The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund (the Fund) announced in February the closing of its first easement purchase from the 2016 grant cycle to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The approximately 220-acre easement - known as the Crowder and White tract - is the first of two in Southampton, Virginia, that will be secured with financial assistance from the Fund. When the second easement is completed, a total of 385 acres of floodplain forest dominated by mature cypress-tupelo will be protected.

The land protected through this first award is across the river from another parcel already protected by DCR. Together, the two form The Narrows, an important transit point for river herring, shad and alewife - fish species that rely on floodplain forest for spawning and nursery habitat. The Narrows will now be permanently protected. The swamps also provide habitat for a multitude of waterfowl, water birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and other fish.

"The permanent protection of this property with a conservation easement is cause for celebration," said Carlton Owen, President and CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities which administers the Fund. "Not only is it a valuable property for fish, wildlife and recreation, it is also the first transaction to be completed of the four Enviva Forest Conservation Fund awards made in 2016. It's the first of many more to come."

The Fund awarded $500,000 in 2016 to help conserve more than 2,000 acres of environmentally sensitive forests. In addition to DCR, 2016 grant recipients included the Virginia and North Carolina chapters of The Nature Conservancy and the Triangle Land Conservancy of North Carolina.

The Crowder and White tract easement was made possible through combined support from the Fund, donated timber value from the owner, and a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant secured by Ducks Unlimited and supported by several partners, including the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.

"Conversion to other uses is one of the greatest threats to Virginia forests," said Clyde Cristman, Director of the Virginia DCR. "Our partnership with the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund and Ducks Unlimited builds on the Cypress Bridge Natural Area Preserve, allowing us to conserve another key property along the Nottoway River and protect more ecologic, recreational and scenic resources, helping to build a legacy for future generations in southeast Virginia."

The conservation easement blends forest land reclamation with conservation of cypress/tupelo swamp forest, one of four specific types of sensitive bottomland forest ecosystems the Fund has targeted for special conservation.

"Conservation easements are irreplaceable in meeting the needs of landowners who wish to protect valuable natural resources," said Ducks Unlimited Conservation Lands Coordinator Justin Park. "Ducks Unlimited is proud to work with grant partners, VDCR, private landowners, and the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund to help landowners protect sensitive bottomlands while continuing to enjoy the area for recreation. Such easements provide the best of both worlds - protection of broad benefits to society at large while also affording rights to the landowner."