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Outdoor Updates: Virginia’s Rappahannock River Gains Protection and Bear Box Installed on A.T. in North Carolina

View of tree covered cliffs along a river viewed from the water on a blue sky day.

Cover Photo: Fones Cliffs upstream from boat launch Photo by Heather Richards

A nonprofit environmental organization has acquired the largest unconserved portion of Virginia’s Fones Cliffs on the Rappahannock River. The Conservation Fund’s acquisition—in partnership with the Rappahannock Tribe and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)—halts developmental threats to 964 acres along the river that hosts the highest concentrations of bald eagles in the Chesapeake region and holds historical significance to the Rappahannock Tribe. 

“I am thrilled that Fones Cliffs will be further protected and that Virginians will be able to enjoy this beautiful area for years to come,” stated Tim Kaine, a U.S. senator from Virginia. “Its acquisition is an important step in returning the Rappahannock Tribe’s ancestral lands.”

The historical significance of the land dates back centuries to when the tribe’s ancestors first defended their villages against Captain John Smith during his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay in 1608. 

“Years of tracking this property through multiple owners and a complex bankruptcy proceeding has finally brought us to this acquisition,” said Heather Richards, the Conservation Fund’s Mid-Atlantic regional director. “We’re thrilled that we were able to seize our chance to purchase the property and work with our partners to protect this significant place for future generations.”

The Conservation Fund bought the land for $8.1 million at a bankruptcy auction, stopping development plans that included a resort. The purchase was finalized back in early December and marked the significant step towards a long-term plan to permanently protect the site and eventually transfer the land to the Rappahannock Tribe later this year. 

“With the help of the Conservation Fund and other partners, this transaction is of utmost importance for the Rappahannocks to be able to return to the lands of our ancestors,” said Chief Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe. “It’s incredibly healing for our Tribe today and to know that it will be preserved perpetually for future generations ensures stability in the hearts of our elders for tomorrow.”

Local North Carolina Non-Profit Installs Bear Box on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail hikers in North Carolina now have a new bear box to safely store food. The box was installed near the Groundhog Creek Shelter by the Carolina Mountain Club (CMC), a non-profit based in western North Carolina that builds trails and maintains portions of the A.T. and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. As bear-human interactions have increased in recent years, the box—the first to be installed on the 94-mile section of the AT that CMC maintains—gives campers and hikers a receptacle to safely store food, trash, and other scented items. Members of the non-profit posted a video that follows the difficult process of transporting the 350-pound box 300 yards up a steep hill. 

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