy rights for life. Now 75, Mitchell was born in the farmhouse. And though he no longer resides there, he still farms the adjacent fields.
Weathered outbuildings with rusted roofs stood guard over a bright green expanse of young wheat stalks on the sunny April afternoon when dignitaries and friends of the park gathered to dedicate the property. The 18th-century farmhouse, open to guests, was brightened with a fresh coat of paint-just the start of restoration and archeological work that will be done on the site.
Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. told those in attendance, "Land donations have been an important part of the development of our dynamic Virginia State Park system since its very inception. But I would argue that they are more important now than at any other time in our history... we will develop more land in the next 40 years than we have in the last 400."
Chippokes Plantation State Park originated as a gift from Evelyn Stewart in memory of her husband Victor. The donation stipulated that it remain an active farm, as it has since 1619. The park also houses the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum to help interpret the site as a cultural and historic resource and has preserved the antebellum Jones-Stewart mansion for tours.
However, the acquisition of Walnut Valley Farm, with its circa 1785 farmhouse and slave quarters, adds a dimension to the park's historic offerings. "We have three centuries and three historic farms," explained Park Manager Danette Poole. The new parcel also extends the park's borders to Bacon's Castle, a rare Jacobean brick home built in 1665.
Speaking at the farm's dedication, State Senator Harry Blevins recounted the story of Nathaniel Bacon, who commandeered the home during his 1676 rebellion against British authorities. Blevins said he hopes events surrounding Jamestown's 400th anniversary in 2007 will also bring attention to historic resources in Surry County just across the James.
Also speaking were Sen. Fred Quayle and Del. William Barlow, who serve as chair and vice chair of the Chippokes Foundation Board, respectively. Representing DCR were Director Joseph Maroon and State Parks Director Joe Elton. Eric Anderson, a friend and former coworker of the late Woodrow Reasor, spoke of the former owner's affection for the property, recalling that it took a leap of faith to purchase the farm in 1974.
Though restoration work to be done at Walnut Valley will take months, Poole and her staff plan to open the farm to visitors by expanding the park's trail network. The structures' end use is yet to be determined but may include a combination of interpretive exhibits and meeting space.
During the first four days of May, friends of Virginia's land and water trails convened in Richmond for the 2005 Governor's Conference on Greenways, Blueways and Trails. The conference took a holistic approach to trails, addressing their role in city planning and public health, as well as conservation.
Guided by the theme "Building Active Communities," educational sessions addressed pathways of every sort, with a focus on neighborhood trails. Hands-on workshops used the capital as an outdoor classroom, studying interpretive signage along the Manchester Slave Trail and evaluating pedestrian access at Patrick Henry Elementary.
Participants also enjoyed paddling at Chesterfield's Dutch Gap Conservation Area, mountain biking in Richmond's James River Park, and networking over barbeque at historic Tredegar Iron Works.
"It gave me a good opportunity to make contacts," said John Lassiter, a town planner from Culpeper who arrived with hopes for funding a municipal trail network. "We have waterways that go all through Culpeper, and we have wide floodplains. It would be great if they had some trails in them."
The diversity of the agenda reflected that of the conference planners. DCR led a team of sponsors that included Virginia's departments of transportation, health and forestry, as well as nonprofits like BikeWalk Virginia and the Sierra Club.
Monday's keynote speaker Herbert Dreiseitl, a German landscape architect with an international portfolio, inspired participants by showcasing designs that incorporate natural water features into public spaces. "Water is the element that is always connecting," he said. "We have to make cities more beautiful, more pretty, to reconnect people to nature."
MIT professor Anne Spirn likewise advocated the use of urban green space for stormwater management, recreation and economic development. She gave participants the practical advice: "See the whole, and build it part by part."
On Tuesday, Marla Hollander of Active Living Leadership and Paul Zykofsky of the Center for Livable Communities made the case for walkable neighborhoods as a public health investment, citing increases in obesity and related disease among sedentary suburbanites. Charles Flink of Greenways Inc. then delivered a charge to attendees, urging them to press for a statewide greenway task force.
Two free community events were held to coincide with the event: On Saturday, April 30, pedestrians and cyclists followed designated routes to Brown's Island for The Mayor's Walk and Roll Richmond, and on Tuesday, May 3, the Sierra Club hosted its Metropolitan Richmond Greenways Workshop, led by Charles Flink.
Study quantifies economic impact of three Virginia trails
In addition to the usual flyers, maps and giveaways, attendees at the 2005 Governor's confererence on Greenways, Blueways and Trails each received a recently published study on the economic impact of trails. Researchers at the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Georgia conducted the study with help from DCR.
Eager to sell their local governments on long-distance trails, advocates and planners crammed into a meeting room to hear Michael Bowker of the Forest Service explain the results. "These are, I think, conservative values," he said of the findings.
Based on extensive user surveys, the study determined per capita spending for users of the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Washington & Old Dominion Rail-Trail, and New River Trail State Park's blueway.
On average, out-of-town day users of the Virginia Creeper Trail spend $17 in the vicinity, and overnight users spend $82. Some 47 percent of the trail's 130,000 annual visitors are non-locals. "The people on the Creeper," said Bowker, "are there because they're on the Creeper."
Using a formula outlined in the study, Bowker and his colleagues translated that spending into a $1.58 million annual economic impact to Washington and Grayson counties. The suburban W. & O. D., by contrast, draws few overnighters. But its popularity with day-tripping residents of the greater Washington, D.C., area accounts for a $1.8 million annual economic impact to Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
The expenditure of paddlers who canoe or kayak the New River Blueway accounts for an even greater impact, $2.27 million in the four counties along the route: Carroll, Grayson, Pulaski and Wythe. Roughly 40 percent of that money was spent at hotels and campgrounds, and 20 percent at outfitters. Restaurants and gas stations also profit from trail users.
