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OSI conserves nearly 5,000 acres in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountain Region

Photo Credit: Neil Jordan

BOTETOURT COUNTY, VA (Dec. 29, 2016)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) has conserved a 4,672-acre property in southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The conservation of the property will preserve a local recreation asset and protect the water quality of the James River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

The “Grace Furnace” property was purchased by OSI for $5 million. Located adjacent to the Jefferson National Forest, the parcel includes 14 freshwater springs that empty into Craig Creek, a tributary of the James River.

The property includes over ten miles of habitat for the brook trout; once thriving in mountain streams and high valley creeks, the remaining intact populations of native brook trout are currently relegated to isolated mountain headwater streams. Conservation of the property also helps protect habitat for aquatic species such as the federally-threatened James spinymussel, and state-threatened Atlantic pigtoe mussel and Orangefin madtom fish.

“The protection of the Grace Furnace property is a tremendous conservation victory,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “Offering large-scale watershed and habitat protection, as well as premier recreational value, OSI moved quickly to protect this property from being disassembled from development. It is an important accomplishment for us, and we thank the Chesapeake Conservancy for their support of this major conservation project and their continued dedication to the health and safety of the Bay.”

The Grace Furnace, a coldblast charcoal furnace located on the property, is an historic “pig iron” furnace that dates from the early 19th century, and likely supplied iron ore for munitions during the Civil War.

“More than 4,600 acres in the James River watershed that are home to 10 miles of trout streams, threatened aquatic species and a charcoal furnace dating back to 1849, are now conserved,” said Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn.

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