New Nature Preserve Established Outside Blacksburg

BLACKSBURG, VA — September 3, 2010 — The Nature Conservancy has established today a new 222-acre nature preserve north of Blacksburg, Virginia, the result of a donation from Mrs. Evelyn Lilly Blake of Daleville.  This new preserve, called the Oscar Jennings and Evelyn Lilly Blake Preserve, protects a large swath of rare calcareous forest and has been additionally given Natural Area Preserve status by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The gift was received in the 50th Anniversary year of The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Program, which owns more than 50 nature preserves throughout the commonwealth.

“Mrs. Blake’s generosity reveals how important a role private landowners play in preserving Virginia’s outdoors for future generations,” said Michael Lipford, Virginia executive director of The Nature Conservancy.  “Their conservation ethic is critical to the protection of the commonwealth’s forestland, and the air and water quality benefits we receive from healthy forests.”

“The donation by Mrs. Blake, along with those of countless other Virginians over the years, shows there is a truly human element to land conservation,” said Tom Smith, DCR’s Natural Heritage director.  “Her donation will protect natural resources of global conservation concern, and in turn all Virginians become the real beneficiaries of her generous donation.”

At the new preserve’s dedication today, Mrs. Blake highlighted why she wished the property to be protected by The Nature Conservancy.

The Blakes lived in the Roanoke area for more than 60 years.  Mr. Oscar Blake was a long-time professor of architectural engineering at Virginia Tech University, and Mrs. Blake also pursued a career in teaching.  Both received their master’s degrees from Virginia Tech.  Today Mrs. Blake is retired in Daleville.

The calcareous forest protected on the new Oscar Jennings and Evelyn Lilly Blake Preserve is rare in Virginia, largely because of the soil type’s fertility.  The porous limestone bedrock provides a foundation for nutrient-rich soils, and as a result, most calcareous forests in Virginia were converted to agriculture.

Less than 5 percent of Virginia’s forest types over limestone are intact and relatively free of invasive species.  The Blake property has an outstanding example of one of these types, a montane dry calcareous forest/woodland.

“We are exceptionally grateful for the opportunity to protect this unusual property, in line with Mr. Blake’s long-term wishes for the property,” said Wanda San Jule, biologist for The Nature Conservancy.  “It was a pleasure to work closely with Mrs. Blake to help establish this preserve.”

Because of access through privately owned land, the preserve will not be open to the public on a regular basis. The Conservancy will lead guided field trips to the property from time to time.

Wildlife found on the property includes black bears, bobcats and flying squirrels.  Native flowering plants such as lady slippers, trillium and Virginia bluebells also live there.

“While all of Virginia’s natural area preserves are special places, as the 60th preserve to enter the system, the Blake Preserve has added significance,” added Smith.  “We look forward to working with the Conservancy and concerned landowners like Mrs. Blake to protect more lands in the future.”

Over the past 50 years, The Nature Conservancy has helped protect more than 435 square miles of Virginia’s most exceptional forests, rivers, wetlands, mountains and coasts.  In the Roanoke Headwaters area, the Conservancy now owns six preserves: Walnut Hill, Falls Ridge, Bottom Creek Gorge, Den Creek, The Narrows and Blake.

The Conservancy also maintains a Clinch Valley Program to help protect the hot spot of freshwater diversity that exists in the Clinch and Powell river basins, home to some of the nation’s rarest and most imperiled mussels and fish.

“We are exceptionally proud of the role we have played in preserving the natural blessings of the commonwealth,” remarked Lipford.  “We look to continue this work another 50 years and beyond, to preserve our incredible legacy for generations yet to come.”

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.

The State Natural Area Preserve System is managed by DCR’s Natural Heritage Program working to conserve Virginia’s biological diversity through inventory, protection and stewardship.  The Natural Area Preserve System, launched twenty years ago with the North Landing River Natural Area Preserve, today contains 60 natural area preserves and 49,901 acres supporting 579 exemplary natural communities and rare plant and animal species.

via The Nature Conservancy in Virginia – New Nature Preserve Established Outside Blacksburg.

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