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Chestnut Ridge

Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve

The Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve, owned by Bob and Darlinda Gilvary of Narrows, VA, is a 233 acre old-growth forest located on Chestnut Ridge in Giles County, Virginia. Bob Gilvary discovered the old-growth forest within their 2250 acre tree farm


Summer 2014 Forest Report

Sharing responsibility for Chestnut Ridge Preserve continues to reap benefits for the Foundation from its cooperative agreement with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in monitoring the forest’s conservation.

Natural Heritage staffers visited Chestnut Ridge late last year and provided the Foundation with updates. Similarly, a request in the summer of 2014 from Radford University researcher Stockton Maxwell (now a 500YFF scientific advisor) to do tree ring work in the Chestnut Ridge forest was forwarded to DCR. The collaborative relationship was further deepened by Foundation inclusion in an arrangement to share easement monitoring funds and in the DCR’s 2014 survey of conservation activity.

Earlier Forest Reports

Fall 2004 and Spring 2005

Phil Couling and Bob GilvaryIn the fall of 2004 a visit by Philip Coulling, vegetation ecologist, with the Natural Heritage Division of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) determined the importance of the site. The forest “supports two significant communities (northern red oak and chestnut oak) noteworthy for their old-growth status. In addition these communities occur in a large matrix of nearly unbroken forest, the extent of which is quite unusual in southwest Virginia.” Another visit in spring of 2005 by a team of VNHP scientists confirmed the existence of trees that were from 300 to 400 years old. Other canopy species in the forest with aged individuals include cucumber magnolia and American basswood

June 2005

Bob an Darlinda Gilvary with Richard ChidesterIn June 2005 The 500-Year Forest Foundation was awarded $224,130 from the Virginia Land Conservation Fund to purchase 50% of the development rights ($200,000) of the forest to be offset by at least a 50% donation by the Gilvarys. $24,130 was budgeted to pay for appraisals, survey and legal expenses. The actual costs of these services were less than $11,000. The DCR , the Gilvarys, and The 500-Year Forest Foundation will develop a Natural Areas conservation plan for the forest.

Late 2005 - 2006

In December 2005 Britt Boucher of Foresters, Inc., Blacksburg, appraised the stumpage value of the 233+ acres of forest at $440,000. (Stumpage value is the value of lumber that can be sawed out, minus the costs of harvest, transport, and conversion to lumber including a margin of profit.) There is virgin timber (never been cut) on about two thirds of the land.

Bob Gilvary and a very Old Northern Red OakIn March 2006 Mathews and Henegar, Inc. of Dublin, Virginia completed a survey of the property. The appraisal of the forest land both before and after development and timber rights is called the easement value. Randi Lemmon of Lucas Real Estate Appraisers, Inc. of Blacksburg performed this easement valuation, arriving at a figure of $538,000. The coverage for the required 50% match to the grant was more than adequate.

The Commonwealth of Virginia in the Department of Conservation and Recreation prepared the Deed of Natural Area Preservation Dedication. When all grant requirements were met, the deed was signed and disbursement was accomplished August 29, 2006.

April 2007


Boundary signs including the identification of both the Department of Conservation and Recreation and The 500-Year Forest Foundation have been installed every 300 feet around this old-growth tract with blaze markings every 100 feet. The state hired Thompson & Litton, surveyors to do this work. Recently Al Cire, Western Operations Steward with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, inspected the completed work and said the job was well done.

October 2007

For Bob and Darlinda Gilvary extreme drought and the threat of gypsy moth invasion made for a harrowing time this summer. Relief from the drought finally occurred in late October with five plus inches of rain that fell over three days. The gypsy moth was a problem in eastern Giles County and there was a concern that it would travel into western Giles County where this forest is located. Since this forest is one of the Virginia’s 50 Natural Area Preserves, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation arranges for any control efforts. Bryan Wender, Mountain Region Natural Area Steward, inspected this old-growth forest and found no evidence of gypsy moth.

May 2008

Northern Red OakBob Gilvary reported that plans have been delayed to put the remaining 2,236 acres of the Gilginia Tree Farm under a conservation easement until it is determined whether it is possible to do this and still have a wind farm on the property.

