To create an innovative model for multi-landowner wildlife habitat improvement in the lower Thumb Run Watershed. (see map below)
Linking habitats - like this native
wildflower meadow - to one another,
increase their benefit to wildlife
across the landscape
Photo by Bruce Jones Nature Photography
In June 2012, PEC received a grant from The Volgenau Foundation to improve wildlife habitat in the northwestern region of Fauquier County. This project area is geographically defined by the lower Thumb Run watershed; all water in the region drains into Thumb Run and eventually the Rappahannock River. Wildlife habitat improvement goals for this project align with state priority wildlife species including: early successional song birds, pollinators, fresh water aquatic species such as mussels, amphibians, and more. Improving the connectivity of habitat “corridors” such as riparian buffers is a key focus of the project. Habitat practices that have other environmental benefits such as improved water quality are also of high priority.
The lower Thumb Run watershed has over 300 private landowners. For this effort, PEC is developing a unique model of multi-landowner outreach and coordination to maximize conservation success among these many landowners. PEC will provide on-site wildlife habitat technical assistance to any interested landowner in the region. To maximize the potential for wildlife corridors, joint site visits with neighbors will be strongly encouraged.
Many species, including the beautiul
wood duck, make use of wildlife
Photo by Bruce Jones Nature Photography
PEC has also partnered with John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District and Natural Resources Conservation Service to leverage these private funds. The Thumb Run watershed is an impaired stream due to pollution (see project rationale below). Currently farmers can receive financial assistance to improve water quality, but this does not cover all associated costs. This partnership will provide farmers in the project area 100% cost-share to implement wildlife-friendly best management practices such as livestock stream exclusion and buffer plantings in the watershed.
This project has an expected completion date of fall 2013. PEC hopes to obtain additional resources that could expand the depth and geographic scale of the effort to include the entire watershed or neighboring watersheds.
There are two major rationales for this effort. First, the Thumb Run watershed is listed as an impaired waterway in Virginia due to E. Coli levels. This provides an immediate reason to improve the water quality of the run for not only the health of the Chesapeake Bay, but also wildlife species of concern in the watershed. Currently there are at least two VA State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) aquatic species of concern in the watershed:
"..a sustainable quail population
typically requires at least 2000 acres."
Photo by Les Howard
green darter mussel (Lasmigona subviridis, VA SWAP Tier 2) and yellow lance (Elliptio lanceolata, VA SWAP Tier 3; source John Marshall SWCD), both of which are sensitive to pollution levels. Additionally, creating quality wildlife habitat through stream buffering, native warm season grasses, etc. will benefit many species beyond just these mussels including birds (numerous VA SWAP species), mammals, and amphibians.
Secondly, this project has merit for its potential as a new model of conservation. Most wildlife species have habitat needs that are simply beyond the scale of a typical landowner. For example, while a covey of bobwhite quail may only require 15-20 acres of quality habitat, a permanent, sustainable quail population (multiple coveys) typically requires at least 2000 acres. Therefore, coordination to improve and connect habitat across multiple landowners is probably necessary if we want many species to thrive.
For more information on the project contact:
Sustainable Habitat Program Manager