The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation had added land to natural area preserves in Franklin and Floyd counties.

The department added 33½ acres to the Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve in Franklin County with a Virginia Land Conservation Fund grant. The addition, located along the Pigg River and U.S. 220, is a blueway that provides habitat for endangered fish species, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The state also added 6½ acres to the Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve in Floyd County. The wooded parcel contributes to the forested viewshed at the entrance to the preserve and also serves as a buffer from nearby development. The purchase in Floyd County also was funded with a Virginia Land Conservation Fund grant as well as private donations, according to the news release.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced the additions Friday. In total, the state added 242 acres to the Natural Area Preserve System and conserved 63 acres of land through open-space easements. Other acreage was added to Antioch Pines Natural Area Preserve in Isle of Wight County and the Deep Run Ponds Natural Area Preserve in Rockingham County.

The Natural Area Preserve System was established in 1989 to protect rare plants, animals and natural communities in the state. Most preserves are owned by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, but some are owned by local governments or privately.

The newest land acquisitions come as part of ConserveVirginia, a program Northam launched earlier this year to identify high value lands for conservation across the state. The “smart map” guides the state in prioritizing which areas to conserve for the maximum benefits in agriculture, ecosystem diversity, flooding resilience, historic preservation and scenic preservation.

“Every one of these parcels hits multiple categories in the model and highlights the best conservation lands in Virginia, protecting biodiversity, water quality, and our precious natural heritage resources,” Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler said in the news release.

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Alison Graham covers Roanoke County and Salem news. She’s originally from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University.

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