April 24, 2015

NELSON COUNTY, Va.—Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and The Conservation Fund announced a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) success in protecting a significant property within George Washington and Jefferson National Forests along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). With help from the National Park Service, the purchase of the 317-acre property not only preserves a portion of the Appalachian Trail and the natural viewshed from Spy Rock scenic overlook, it also supports the health of unique wildlife habitats and provides new access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.   

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Butch Blazer hiked with partners and friends out to Spy Rock Thursday afternoon to overlook the newly protected property. “The Campbell Tract is an excellent example of the benefits of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Blazer. “By acquiring this land, we are continuing the Campbell family’s conservation ethic and preserving clean drinking water with the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  Thousands of Appalachian Trail hikers’ view will remain untouched for future generations.”

Previously known as the Campbell property, the land was owned by descendants of the first settlers in Nelson County—for over 100 years, this land has been subsistence farmed by the Campbell family. Three siblings, descendants of the original owners, lived solely off the land and recently ensured that the character of the natural landscape they protected for so long would be preserved in perpetuity. The unique, high elevation landscape provides the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) with opportunities to manage the property for the benefit of threatened, endangered, sensitive and locally rare habitats and species, like the golden-winged warbler.

The Conservation Fund purchased the Campbell property in May 2014 and today conveyed it to the USFS, which prioritized this project for funding from the LWCF, America’s premier land conservation program.

LWCF is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars—to acquire critical lands and protect our country’s best natural resources. LWCF is annually funded by the U.S. Congress, including Virginia’s U.S. delegation that represents the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests: U.S. Senator Mark Warner, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, and U.S. Representative Robert Hurt. In this 50th year of the LWCF, President Obama has called for full, permanent funding in his proposed budget, recognizing that LWCF is one of the nation’s most effective tools for conserving natural landscapes for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment across the country; preserving and protecting rivers, lakes and other water resources; and expanding the interpretation of historic and cultural sites.

“The George Washington-Jefferson National Forest is one of our country’s greatest natural treasures and I’m very pleased that this important property within the forest will now be protected for future generations,” said U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). “Preserving Virginia’s natural resources remains a priority of mine, and I pledge to keep working with my colleagues to continue to strengthen conservation efforts in the Commonwealth.”

“As an avid outdoorsman, land conservation has long been one of my top priorities,” said U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). “I’m pleased we can celebrate the protection of 317 acres along the Appalachian Trail, preserving the land for wildlife, sportsmen, and hikers—including my family and me—who travel to see the incredible view from Spy Rock. I’ve met with Supervisor Speaks and know what an effective land manager he is at the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. I’m grateful for the collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service and The Conservation Fund that made today’s announcement possible.”  

The addition of this land, which is almost completely surrounded by the National Forest, not only enhances Forest Service management, it also ensures that the nearby freshwater system of Louisa Spring Branch, suitable for brook trout, will continue to improve. The property holds the potential to also be culturally significant, with previous discoveries of numerous early American artifacts. Further, the inclusion of the Campbell tract into the National Forest System contributes towards the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement signed last year by Virginia and five Chesapeake Watershed states as well as the District of Columbia. The Agreement re-emphasizes the goals of Executive Order 13508, "Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration" signed by President Barak Obama in 2009, which declared the Chesapeake Bay watershed a "National Treasure" and calls for actions to protect an additional 2 million acres of land and add 300 public access sites within the watershed by 2025.

“As one of the last Appalachian homesteads, the Campbell family lived, for generations, on fresh water from the stream and what they grew on the land. Though that era is coming to an end, their legacy of good stewardship of the land they loved will carry on, and their mountainside will always be preserved,” said Blaine Phillips, Senior Vice President of The Conservation Fund. “We’re grateful to Virginia's U.S. Congressional delegation for their continued support of LWCF, which enables important conservation efforts like this.”  

"The National Park Service is grateful to the Campbell family for their protection of such a special place along the Appalachian Trail and for their support and vision, along with our partners, to ensure its long term preservation," said Wendy Janssen, Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

The protection of this site has been a priority for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for many years. "The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is thrilled that this extraordinary section of the Trail is now permanently protected and will be managed by our close partner, the U.S. Forest Service,” said the Conservancy’s Executive Director, Ron (Ronald) Tipton. “We appreciate the willingness of the Campbell family to allow their land to be officially part of the Appalachian Trail corridor."

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 to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985..

About the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
Established by Congress in 1965, LWCF is a visionary and bipartisan federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties for the protection of irreplaceable lands and improvement of outdoor recreation opportunities across the nation. No taxpayer dollars are used to support LWCF. The program has permanently protected nearly five million acres of public lands including forests, natural resources, state and local parks and recreation areas. The program is due to expire September 2015, but there are efforts in the U.S. Congress—such as S. 890—to reauthorize the program and fully fund it at its authorized amount of $900 million.

About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC)
The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. A unit of the National Park Service, the AT ranges from Maine to Georgia and is approximately 2,185 miles in length. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The mission of the ATC is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail—ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information, please visit www.appalachiantrail.org.

About Campbell Family and Property History
The Campbell tract is one of the original mountain settlements of Nelson County, Virginia. The property is near the community of Montebello in an area known as Cash’s Hollow, which was first settled in the 1810’s. For over one hundred years, the Campbell tract has been subsistence farmed by the Campbell family, most recently by three siblings, Owens Garfield, James Napoleon and Maybell Campbell, children of Matthew O. Campbell and Annie Loh Cash. The siblings, as their predecessors had done for generations, lived humbly off the land, with no electricity, phone, or indoor plumbing. They worked the fields by mule, raised pigs, and cattle.  They protected the character of the landscape and the unique value of the natural resources as few others could have done in today’s society. All three siblings are buried in the family plot located on the property.  

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org
Alex Faught | U.S. Forest Service | 540-265-5100 | afaught@fs.fed.