The Shenandoah National Park can expand by hundreds of acres thanks to land-protection efforts.

The Shenandoah National Park Trust bought 225 acres of vacant land in the Browntown area from the Wildlife Center of Virginia in February 2021 for $200,000. The trust closed on the sale Sept. 16.

The land borders the Shenandoah National Park to the west of Skyline Drive. The trust purchased the land with the sole purpose of donating it to the National Park Service, an agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The trust needs to have the Warren County land surveyed before the organization can transfer the property to the National Park Service, Executive Director Jessica Cocciolone said by phone Wednesday. The acquisition and eventual donation to the federal agency serves the trust’s mission of protecting the national park, Cocciolone said.

“It’s extending the park’s boundaries and ... helping to protect the ecological integrity of the current boundary,” Cocciolone said.

Once the trust transfers the property, a National Park Service biologist can determine if the land provides a habitat for any endangered or threatened species, Cocciolone explained.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia received the Warren County land from an estate and decided to sell the property to the trust, Cocciolone said. The land likely could not be developed as most of the 200 acres lies on the cliff of a mountain.

The Shenandoah National Park Trust also purchased 900 acres of land in Page County in February 2021. The trust has since given the Page County property to the National Park Service to expand the amount of land protected in the Shenandoah National Park.

The trust worked with Virginia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the DuPont Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement, to acquire the Page County woodlands. DuPont had contaminated a Virginia waterway by dumping industrial mercury over several decades. The trust purchased the properties in Warren and Page counties with funds awarded from the settlement between Virginia, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the former E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.

The trust intends to schedule an event possibly for later this year to commemorate the land conservation and park protection effort, Cocciolone said.

The trust serves as the official philanthropic partner of the Shenandoah National Park and invests in programs and initiatives that “help ensure that Shenandoah remains a crown jewel of the Park Service, an economic driver for the region, and a national treasure for all to enjoy, for generations to come,” the organization’s website states.

The trust works to protect the park’s 200,000 acres of wild lands, wildlife and historic treasures from invasive species and climate change; to ensure access for all children, regardless of economic background, and inspire the next generation of preservationists and conservationists, the website states.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com

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