Mark Warner donates $1.5M to Nature Conservancy

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The Nature Conservancy announced last week that Virginia former Gov. Mark Warner and former first lady Lisa Collis have given $1.5 million to the international group to help advance its conservation work in the Allegheny Highlands of western Virginia.

Warm Springs Mountain and Bath County are favorite retreats for our family, said Collis, who for the past five years has served on the Conservancys volunteer board of trustees in Virginia. Mark and I have a deep appreciation for the lands, waters and open spaces of Virginia. Were proud to support the Conservancys work in preserving this beautiful corner of Virginia for future generations.

The Conservancy purchased Warm Springs Mountain Preserve, which overlooks the historic Homestead resort, in March 2002 for $6.2 million. The acquisition remains the Conservancys single largest land purchase in Virginia. Through diverse conservation partnerships, the Conservancy continues to conduct research, protect additional land and restore native habitat.

Mark and Lisa are greatly enhancing our efforts to conserve a landscape that is deeply intertwined with our commonwealths history and natural heritage, said Michael Lipford, the Nature Conservancys Virginia executive director. Their generous gift will not only help pay off our mortgage on the preserve, but also will free up resources to advance our conservation work at Warm Springs Mountain and across the state.

Lipford said that the Warm Springs Mountain and the pristine Cowpasture River cutting along its foot open windows to the Highlands lush natural landscape. Streams thread across the mountain, and rare plants such as bunchberry still flourish there. In places, the thriving hardwood forest suddenly gives way to a globally rare montane pine barrenarid terrain blanketed with stunted pitch pine and shrubs.

The diversity of habitats and species led the Conservancy to target Warm Springs Mountain as the focal point of its work in the Allegheny Highlands. More recently, conservation planners have identified the entirety of the surrounding Central Appalachiansrunning from Virginia north to Pennsylvaniaas one of the Conservancys top global priorities.

The Central Appalachians have produced one of the worlds richest temperate broadleaf forests. Wildlife such as the barred owl, bobcat, black bear and fisher, along with unusual plants, thrive within its tapestry of woods and rivers. Many species are endemicthey occur nowhere else on Earth. The forests also shelter cool headwater streams that deliver clean water to larger riversthe Rappahannock, Potomac and Susquehannaand thus to millions of people in the East Coast.

Our lands and waters are being changed at unprecedented rates, said Lipford. So, the Nature Conservancy is indeed fortunate to have Gov. Warner and Lisa Collis among our dedicated supporters who are helping to conserve critical places.

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