Spotsylvania County, VA (July 23, 2020) – Not too long ago,1,026 acres of Virginia forest, just a couple of miles NE of Lake Anna State Park, had an unclear future. But not now. Thanks to the foresight of Rich McDaniel, this land is now permanently protected through two conservation easements (784 and 241 acres respectively). These easements were donated to the Land Trust of Virginia (LTV) on July 23. With this recording, McDaniel has now donated a total of three easements to LTV, with the first easement donated on a 213 acre tract in 2018 in Culpeper County.
According to McDaniel, these properties, which are located around a mile from each other, are known as the “Knights Branch” properties, named for Knights Branch, which is a robust perennial stream running along the boundary of the 784 acre property. Both properties were owned for many years by a local Spotsylvania family, who originally established an active timber business on the acreage now under easement. For most of the 1900s, forestry was a very important part of Spotsylvania County’s economy, providing livelihoods for many local families. However, with the County’s ideal location between Richmond and DC, and the construction and expansion of Interstate 95, the nature of this once rural area has steadily shifted from rural and forestry uses to more suburban and residential uses with a growing population and many families selling their properties to developers.
The Knights Branch parcels had the potential to be divided into more than 60 residential lots. However, thanks to the conservation leadership of McDaniel, this conservation easement has now permanently retired 56 lots. “This is a huge win for conservation and will maintain these open spaces in an increasingly congested part of the Commonwealth,” commented Ashton Cole, LTV’s Director of Conservation. The property provides a unique snapshot of Virginia forest types and includes loblolly pine plantings, native mixed-pine stands, and significant mature hardwood. With nearly 700 acres of “Prime Farmland” soils, 66 acres of flood plain, and multiple streams, the property also provides an ideal habitat for many species including the native and endangered American Eel.
As an avid outdoorsman with a life-long goal of protecting open space, when asked why conservation matters, McDaniel said with resolve in his voice, “It matters now, but also for people 100 years from now. I am certainly thankful for land that was conserved 100 years ago. If we don’t preserve our open space now, there will be very little left for future generations.”
While the future of this property was once unknown, its protection is now a sure thing. With the addition of these two conservation easements, McDaniel has protected nearly 4,000 acres in Virginia, working with several public and private land trusts.