Big Woods WMA & State Forest Dedication

September 26, 2011

In 2010, the Department of Forestry (DOF) and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) acquired 4,400 acres of pine forest in Sussex County, commonly known as Big Woods, creating a new State Forest and Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The property is adjacent to the 3,200-acre Piney Grove Preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The three organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the dedication ceremony on September 26, 2011, and the three properties will be managed cooperatively.

DOF and DGIF purchased the property from The Nature Conservancy in 2010. Funding for the $6.4 million acquisition came from a variety of sources, including a Virginia land conservation bond ($4.1 million). Grants were awarded through the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program ($900,000); the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Recovery Land Acquisition Grant Program ($550,000), and the Virginia Land Conservation Fund ($850,000).

What makes this land so significant is that it is considered to be one of the best locations in eastern Virginia to restore a functional pine savannah system capable of supporting a wide diversity of plant and animal life, including red-cockaded woodpeckers and bob white quail.

  • The DOF will actively manage its portion — the 2,200-acre Big Woods State Forest — for sustainable forestry, economic development and landowner education. Keeping working forests as working forests is vital to both the economic and environmental health of Virginia.
  • DGIF will manage the 2,208-acre Big Woods WMA for conservation and management of the red-cockaded woodpecker, as well as bobwhite quail, Bachman's sparrow, southeastern fox squirrel, and other species. It is anticipated that the Big Woods State Forest and Big Woods WMA will offer deer, turkey, quail and other hunting as well as wildlife watching opportunities.
  • In addition to the many wildlife habitat benefits associated with this forested land, Big Woods straddles both the Nottoway River and Blackwater River watersheds - the primary source of drinking water for more than 700,000 residents in southeastern Virginia. Conserving this property protects those watersheds and helps reduce the frequency of flood events.
  • The Nature Conservancy had the foresight to purchase the land from International Paper in 2006.
  • The red-cockaded woodpecker is a federally endangered species found only in pine savannah forests of the southeastern United States. It's known from only one location in Virginia, the 3,200-acre Piney Grove Preserve owned by TNC. Piney Grove is home to approximately 70 red-cockaded woodpeckers.