NELSON COUNTY, VA., APRIL 24, 2015 AT 1:15 PM EDT - Today, United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Arthur "Butch" Blazer joined representatives of The Conservation Fund, and the U.S. Forest Service to celebrate the protection of property within George Washington-Jefferson National Forests along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Funding support was provided through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
"The Campbell Tract is an excellent example of the benefits of the Land and Water Conservation Fund," said Blazer. "By acquiring this land, we are continuing the Campbell family's conservation ethic, and preserving clean drinking water with the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The view enjoyed by thousands of Appalachian Trail hikers will remain untouched for future generations."
Previously known as the Campbell property, the land was owned by one of the first families to settle in Nelson County. The high elevation landscape, cultivated by more than a century of farming, is unique and provides the Forest Service with opportunities to manage the property for the benefit of threatened, endangered, sensitive and locally rare habitats and species, like the golden-winged warbler.
Blazer said the purchase of the 317-acre property not only preserves a portion of the Appalachian Trail and the natural viewshed from Spy Rock scenic overlook, it also supports the health of unique wildlife habitats and provides new access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.
With help from the National Park Service, the Conservation Fund purchased the Campbell property in May 2014 and conveyed it to the Forest Service, which prioritized this project for funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America's premier conservation program.
Blazer said the addition of this land, which is almost completely surrounded by the National Forest, not only enhances Forest Service management, it also ensures that the nearby freshwater system of Louisa Spring Branch, suitable for brook trout, will continue to improve. The property holds the potential to also be culturally significant, with previous discoveries of numerous early American artifacts.
Established in 1965, LWCF is a bipartisan federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties for the protection of important lands and improvement of outdoor recreation opportunities across the nation. No taxpayer dollars are used to support LWCF. The program has permanently protected nearly five million acres of public lands including forests, natural resources, state and local parks and recreation areas. The program is due to expire September 2015, but there are efforts in Congress to reauthorize the program and fully fund it.
The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.