RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) – In an effort to protect many forest species including chestnut oaks that are more than three centuries old, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has purchased more than 800 acres in Giles and Bland Counties.

The Virginia DCR also will be expanding an existing natural area preserve within an important ecological forest core.

The land will be managed to protect old-growth trees and to promote nature-based carbon sequestration through proforestation, a practice of growing existing forests to their ecological potential, with the possibility of reintroducing the once-dominant American Chestnut as well as another decimated species, the butternut tree.

The acquisition expands the 233-acre Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve by 587 acres which brings the privately-owned preserve under DCR ownership. The majority of the acreage is in far-western Giles County with a small section located in Bland County.

All 820 acres are now permanently protected as part of the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System, managed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program at DCR.

While there are currently no public access facilities, parking areas, or established trails, the DCR will explore the feasibility of public access in the future.

Bob and Darlinda Gilvary, owners of Gilginia Tree Farm LLC sold the property to DCR. The Gilvarys purchased the property in the late 1990s. Together, they managed the forest, selecting and harvesting individual trees themselves, always careful to leave the oldest trees and a variety of other mature healthy stock for regeneration.

“Years ago, my husband and I decided to keep the whole land in [the] forest. We did it to protect the environment and to protect water quality. It is important to use to leave it in good hands.”

Darlina Gilvary, previous owner of the property

Funds for the acquisition were awarded from the Forest CORE (Community Opportunities for Restoration and Enhancement) Fund – a component of the Virginia Outdoor Foundation’s TERRA program, which administers grants resulting from legal and regulatory actions involving Virginia’s natural resources. The Forest CORE Fund was established with $15 million received by the Commonwealth to mitigate forest fragmentation caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

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