Virginia CZM Program: 2012 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:CZM logo

10.01 

Grantee:

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation 

Project Title:

A Beautiful Woods – the Fee Purchase of 100% of a 0.987 acre dune woodland to expand the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve, Northampton County, Virginia (Lot 1) 

Project Description as Proposed:

Description of Project

This proposal addresses the fee-simple purchase of a 100% interest in a single lot, Lot 1 (Map 1), as an addition to the Pickett’s Harbor State Natural Area Preserve at the Southern Tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  The 123-acre Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve is owned by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.  Pickett’s Harbor has been identified by the Southern Tip Partners as one of the top priorities for land conservation on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. 

The permanent protection of this single lot is a small but important part of the strategy to strengthen protection for migratory songbird habitat and other natural heritage resources of the Southern Tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  The Southern Tip partner agencies and organizations have endorsed a long range initiative to expand the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve by purchasing several of the ten Chesapeake Bay front lots plus a large acreage tract, the Trower tract, that adjoins the preserve to the north. (Map 1)  Protection of the Trower tract was the focus of a FY 2012 NOAA CELCP grant application made by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Conservation and Recreation in 2012.  That project scored fourth highest in the nation during that grant round, but federal funding that year was only enough to fund the top two projects nationwide.

The bay front lots are part of a natural heritage conservation area that supports exceptional beach, secondary dune, wetland, and maritime forest habitats, and a federal and state threatened species of tiger beetle.  This area on the Southern Tip of the Virginia’s Eastern Shore falls within a critical migration corridor for songbirds.  While DCR’s protected properties at Pickett’s Harbor provide permanent protection for these habitats, additional acreage is needed to strengthen protection for these rare resources.

The purchase of one Chesapeake Bay front lot at Pickett’s Harbor is a protection priority for the Virginia CZM Program, DCR, DGIF and all of the Southern Tip partners for the reasons stated below:

1) The lot falls within a purple “Outstanding” area of the Virginia Ecological Value map (see www.coastalgems.org) produced by Virginia CZM network agencies.

2) The lot provides protection for the state and globally rare Maritime Upland Forest (G2S2) that is part of an extensive occurrence found on the ten undeveloped lots at Pickets Harbor, the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve and the adjoining dunes on the Trower tract to the north. This natural community type is declining in Virginia with only a few outstanding examples left.

3) The lot provides increased protection for the Southern Tip Landbird Migratory Concentration Area (G3/S1).  Pickett’s Harbor also falls within Audubon’s Lower Delmarva Important Bird Area, recognized for the critical habitat it provides for migratory songbirds.

4) The lot provides ample room for landward migration of habitats in the face of sea level rise and erosional forces.

5) Purchase of this lot would help to forestall future neighbor impacts to the preserve such as construction, visitor traffic and debris and disturbance of the natural heritage resources occurrences found here.

6) Purchase of this lot would reduce potential for neighbor and preserve management conflicts such as introduction of invasive species, pesticide use and access issues.

The protection of land at Pickett’s Harbor is a conservation priority of the Eastern Shore Southern Tip Partnership that has been operating informally since the early 1990s and formally through a signed Memorandum of Understanding since 2006.  The Southern Tip Partners are The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP), the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), the Virginia Eastern Shore Land Trust (VESLT) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS).  The Southern Tip Partners have set land conservation priorities that address the permanent protection of key parcels on the Southern Tip and protecting or restoring habitat for migratory songbirds and other coastal species and natural communities.  Protection of the land here is a high conservation priority for the partnership and that group has endorsed this funding application.

Legal Rights to Be Acquired

With this project the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will purchase a 100% interest in Lot 1 on the forested dune fronting the Chesapeake Bay at the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve.  This fee purchase is dependent upon funding from this grant and without this funding the project cannot proceed.  The Department of Conservation and Recreation will initiate the land acquisition project upon notification of the award.  The tract will be owned by the Virginia Department of Conservation Recreation and will be dedicated as an addition to the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve and designated as open-space land.  Natural area preserve dedication and open-space land designation offer permanent protection and these designations protect the property from inappropriate land uses in the future.

Management of the Site

As a dedicated state natural area preserve, all site management, monitoring and enforcement duties will be the responsibility of DCR’s Eastern Shore Natural Areas Steward and the Eastern Shore Operations Steward who have offices in Melfa Virginia on the Eastern Shore.  DCR will erect and maintain appropriate signage acknowledging the VA CZM/NOAA investment.

Project Readiness

There are ten undeveloped lots that adjoin the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve.  The lots range in size from 0.987 acres to 1.620 acres.  This proposal addresses the purchase of Lot 1 which is available for purchase. Northampton County has assessed the value of each of the ten lots at $395,000. Lot 1 was appraised in June of 2015 for $280,000. 

