Virginia Certifies Globally Rare Habitats in Nelson County
News Release from Horizons Village:
Nellysford, VA – The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) named two wetland areas in Nelson County as official conservation sites of Virginia. The wetland areas, designated as the Spruce Creek Tributary Conservation Site and South Fork Flats Conservation Site, lie within Horizons Village, an environmentally sensitive subdivision located in the Rockfish River Valley.
The official designations come just weeks after Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC filed its formal application with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The proposed pipeline route directly intersects one of the conservation sites in Horizons Village, and comes within a half mile of the second site. Experts have concluded that, if the pipeline were built, the Spruce Creek Tributary Conservation Site would be destroyed.
In a letter submitted to the FERC Secretary on October 9, 2015, the DCR urged that these rare habitats, along with a half mile buffer zone around the habitats, be avoided by the pipeline. DCR provided a graphic that depicting the conservation sites and their proximity to the proposed pipeline route.
State of Virginia conservation sites are those areas that surround one or more rare plants, animals, or natural communities thought necessary for conservation. Conservation sites are given a biodiversity significance ranking based on rarity, quality, and other factors. The DCR gave the Spruce Creek Tributary Conservation Site a “highly significant” biodiversity ranking, and the South Fork Flats Conservation Site “very highly significant” ranking.
For nearly 20 years, the community covenants in Horizons Village have protected the community’s ecosystems by, among other measures, restricting clearing to preserve forest habitat and banning the use of chemicals that could damage area springs, groundwater, flora, and fauna.
“A conservation designation was not really necessary until the Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposed a route that would destroy the surrounding forest canopy and wetlands,” says resident Dave Bennett. “Clearly our neighborhood’s conservation covenants weren’t enough, so we’re thankful that the State of Virginia has weighed in.”
In August, the Charlottesville-based Center for Urban Habitats released findings from its survey of the wetlands in Horizons Village. The study described the wetland as a “globally rare habitat” that includes rare species and, potentially, endangered species. Center experts warn that the Horizons Village habitats would “never recover from large scale development or utility intrusion.”
“Dominion and the FERC must take these recommendations seriously,” says Corey Fischer, a property owner in the wetlands of Horizons Village. “This rare ecosystem is no place for a pipeline.”
For more information about Horizons Village, visit friendsofhorizons.org.
About Horizons Village
Founded in 1997, Horizons Village is an environmentally sensitive subdivision located at the southern end of the Rockfish Valley on Rt. 151 in Nelson County, Virginia. The 400-acre neighborhood is composed of 40 private lots, many of which are occupied by full-time residents, and more than 100 acres of common land subject to covenants conserving the land’s natural state in perpetuity.