A cause for celebration: Fones Cliffs protected along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT

by Jody Hedeman Couser, Director of Communications, Chesapeake Conservancy

Partners gathered at historic Fones Cliffs along Virginia’s Rappahannock River and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail on June 28, 2019, to celebrate the permanent protection of 252 acres recently added to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The event marked an important victory in a decade-long effort to save one of the most pristine landscapes in the Chesapeake watershed. 

The cliffs that tower 100 feet above the river provide globally significant habitat for bald eagles and other bird species. The area is culturally significant as an ancestral home for the Rappahannock people and as a site documented in the journals of English explorer Captain John Smith. Thanks to The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), this parcel will now be protected from development and will add opportunities for hiking and birdwatching. Funding for the acquisition came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Chesapeake Conservancy helped to secure.

Chesapeake Conservancy helped secure funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire Fones Cliffs in Virginia. A total of 252 acres were permanently protected and added to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge by the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Allenby, Chesapeake Conservancy)s

Fones Cliffs was once home to three American Indian towns, and it retains great significance to the Rappahannock people today. “We are so pleased to see this portion of the Cliffs protected from development,” said Rappahannock Tribe Chief Anne Richardson, who is also a member of Chesapeake Conservancy’s Board of Directors. “This is the land where our ancestors lived for thousands of years, and it is sacred to our Tribe. Thanks to all the partners who understand how essential land preservation is to our very existence.”

The entire conservation community and the public can rightfully celebrate this tremendous accomplishment. However, an adjoining 968 acres remain threatened as the corporate owner seeks to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Chesapeake Conservancy will continue to be vigilant in monitoring all activities related to the proposed development and will continue our strong advocacy for conserving this property and its irreplaceable natural, historical, and cultural values.

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.