Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday $5.89 million in Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grants to be awarded to private land trusts, local governments and state agencies. The projects included acquisition and preservation of a total of 17,000 acres across most regions of the state.
Wilderness Road received one of the four largest of Tuesday’s grants – a $500,000 parks and open space grant to acquire 242 acres. The land will help connect the park with the Chadwell Gap Trail in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, which was a priority in Wilderness Road’s 2014 master plan update.
The grant also will help with environmental education, wildlife viewing and cultural history opportunities.
“These 17,000 acres of newly conserved lands will generate tremendous benefits for the commonwealth,” Northam said in Tuesday’s announcement. “We are protecting our precious natural resources, building resilience to climate change and ensuring Virginia remains a great place to live, work and visit.”
Grant applications were reviewed and scored by an interagency workgroup that recommended projects to the board, which approved the awards on Nov. 22. Administrative support for the VLCF is provided by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The VLCF board is composed of 19 members appointed by the governor, the Senate Committee on Rules and the speaker of the House of Delegates. The board includes the secretary of Natural Resources, who serves as chair, and the secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.
“These grants will help protect biodiversity, farms and forests, open space and cultural and historic resources,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “By incorporating our cutting-edge ConserveVirginia initiative into the VLCF grant-making process, we are ensuring our limited resources go to protecting the commonwealth’s most valuable and beautiful lands.”