Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia, and surrounded by National Forest land, the heavily forested Grace Furnace property protects the headwaters of the James River and, ultimately, the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.
The property’s ten miles of cool, clear streams and rich limestone forests will benefit native brook trout and threatened species, including the James spinymussel, the Atlantic pigtoe mussel, and the orange madtom fish.
In 2015, the Open Space Institute was challenged by the Wyss Foundation to identify large swaths of land available for conservation in the Eastern US that abutted existing public land, with an eye toward expanding wilderness in the dense and fragmented part of the country. In just four years, OSI’s Eastern Lands Initiative successfully met this challenge — protecting five large properties totaling more than 37,000 wilderness acres and connecting to nearly 2.7 million acres of protected land. This project was protected as a part of the Eastern Lands Initiative which continues to practice largescale conservation in the Eastern US.
To conserve the 4,672-acre Grace Furnace tract, OSI purchased it with funding from the Wyss Foundation in 2016. In 2019, using funding available through the Land & Water Conservation Fund, the US Forest Service (USFS) secured the property from OSI — making Grace Furnace the largest purchase by USFS in the state of Virginia in nearly a century, and preserving habitat for wildlife, even as the climate changes.