Migratory Songbird Habitat

The southern end of the Eastern Shore (the Southern Tip) has been recognized since the 1960’s as a major stopover area for hundreds of species of birds that migrate south along the coast each fall to points as far away as South America.  In the early 1990’s a Coastal Zone Management Act Section 309 Interstate grant and 2 subsequent grants scientifically documented the importance of habitat use by migratory songbirds on the southern tip. The southern tip provides critical habitat for large concentrations of raptors, songbirds, other migratory landbirds, shorebirds, woodcock and waterfowl.

It is estimated that five to six million neotropical landbirds and 10 to 12 million temperate landbirds pass through the southern tip during their fall migration.  Nearly 200 species of neotropical migratory songbirds migrate through the Eastern Shore representing about 70 percent of all breeding bird species in North America.  One of them, the blackpoll warbler, is known to fly from Venezuela to Canada on its spring migration in 60-80 hours.  Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of only one or two rest stops on which it depends for food to refuel and vegetative cover to hide from predators while it rests. The ecological value of these birds is immense. They are a major factor in keeping insect populations in balance that would otherwise defoliate trees.  They are also critical for seed dispersal and pollination.

Thousands of raptors, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, merlins, sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper's hawks, and northern saw-whet owls also migrate through the southern end of the peninsula during migration. The southern tip is a critical link in a habitat chain that stretches from the northern latitudes of Canada to Central and South America. 

Federal Funding:

$310,000 

Project Contact:

Larry Smith; 804.371.6205; larry.smith@dcr.virginia.gov  

Project Status:

5/1/2014 - 9/30/2015; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

A Beautiful Woods – the Fee Purchase of 1.1 acres of dune woodlands to expand the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve, Northampton County, Virginia (Lot 1) Final Report (PDF) 

A Beautiful Woods – the Fee Purchase of 1.1 acres of dune woodlands to expand the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve, Northampton County, Virginia (Lot 1) Recorded Deed (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

This project resulted in the permanent protection of a 0.987 acre lot, Lot 1, as an addition to the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve in Northampton County at the Southern Tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Southern Tip partner agencies and organizations have endorsed a long range initiative to expand the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve by purchasing two or more of the adjacent and undeveloped Chesapeake Bay front lots. The permanent protection of this single lot is a small but important part of the strategy to strengthen protection for migratory songbird habitat, the federally threatened Northeastern beech tiger beetle, natural communities and other coastal wildlife and natural heritage resources of the Southern Tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. 

 Funds from this grant contributed 100% of the project costs for the purchase of this lot.  The 123-acre Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve is owned by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. 

The Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve falls within a natural heritage conservation area that supports exceptional beach, secondary dune, wetland, and maritime forest habitats, and a federal and state threatened species of tiger beetle.  This area on the Southern Tip of the Virginia’s Eastern Shore falls within a critical migration corridor for songbirds.  While DCR’s protected properties at Pickett’s Harbor provide permanent protection for these habitats, additional acreage is needed to strengthen protection for these rare resources.

The purchase of this lot at Pickett’s Harbor was a protection priority for the Virginia CZM Program, DCR, DGIF and all of the Southern Tip partners for the reasons stated below:

1) The lot falls within a purple “Outstanding” area of the Virginia Ecological Value map (see www.coastalgems.org) produced by Virginia CZM network agencies.

2) The lot provides protection for the state and globally rare Maritime Upland Forest (G2S2) that is part of an extensive occurrence found on the ten undeveloped lots at Pickets Harbor, the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve and the adjoining dunes on the Trower tract to the north. This natural community type is declining in Virginia with only a few outstanding examples left.

3) The lot provides increased protection for the Southern Tip Landbird Migratory Concentration Area (G3/S1).  Pickett’s Harbor also falls within Audubon’s Lower Delmarva Important Bird Area, recognized for the critical habitat it provides for migratory songbirds.

4) The lot provides ample room for landward migration of habitats in the face of sea level rise and erosional forces.

5) Purchase of this lot would help to forestall future neighbor impacts to the preserve such as construction, visitor traffic and debris and disturbance of the natural heritage resources occurrences found here.

6) Purchase of this lot would reduce potential for neighbors and preserve management conflicts such as introduction of invasive species, pesticide use and access issues.

This property is now owned by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and is permanently protected through its designation as open-space land and dedication as an addition to the Pickett’s Harbor Natural Area Preserve.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email: Laura.McKay@deq.virginia.gov.

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to Virginia.Witmer@deq.virginia.gov.

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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