The study also presents user preferences regarding trail amenities, information that can help localities replicate successful trail developments. Bowker summarized the fiscal aim of building destination trails: "You want non-locals to come in and leave their money there."
For copies of the studies, contact DCR Trail Coordinator Jennifer Wampler at (804) 786-9240 or email@example.com.
"We wouldn't dream of building a home without a blueprint, and we shouldn't keep building our cities without a greenprint."
- Charles Flink, Greenways Inc.
This June, DCR welcomed Joan K. Salvati as director of the division of Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance. Salvati previously served as Water Quality Administrator for Chesterfield County, where she oversaw the county's implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.
Announcing Salvati's appointment, DCR Director Joseph Maroon said,"I am very confident in Joan's abilities as a leader and consensus-builder. We are pleased to be able to select someone of her experience and effectiveness."
Salvati has frequently participated in statewide advisory committees and legislative discussions related to the Bay Act, which requires 84 towns, cities and counties in Tidewater Virginia to include water quality protection measures in their comprehensive plans. The Division of Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance lends support to those localities.
Salvati is the first director hired for the division since its predecessor, the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department, was merged into DCR last July. She replaces Scott Crafton, who was appointed in 2003 and will now serve as an assistant director for DCR.
Boy Scout Troop 1188 in Manassas adopted Winter's Branch in 2001 and two years later created an Adopt-A-Stream Merit Badge to recognize scouts who help keep the local waterway litter-free. Scoutmaster Tim Hughes thinks DCR's Adopt-A-Stream Program is a great match for scouting, which stresses both community service and enjoyment of the natural world. "We tied in Adopt-A-Stream with Boy Scout requirements under environmental science. Then we went one step further and decided we could create our own badge for the boys who participate."
To earn the badge, scouts not only take part in stream clean-ups, they also study about watersheds and urban stormwater controls. Aspiring Eagle Scouts are required to earn an environmental science merit badge. According to Hughes, 10 to 15 scouts, mostly middle-schoolers, participate in the troop's biannual cleanups. "They love to splash in the stream and goof off; it's not all work… They're finding little minnows and every once in a while a crayfish. They see the ducks. All in an urban environment."
This spring, DCR's Natural Heritage program added two new natural area preserves to Virginia's roster, bringing the statewide total to 45 preserves covering more than 38,000 acres. Each preserve is home to plants, animals or ecological communities that are rare or threatened in Virginia. Some protected species are found nowhere else.
At opposite ends of the Commonwealth, the two newest preserves are Mutton Hunk Fen Natural Area Preserve in Accomack County and Clover Hollow Natural Area Preserve in Giles County. Though markedly different, both preserves are home to globally rare species.
Mutton Hunk Fen on the Eastern Shore is one of just three sea-level fens in Virginia. The fens are ecological anomalies: spring-fed freshwater wetlands that border tidal marshes along the Atlantic Ocean. Fen vegetation includes plants more typical of the Shenandoah Valley, relics of a climatic shift 1,000 years ago.
Five rare plants are known to thrive in Mutton Hunk Fen, all tolerant of the poor, acidic soil. The surrounding bluffs will also be protected to ensure a supply of fresh groundwater for the fen.
DCR acquired Mutton Hunk Fen with the help of the Nature Conservancy, which bought the land on an interim basis. The site-three tracts totaling more than 400 acres-was then included on Virginia's preserve registry. An almost $1 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed DCR to purchase the land.
Groundwater plays a crucial role in the unique ecosystem at Clover Hollow as well. Eons of erosion have produced an expansive subterranean cavern, now home to creatures uniquely suited to its dark, damp environs. At least five rare invertebrates, including two cave beetle species, live in Stay High Cave. The cave's name is a bit of cautionary advice: A wrong step could send you plummeting 200 feet-but only after squeezing in through a narrow crack.
The difficulty of accessing the cave is one reason it has remained relatively undisturbed. Its location high in the watershed-above most agricultural runoff-also protects aquatic amphipods and salamanders. However, residential homebuilding on nearby land prompted DCR to purchase 15 acres surrounding the cave entrance from a developer. DCR will continue to catalog the species living in Stay High Cave and allow limited access to trained cavers for recreational and educational ends.
The Virginia Resource-Use Education Council offers its Mountain Bay Academy, Aug. 1-4 in Lexington. The training includes excursions to Douthat State Park. It will provide teachers with instructional resources for the watershed component of state science standards. For details visit: www.vanaturally.org/bayacademy.html
This summer, the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Gloucester offers educators two free Teachers Workshops on Water Quality. Held July 25-26 and Aug. 1-2, each includes a day of lab work and a second of field-testing in York River State Park. Visit: www.vims.edu/cbnerr/ to register.
Stakeholders from across the country will attend the 2005 Watershed Management Conference, July 19-22 in Williamsburg. Sponsored every five years by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the conference targets engineers, land-use planners and conservationists. This year's agenda includes tracts on dam removal and Chesapeake Bay restoration. For more information visit: www.asce.org/conferences/watershedmanagement2005/.
DCR joins fellow state agencies, nonprofits and private partners to present the Virginia Sustainable Future III Summit, Sept. 13-15 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The event will address sustainable design and development in seven critical areas, including water resources and healthy communities. Participants will learn about successful practices, discuss policy, and craft a preliminary plan of action for the government and private sectors.