Fones Cliffs

Development Threatens Rappahannock River and Bald Eagle Habitat

2017-5 Image for Fones Cliffs page

Fones Cliffs, one of the most important bald eagle habitats on the East Coast, is in danger of being turned into a luxury residential community and resort, complete with golf course, lodge, and spa.

Update January 12, 2018: Fones Cliffs developer begins clearing land without proper permits and environmental controls

One of the most important bald eagle habitats on the East Coast is in danger of being turned into a luxury residential community and resort, complete with golf course, lodge, and spa. Fones Cliffs is an idyllic and dramatic spot in Richmond County on Virginia's Northern Neck. The extensive forest and high white cliffs rising above the Rappahannock River provide an ideal hunting perch for the hundreds of eagles that migrate through the area, as well as numerous nesting pairs. It's such a key site that the area has been designated an important bird area by the National Audubon Society. The river itself is a major spawning and nursery area for fish, including striped bass, shad, and sturgeon.

However, a colossal proposed development would cover a nearly 1,000-acre section of Fones Cliffs, threatening this vital habitat.

This plan would jeopardize the thriving eagle population and doesn't make sense in the light of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, which requires Virginia to sharply reduce pollution entering its waterways. Large swaths of forest would be cut and substantial areas of pavement would be added, reducing the ability of the land to filter the polluted runoff before it reaches the river. Wetlands and streams would be in danger. The waterfront development would increase cliff erosion, and there could be significant damage from the planned septic systems.

CBF Continues to Oppose This Development

In November 2015, local officials approved the developer's request to rezone its portion of Fones Cliffs to allow for a large commercial-residential development. But this is far from over. CBF will stay engaged during the upcoming application and development process. That includes tracking important permits and requirements that protect the environment, as well as reporting actions that don't live up to appropriate standards.

For example, in late 2017 developers illegally cleared 13.5 acres of forest without proper permits and environmental controls. CBF reported the illegal land disturbances to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Following the land clearing, Richmond County issued a stop work order. Before work can resume, the developers must submit plans to DEQ for a stormwater management permit and to Richmond County for erosion and sediment control.

Economists, land use planners and real estate agents have been highly skeptical of the project. Thousands of Virginians have come out against this development. We'll continue to follow this project in hopes that this unparalleled place will not be destroyed.



Location of the Planned Fones Cliffs Development

The red marker shows the planned location of the Fones Cliffs development.

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