The conservation community is celebrating a major win for a local landmark.
The Conservation Fund – a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting environmentally and economically significant natural spaces – announced Wednesday that 91 acres in the Shenandoah Valley, known as the Knob, had been secured under permanent federal protection. According to a news release from the Conservation Fund, the land will be protected and managed as a part of the George Washington National Forest.
Heather Richards, the Virginia state director for the Conversation Fund, said the piece of land is important to protect.
“The land is such an iconic backdrop for the valley that it was critical to protect,” she said. “Public ownership will protect that viewshed for the public and bring the management of the entire ridgeline under the U.S. Forest Service.”
The Knob is the rocky-topped end of Short Mountain, which is located between Mount Jackson and Edinburg. The property is used for recreational purposes, such as hiking, and provides a habitat for rare species, including the timber rattlesnake and peregrine falcons. The land also lies just above the reserve drinking water supply for the Town of Mount Jackson.
The Conservation Fund worked with the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley and the USDA Forest Service on the project.
Kim Woodwell, program director for the alliance, noted that the Knob is a historical landmark in the area, and that “We’re super excited about the project, and the community is excited that we got this done.”
According to the news release, much of the Shenandoah Valley’s forestland is privately owned and at risk of fragmentation and development. Richards said the organization was contacted by the U.S. Forest Service several years ago and asked for assistance in acquiring the Knob.
“The landowner had a need to sell as soon as possible, but the federal government couldn’t move that quickly,” she said. “We worked with the landowner to purchase the property, hold it, and sold it to the Forest Service for the same amount that we purchased it for.”
Woodwell said that she spoke with Richards about buying the Knob in the summer of 2017. She said that she and other members of the community, including Mount Jackson Vice Mayor Rod Shepherd, reached out to help secure funding to buy the property.
“There was a $50,000 gap that needed to be closed, and we got there thanks to the community,” Woodwell said.
The Conservation Fund purchased the property in the spring of 2018 to ensure the integrity of the landscape. The organization managed the property until federal and private funding could be secured for its addition to the national forest.
The alliance worked with The Conservation Fund and the Town of Mount Jackson to secure $80,000 of funding from communities throughout the Shenandoah region. The U.S. Congress appropriated money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the Forest Service’s purchase of the property.
Woodwell said that the support from the community came due to so many having memories of The Knob.
“Everyone had stories, and they had this connection to the Knob,” she said. “They remember going up there for hikes and picnics. It means a lot to the people here.”
Shepherd, who took photos of the Knob to help show the need for protection of the property, stated in an email that he was pleased with the community support for the project.
“We were fortunate to have many small donors at the beginning to help kick off the save the Knob project,” he stated. “I am happy my photographs of our Knob helped with the early advocacy. Preserving that mountain top will benefit us today and in the future.”