Bald Eagle Habitat Protected Along James River

May 24, 2010

bald eagle

Bald eagle. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Prince George County, VA — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and The Conservation Fund, with key support from the Virginia congressional delegation, National Audubon Society and the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, announced today the protection of 125 acres and nearly a mile of shoreline along the James River in Prince George County. The property contains pristine habitat for bald eagles and is completely surrounded by the James River National Wildlife Refuge, which boasts one of the highest concentration of bald eagles east of the Mississippi River.

The Conservation Fund purchased the Blair’s Wharf property in 2008 at the request of the USFWS. Members of the Virginia congressional delegation worked to ensure a series of appropriations that were used to acquire the property from The Conservation Fund in 2010. Pat Noonan, chairman emeritus of The Conservation Fund, stated, “With this historic acquisition, we have protected a vital wildlife resource for Virginia and all of America.” Noonan continued, “We are grateful for the outstanding leadership of Senator Jim Webb, Senator Mark Warner and Representative Bobby Scott to secure funding for this important project.”

“This project will enhance Virginia’s diverse wildlife habitat while also facilitating tourism and promoting economic growth in the area,” said Sen. Webb. “I am committed to future preservation efforts of wildlife refuges and will work to ensure federal support in the years to come.”

“By protecting this important piece of land, we will be able to make a lasting impact on this region’s most unique wildlife and ensure that Virginia’s natural habitat can be preserved for generations to come,” Sen. Warner said. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on more efforts to preserve our region’s environmental treasures.”

“I am pleased to see this important conservation project finally come to fruition,” said Rep. Scott. “Adding the Blair’s Wharf property to the James River National Wildlife Refuge will further protect this pristine habitat for future generations. I commend Pat Noonan and The Conservation Fund and the other organizations involved for their years of advocacy on this issue.”

The property will become part of James River National Wildlife Refuge. Public access to the site will be evaluated during the refuge’s comprehensive conservation planning process, set to begin this year.

“The Blair’s Wharf tract is a key acquisition for the refuge,” said Refuge Manager Joe McCauley. “We will be forever grateful to all those who supported this project. Without the help of our partners and volunteers, protection and restoration of this extraordinary site would not have been possible.”

“Audubon is extremely proud to be a part of the team that helped to protect Blair’s Wharf in the James River NWR and the Lower James River Important Bird Area, significant for many species including Bald Eagles and Prothonotary Warblers,” said Mary Elfner, Virginia IBA Coordinator, from Audubon, which initiated the project and helped with congressional outreach. “It’s critical that we protect habitat for birds and other species of wildlife in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

David O’Neill, president of the Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail, noted that the James River NWR includes miles of natural shoreline that protect the river’s ecology and retains the landscape that gives the region its identity. “As a result of this work, modern adventurers on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail will see a view much like the one Virginia Indians and Capt. Smith saw here in 1607. The Blair’s Wharf acquisition is one of the first along the National Historic Trail and we were pleased to support this effort,” O’Neill said.

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is the first all-water National Historic Trail. It traces Smith’s monumental 1607-1609 voyages of exploration in the Chesapeake Bay region, including his travels up the James River along the James River National Wildlife Refuge.

Additional partners in the effort include: American Bird Conservancy; the Chickahominy Tribe; James River Association; National Wildlife Refuge Association; The Nature Conservancy, which administered funding from the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund; Richmond Audubon Society; Faculty of University of Richmond; Virginia Commonwealth University, Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences; and Virginiaforever.

 


About USFWS/James River NWR

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

About National Audubon Society

Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. The Virginia Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program was initiated in 2002 to identify and conserve the most critical areas for birds. To date, approximately 3.4 million acres have been identified in Virginia as IBAs. For more information on Audubon and IBAs click here.


About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.