After a years-long push to preserve an ecologically outstanding stretch of Virginia’s Rappahannock River from development, a 1,000-acre parcel along Fones Cliffs has been acquired by The Conservation Fund.
The Fund purchased this parcel at a bankruptcy auction from the previous owner, the Virginia True Corporation, which in 2015 persuaded Richmond County, Virginia, to rezone the parcel to allow development of a mammoth resort, projected to include a hotel, hundreds of homes, a golf course and other amenities. Clear-cutting and other early construction steps taken at the deeply forested, environmentally sensitive site violated basic rules to protect water quality, leading to enforcement action by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the imposition of significant fines.
The acquisition of this parcel by The Conservation Fund is the latest of several important steps to preserve Fones Cliffs, an area bordering the Rappahannock River, which provides an important forage and nesting site for bald eagles and other wildlife and has deep cultural and historic significance to the Rappahannock Tribe.
In 2018, a nearby 252-acre tract of Fones Cliffs was transferred to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In April 2022, the Rappahannock Tribe celebrated the return to the tribe of 465 acres of land along Fones Cliffs
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner issued the following statement.
“This is a very significant conservation step. Fones Cliffs is a natural treasure with exceptional environmental and cultural value. In less than a decade, a committed group of conservation-minded organizations and residents, including The Conservation Fund, the Rappahannock Tribe, and others, has helped to turn back unwise efforts to develop this site and helped to ensure its preservation in a natural state.
“We congratulate The Conservation Fund and all those who were instrumental in bringing about this excellent result.”