Protection of a nearly 5,000 acre tract of woodlands, just added to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, conserves local historic resources and the water quality of headwater streams flowing into the James River and Chesapeake Bay.(Image: Neil Jordan/Open Space Institute)

Last week the USDA Forest Service and conservation partners announced addition of a 4,644.5 acre property to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The land in Botetourt County, Virginia helps protect the headwaters of the James River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. 

The Grace Furnace tract, named for a 19th century iron ore furnace located on the property, supports 14 freshwater streams, 10 miles of trout streams, and borders 1,000 feet of Craig Creek which flows into the James River. The creek is a popular boating and fishing resource. 

“The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are committed to managing lands to sustain healthy forests and clean water,” said Joby Timm, Forest Supervisor. “Addition of the Grace Furnace tract to Forest System Lands highlights the success of collaboration among federal agencies and partners that help us sustain our natural resources.” 

The Open Space Institute (OSI) previously purchased Grace Furnace to hold it until the Forest Service could acquire the property and take ownership last month. The Forest Service acquisition was supported by the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund by Congress earlier this year. 

Partial funding for the project stemmed from the Rivers of the Chesapeake Land and Water Conservation Fund Collaborative Landscape proposal, initiated by the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership and coordinated by the Chesapeake Conservancy. Over several

years, the Rivers of the Chesapeake initiative has secured more than $30 million for protecting land in the watershed, helping conserve iconic Chesapeake properties like Grace Furnace, Werowocomoco, Fones Cliffs, Blackwater and more. 

“Permanently protecting the ‘Grace Furnace’ property is a tremendous achievement in large scale land conservation that will benefit both nature and people,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI. “We are grateful for the support of the Wyss Foundation and to all those who advocate for our nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. And we congratulate our partners at the USDA Forest Service and the Chesapeake Conservancy for their unwavering commitment to protecting this property.” 

“The protection of the Grace Furnace property is the result of a public-private partnership that will safeguard this unique natural area for generations,” said Greg Zimmerman of the Wyss Campaign for Nature, a Wyss Foundation initiative to accelerate the pace of land conservation. 

“With its beautiful trees and wild trout streams at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, the Grace Furnace property is big, special and inspiring,” said Joel Dunn, president and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy and co-convener of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. “The addition to the National Forest makes a significant contribution toward our goal of protecting 30 percent of the Chesapeake watershed by 2030, but we still have a long way to go.”

Lightning Update is a regular communication of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions of the Partnership or member organizations.
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Support for the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is provided by:
National Park Service Chesapeake
EPA Chesapeake Bay Program
USDA Forest Service
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Chesapeake Conservancy

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is co-convened by: