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Lytton John Musselman

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Blackwater Ecological Preserve


This plan pertains to two adjacent natural areas which compose the Zuni Pine Barrens Preserves: Blackwater Ecological Preserve (BEP) owned by Old Dominion University (ODU), and Antioch Pines Natural Area Preserve (NAP) owned by the commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Both preserves have been dedicated as state natural area preserves due to their outstanding conservation value. BEP harbors one of the last remaining longleaf pine associations in Virginia, while Antioch Pines NAP harbors natural communities and site conditions similar to those at BEP plus old-growth loblolly pines. Both retain savanna-like characteristics (biological and physical) that are extremely rare in Virginia. Together, they encompass 718 acres.

The human activities and the physical, chemical and environmental processes that have shaped the ecological communities found at these sites are largely shared. Therefore, this plan treats these neighboring natural areas as two very closely related components of a larger system - the Zuni Pine Barrens. However, it should be noted that the two natural areas are owned and managed by two different organizations. Although the overwhelming majority of management objectives and priorities are the same, there are differences. These differences will be distinguished within the body of this plan.


BEP and Antioch Pines NAP shall be managed in a manner consistent with continued preservation of the natural heritage resources they support. Currently, management of both preserves adheres to regulations set forth by the DCR Division of State Parks (Appendix C) and Draft Natural Area Management Guidelines (Appendix D).

Natural Area Dedication

BEP was donated to The Nature Conservancy by Union Camp Corporation in 1985, and was then deeded to Old Dominion University. BEP was dedicated as a State Natural Area Preserve with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in 1995. Antioch Pines NAP was purchased by DCR and was dedicated as a State Natural Area Preserve in 1996. Natural area dedication is the strongest form of protection that can be afforded a natural area in Virginia. It involves recording a legally binding Instrument of Dedication with the property deed (Appendix N). The Instrument states the preservation purpose of the property, restricts land uses which are incompatible, and formally places the site in Virginia's Natural Area Preserve System. Dedication is perpetual; ownership of the property can be transferred, but the dedication will remain in effect. The Instrument of Dedication is enabled by the Virginia Natural Area Preserves Act of 1989 (Code of Virginia, section 10.1-209, et seq.; Appendix E).

Both of these preserves have been designated as Open-Space Lands under the Virginia Open-Space Land Act (Code of Virginia, section 10.1-1700, et seq.)

Pertinent Natural Resource Laws

Many natural resource laws may pertain to the management of BEP and Antioch Pines NAP. Among the most important are the Virginia Natural Area Preserves Act (Code of Virginia sections 10.1-209 - 217) (Appendix F), the Federal Endangered Species Act (16 USC 1531 - 1544), the Virginia Endangered Species Act (Code of Virginia sections 29.1-230 - 237), the Virginia Endangered Plant and Insect Species Act (Code of Virginia sections 3.1-1020 - 1030), the Federal Clean Water Act (33 USC section 1344), the Virginia Wetlands Act (Code of Virginia section 28.2-1300 - 1320), the Virginia Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (Code of Virginia sections 10.1-2100 - 2115), the Virginia Submerged Lands Law (Code of Virginia, section 28.2-1200 - 1213), the Virginia Environmental Quality Act (Code of Virginia sections 10.1-1200 - 1221), and the National Environmental Policy Act (42 USC sections 4321 - 4307d).

The Virginia Natural Area Preserves Act contains the enabling legislation for the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System and Natural Area Dedication. The Federal Endangered Species Act, the Virginia Endangered Species Act, and the Virginia Endangered Plant and Insect Species Act pertain to species which are listed or are proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered at the state or federal level, and provide protection measures for listed species. The Virginia Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act requires local governments to pass ordinances designed to improve water quality through changes in land use practices. The Federal Clean Water Act and the Virginia Submerged Lands Law pertain to protection of wetland communities of the preserve and submerged lands adjacent to the preserve. The National Environmental Policy Act and the Virginia Environmental Quality Act require environmental review of certain projects proposed, funded, or authorized by state or federal agencies or institutions. A listing of federal and state natural resource laws which could affect BEP or Antioch Pines NAP or their management is given in Appendix F.

Cooperative Management

BEP is cooperatively managed by the BEP committee, composed of members from the Old Dominion University department of biology, the Virginia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Union Camp Corporation, and the Virginia Department of Forestry. Antioch Pines NAP is owned and managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation - Division of Natural Heritage (DNH).

With regard to Antioch Pines NAP, DCR has established a cooperative intra-departmental strategy for management of natural area preserves to conserve limited resources. Staff from different divisions of DCR participate in management of preserves. The DNH system of Regional Stewards is responsible for coordinating management on natural area preserves. Other DCR divisions, such as the Division of State Parks (DSP) and the Division of Planning and Recreation Resources (DPRR) may also participate in resource management planning and assist DNH with management. The Division of Planning and Recreation Resources (DPRR) provides technical advice to DSP and DNH regarding issues related to public access, recreation resources, and scenic resources. DNH, DSP, and DPRR share responsibility for planning, designing, and constructing public access facilities at preserves. DCR's Division of Soil and Water Conservation (DSWC) provides technical advice and other support upon request. The Division of Administration (DoA) assists with promotion and interpretation projects. DCR's cooperative management process is supervised by the Natural Areas Management Team (NAMT), comprised of the Stewardship Program Manager from the Division of Natural Heritage, and the Resource Management Coordinator from DSP. NAMT coordinates the cooperative management process and works on long-term natural area preserve management issues including planning and project implementation.

DCR also draws upon resources outside of the Department to help manage natural area preserves. Other local, state, and federal government agencies, academic institutions, private conservation groups, and volunteers may assist with cooperative management efforts on Virginia's natural area preserves.


BEP lies north of and adjacent to Route 614, and west of Horse Swamp and on the east side of the Blackwater River, about 5 miles south of the town of Zuni in Isle of Wight County, Virginia.

Antioch Pines NAP is located adjacent to and just east of the Blackwater River, north of and adjacent to Blackwater Ecological Preserve, and south of Antioch Swamp.


BEP is 318 acres in size. BEP is bounded by Antioch Pines NAP to the north, Horse Swamp to the south, and partially bounded by the Blackwater River to the west. Figure 2 shows boundaries of the preserves. Surrounding tracts are in private ownership.

Antioch Pines NAP is 400 acres in size. The latest survey of Antioch Pines NAP was completed in 1995; a copy of the survey plat and the legal description of the tract boundaries are kept on file at DCR-DNH offices. Antioch Pines NAP is bounded by Antioch Swamp to the north, Britt Run to the east, and partially bounded by Horse Swamp to the south and the Blackwater River to the west.


Visitor access facilities are currently being planned. One nature trail, the "Gisela A. Grimm Nature Trail" (with trail guide), was established in 1995.

(Taken from the management plan of the Blackwater Ecologic Preserve and the Antioch Pines Natural Area edited by Barbara Blonder)