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2,500 Isle of Wight acres protected

RICHMOND — Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced that two state agencies will partner with Isle of Wight County to conserve more than 2,500 acres of forested land, some of which is along the Blackwater River.

According to a statement from the governor’s office, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Department of Conservation and Recreation will help the county preserve 2,507 acres which helps protect a source of drinking water in Hampton Roads.

“The conservation of these 2,500 acres is another step forward toward our goal of conserving 400,000 additional acres of Virginia land by the end of my term,” McDonnell said Friday.

In August, the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase 2,507 acres, including 500 acres of wetlands and 5½ miles of frontage along the Blackwater River, for $3 million. The property — which was appraised at $1,109 an acre and contains trees that could be 800 years old — is between Proctor’s Bridge Road and Broadwater Road in the Carrsville District.

The total acreage is split among nine parcels currently owned by Conservation Forestry LLC, an investment organization based in Exeter, N.H. Conservation Forestry purchased the land from International Paper Co. in 2006.

According to county officials, Isle of Wight has been able to collectively leverage about $1.5 million from several sources to help offset the $3 million investment in the property. Those sources include $850,000 from the federal Forest Legacy Program Fund, $566,000 from the Virginia Land Conservation Fund, and $75,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The decision to purchase this property is indicative of the commitment of the Board to preserve the rural character of our county and to protect valuable natural resources for the benefit of future generations,” Isle of Wight County Board Chairman Phillip Bradshaw said Friday. “The acquisition of this property, along with the recent designation of the Blackwater River as the longest scenic river in the Commonwealth, uniquely positions Isle of Wight County as an eco-tourism destination.”

County officials envision the property someday being used for recreational purposes, including the construction of boat launches on the Blackwater and perhaps a trail system through the woods for walking, bird watching and other activities that won’t impact the environment.

“This forest has so many public benefits, it just has to be conserved,” State Forester Carl Garrison said Friday. “We are very excited to be partnering with Isle of Wight County and our colleagues at DCR to ensure that a significant portion of this property remains a working forest.”