Another 4,672 acres in the Oriskany area will be added to the already 80,000 acres of National Forest in Botetourt County.
The Open Space Institute (OSI) issued a news release Friday announcing that the newly passed federal Omnibus bill (budget bill) includes Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funds that will allow the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to acquire the property from OSI Land Trust that’s based in New York.
OSI purchased the property in late 2016 with the intentions of holding it until the USFS could acquire the land, OSI officials told The Herald then.
“Grace Furnace” property, as OSI calls it, is off Lignite Road and is joined by other National Forest land in the Eastern Divide Ranger District
OSI said including funds for purchasing the property for the USFS means the property will be preserved as a local recreational asset and will protect the water quality of Craig Creek that feeds the James River as it flows to the Chesapeake Bay.
The Grace Furnace property was purchased by OSI for $5 million in December 2016. With the funds provided through the federal budget agreement, the property is expected to be transferred to the National Forest Service as an addition to the Jefferson National Forest. The parcel includes 14 freshwater springs that empty into Craig Creek.
The property also includes access to over 10 miles of habitat for brook trout. “Once thriving in mountain streams and high valley creeks, the remaining intact populations of native brook trout are currently relegated to isolated mountain headwater streams,” the OSI announcement said.
“We congratulate our federal leaders for ensuring the permanent protection of the Grace Furnace property,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “This significant conservation project offers large-scale watershed and habitat protection, as well as premier recreational value, including critical access for fishing. We are proud of the role OSI played in originally securing this property, preventing it from being disassembled and developed. It is an important accomplishment for us, and we thank the Chesapeake Conservancy for their support in leading the Rivers of the Chesapeake collaborative and their dedication to the health and safety of the Bay.”
The Grace Furnace, a coldblast charcoal furnace located on the property, is an historic “pig iron” furnace that dates from the early 19th century, and likely supplied iron ore for munitions during the Civil War.
OSI purchased the property that had belonged to Gorgica Asessores SL, a Madrid, Spain-based limited liability company that was established in 2006, according to the land records.
It is part of the former Westvaco land that was sold in 2002 when the company divested itself of about 35,000 acres in Botetourt.
The Grace Furnace Property is part of the former Lignite mines area.
According to a sale synopsis of the property in 2016, 5.5 miles of the 4,276 acres borders the Jefferson National Forest. It has elevations that reach 3,200 feet on Rich Patch Mountain, and has 1,000 feet of frontage on Craig Creek.
According to land records, it was accessed for tax purposes at just over $5.1 million. Gorgica Asessores SL bought the property in late 2008 for $5.6 million from TLG Holdings LLC in Washington, D.C. TLG bought the property from Westvaco.
According to its website, “the Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands and sustain communities. Founded in 1974, initially, to protect significant landscapes in New York State, today, OSI has been a partner in the protection of over 2.2 million acres in North America.”