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State forest land purchased

Charlotte County will become home to the commonwealth’s 26th state forest.

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) announced Thursday, Dec. 3 that the department had acquired 2,531 acres of working timberland near the town of Drakes Branch from The Conservation Fund.

The land owned by Stanley Land and Lumber Corporation is located along Saxkey Road, a designated Virginia Scenic Byway.

What will be known as Charlotte State Forest is also the first publicly accessible state land in Charlotte County. 

“The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) supports the establishment of Charlotte State Forest and the opportunity to better connect the public to the outdoors in our own community,” BOS Chairman Garland Hamlett Jr said. “This is a rare opportunity for Southside Virginia that protects the environment and benefits the public.”

In November 2019, the BOS agreed to give the VDOF a letter in support of a state forest that would be located in the county, but not before supervisor Kay Pierantoni expressed her concern for possible lost tax revenue to the county.

The VDOF does not pay real estate taxes on property, but with the purchase of the land, the county would receive 25% of any timber sales.

According to VDOF, Charlotte County is located within the state’s highest timber-producing region.

Virginia forests contribute $21 billion annually to the state’s economy. Forestry is the third leading industry in the commonwealth, employing more than 108,000 Virginians in forestry, forest products and related industries.

Charlotte State Forest includes approximately 13 miles of the Roanoke and Wards Ford Creeks—two tributary streams to the Roanoke River, a designated Virginia Scenic River. VDOF plans to acquire an additional 2,500 adjacent acres currently owned by The Conservation Fund, creating the fifth-largest sustainable forestry initiative certified state forest in the commonwealth.

“The creation of a new state forest on the Stanley land celebrates a long legacy of well-managed working forests,” Heather Richards, Virginia state director for The Conservation Fund said. “We are honored to assist the commonwealth in the protection of these timberlands to support local forestry jobs, protect key wildlife habitat and provide new public recreational access for a variety of activities in Charlotte County.”

In a press release, Senator Mark Warner said the preservation of more than 2,000 acres of working timberland would safeguard vital habitats and provide outdoor recreation opportunities to support the local economy.