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From Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve was on July 9 formally recognized by the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN), an organization that connects people with nature by naming a national network of protected, mature and publicly accessible native forests. Crow’s Nest is owned and managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Natural Heritage Program, in cooperation with Stafford County. It is one of 63 Natural Area Preserves in Virginia that are managed primarily to protect rare plant and animal species and exemplary natural communities.

The preserve has 2,200 acres of mature hardwood forest including two forest types that are recognized as globally rare. At the southern edge is a Coastal Plain Dry Calcareous Forest featuring Chinquapin oak, chestnut oak, northern red oak, tulip-tree, American beech and white ash. In the tidal wetlands is a Fresh Tidal Hardwood Swamp with green ash and red maple.

Crow’s Nest is considered highly significant for several reasons. The majority of the natural area was never cleared and farmed, thus the soil profile has remained intact and the forest communities in excellent condition. Its topography is varied with a high, narrow ridgeline rising 200 feet above the tidally influenced Potomac and Accokeek creeks, and the peninsula is dissected by a series of deep ravines. The preserve also provides habitat for at least 60 species of neotropical migratory songbirds, nearly 60 percent of which are experiencing population declines including 10 species that are high global priority species. The preserve is also home to nesting bald eagles and great blue herons, and the area played important roles in the Native American, Colonial and Civil War histories of Virginia.

“We are delighted to see Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve recognized by the OGFN as the treasure it is. These forests and marshes surrounding them are protected and managed as some of the best examples of Virginia’s natural communities. We are dedicated to conserving these remaining natural heritage resources and providing opportunities for visitors to experience and appreciate the biodiversity at Crow’s Nest and other Natural Area Preserves throughout Virginia,” said Jason Bulluck, director of DCR’s Natural Heritage Program.

OGFN’s goal is to preserve in every county in the United States at least one old-growth or mature forest that is publicly accessible. There are about 2,370 such counties out of the nation’s 3,140 counties where this can be done. OGFN identifies forests for the network, helps to ensure their protection from logging and informs people of the forest locations.

The network was founded in 2012 by Executive Director Joan Maloof, who has a doctorate in ecology and is a professor emeritus at Salisbury University. There are now more than 60 forests in the network in 16 states. OGFN also recognizes exceptional forest advocates, teaches people about the ecological benefits of old-growth forests and speaks out regarding immediate threats to specific ancient forests. Learn more at www.oldgrowthforest.net.

“We look forward to adding more Virginia counties to the network in the future. We depend on a volunteer in each county to help us identify candidate forests. In addition to creating a network of forests, we are also creating a network of people who care about forests,” said Maloof. “Interested volunteers are welcome to contact us through our website at www.oldgrowthforest.net.”

States that already have forests in the network include New York, Massachusetts, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Virginia, Arkansas and West Virginia. The full list of forests may be viewed at www.oldgrowthforest.net .

Other forests in Virginia already in the network include:

Albemarle County: Fernbrook Natural Area

Arlington County: Glencarlyn Park

Madison County: Whiteoak Canyon

Orange County: James Madison Landmark Forest

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