April 7, 2021

Trail Viewshed Protected on Virginia's North Mountain

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. — Today, The Conservation Fund and USDA Forest Service (USFS) announced the protection of 237 acres on North Mountain, which will be added to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The North Mountain site falls within the viewshed of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) near the popular McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs overlooks. With funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a grant from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Wild East Action Fund and other sources, the partners were able to save critical habitat and iconic viewsheds by securing the land.

“The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are committed to managing lands to sustain healthy forests, protect water resources, and provide outstanding recreational opportunities. By incorporating these 237 acres into Forest System Lands, we ensure this land is available for future generations,” says Joby Timm, Forest Supervisor. “We celebrate this acquisition as a successful collaborative effort with our partners aimed at meeting these goals.”

“This land’s prominent location along the ridge of North Mountain and visibility from the Appalachian Trail make it extremely unique,” said Heather Richards, The Conservation Fund’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. “George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and the Appalachian Trail are important economic drivers to the surrounding communities, and they preserve critical ecological for wildlife. We’re honored to have helped the USFS and the LWCF once again protect a critical piece of Virginia’s natural lands.”

Located adjacent to already conserved lands, the property was a priority for protection for both the USFS and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. When the land was put up for sale by a private owner, The Conservation Fund stepped up to purchase and hold the property, ensuring it would not be lost to development. The Conservation Fund’s purchase allowed the USFS the time it needed to acquire congressional LWCF funding to ultimately purchase and protect the land. A grant from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Wild East Action Fund and funding made available through a voluntary stewardship agreement with Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, also helped make this effort possible.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to have been a part of this significant win for the Appalachian Trail and the thousands of hikers drawn to this iconic landscape each year,” said Sandra Marra, President and CEO of the ATC. “Beyond preserving the irreplaceable views from the A.T. on McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, the protection of 237 acres on North Mountain will provide additional recreational opportunities for visitors and reinforce the area’s recreation economy, ensuring future generations of hikers and nature lovers will continue to reap its benefits.”

LWCF is a bipartisan, 55-year-old program that conserves ecologically and scenically valuable land across the U.S.—including many of Virginia’s iconic natural places and land along the Appalachian Trail. The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, with support from U.S. Senator Mark Warner and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, now fully and permanently funds the LWCF to help continue the legacy that it has secured in Virginia.

“Today’s announcement is exciting news for Roanoke County, recreationists, and Appalachian Trail enthusiasts all across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Warner. “The protection of these 237 acres on North Mountain will ensure Virginians will continue to enjoy the breathtaking views offered by the Appalachian Trail and McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs overlooks. The A.T. and Jefferson National Forest are essential economic drivers for Roanoke County and the entire region, and today’s announcement will help protect these critical natural lands for years to come.”

“I’m glad to see federal funding Senator Warner and I fought for go towards protecting these 237 acres of Virginia’s natural lands,” said Senator Kaine. “It’s so important to preserve these environments, and I applaud the USFS, The Conservation Fund, and others who secured this significant addition to the Jefferson National Forest.”

Recreational assets like national forests and the Appalachian Trail provide critical recreational tourism benefits to the surrounding communities. The adjoined George Washington and Jefferson National Forests attract hikers, campers and nature lovers from across the nation, making it is the seventh most-visited national forest in the country. Additionally, its estimated that roughly three million visitors hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail each year.

“Mountain Valley is committed to being good community partners, and we remain dedicated to ongoing environmental preservation efforts,” said Natalie Cox, spokeswoman for Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Since the project’s inception, we have provided funding to preserve more than twice as many acres of land as will be affected by the long-term operation of the 303-mile project. Today, we are pleased to be part of the efforts by The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Forest Service to protect the unique viewshed on North Mountain in Virginia.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect 8.5 million acres of land, including nearly 79,000 acres in Virginia.

About USDA Forest Service
The Forest Service is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture whose mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. https://www.fs.usda.gov/

Media Contacts
Val Keefer | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5802 | vkeefer@conservationfund.org
Nadine Siak | USDA Forest Service | 540-676-7045 | nadine.siak@usda.gov