Bob reports further that he has signed up for a carbon sequestration program on the entire 2,550 acres. At present forest growth rates about 94,000 tons of CO2 could be sequestered per year. The present plan is not to cut any timber on the property for at least ten years to let the large oaks mature more and thus sequester more carbon. In the meantime timber stand improvement will continue to increase growth rates.

According to Chris Ludwig, Chief Biologist, Virginia Natural Heritage Division, the state will do a one day inventory this fall looking for rare forest types located outside but nearby the existing 233 acre preserve.

November 2008

Bob Gilvary has become interested in generating carbon credits from his 2550 acre tree farm which includes 232 acre 500-year forest nature preserve. This spring he hired Britt Boucher of Foresters, Inc. to measure his forest for this program. Britt commented that this “place has the least amount of invasives of any property I have been on.” There was no Ailanthus (Tree of Heaven or Paradise), only one barberry plant, a few multi flora rose plants and some “garlic mustard at the lowest landing but no place else.”

May 2009

Shay GarriockWe have hired Curtis Environmental of Pittsboro, NC to do the biological inventory in the Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve. Shay Garriock, zoologist, and Kevin Caldwell, botanist, will team up to do this study. The process will bring these two men into the forest for three individual three-day periods during the growing season. Their first effort will begin this summer and the second effort will take place in the fall. The project will be completed next spring. Their final report will be sent to us and the Natural Heritage Division of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Natural Heritage Division will prepare a management plan for this very special forest.
Kevin Caldwell

The proposed inventory, using both qualitative and repeatable, quantitative methods, will sample vascular flora and vertebrate faunal groups. The survey will serve as a baseline biological inventory showing existing conditions. Permanent inventory plots set up for the survey will provide opportunities to measure changes in the forest over time. The inventory will also identify and map unique habitats, natural communities, rare species locations, water resources, and threats to forest health from invasive and pest species.


November 2009

Appalachian AzureIn three-day sampling and observation periods this past June and again in September, Kevin Caldwell, botanist, identified 186 species of trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, grasses, and sedges. Shay Garriock, zoologist, identified 62 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, and 38 species of butterflies and moths. These numbers will likely grow significantly when moth identification is completed over the winter and the third and final inventory is taken in April or May of next year.

Results still to be analyzed from trees corings will more firmly establish the extent of both the original forest and successional forest. Community designations, e.g. Basic Oak-Hickory Forest, will be defined after the spring inventory.

Two Watch List identified plants include Mountain Pimpernel and Butternut. Only five invasive species were identified. The worst is confined to one small previously disturbed part of the forest. Control should not present a problem.

Black BearAs usual, the best plans for identifying species can be foiled. Two wildlife cameras had been pulled off their mounting trees by black bears that didn’t seem to want their picture taken. But, before that, a bear, a bobcat and an opossum posed for a photo.

June 2010


Blackburnian Warbler... Photo by Mike McDowell

The results of the Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve spring biotic inventory conducted May 9-12 by Shay Garriock uncovered two rare animal species: a green salamander (Aneides aeneus) and a singing male Blackburnian warbler (Dendroica fusca). The Green salamander was found in a damp rock crevice just below the ridgeline in the north central property region. This species is listed by the VA Natural Heritage Program as S3, which means that it is rare to uncommon in Virginia with between 20 and 100 occurrences. The Blackburnian warbler is listed by the VA Natural Heritage Program as S2B, which means that breeding occurrences are “very rare and imperiled with 6 to 20 occurrences or few remaining individuals in Virginia”. The Blackburnian warblers are establishing territories on the property.

November 2010

The biotic inventory has recently been completed.  The Virginia Natural Heritage will now develop a forest management plan.

In the interest of determining carbon credits for his 2500 acre forest, Bob Gilvary hired Britt Boucher of Foresters, Inc. to compute the annual carbon storage capacity of 15 stands in his forest. This old-growth stand was calculated to be removing 3.87 tons of CO2 per acre annually, an amount equal to slightly more than a ton of carbon per acre.

June 2012

Ryan Klopf, PHd while at Southern Illinois University

This 500-Year Forest is also one the Virginia’s Natural Area Preserves. Two years ago the 500-Year Forest Foundation hired the Curtis Environmental to perform the Biotic Inventory for this forest. The Natural Heritage Division of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, as represented by Ryan Klopf, Mountain Region Steward, is in the process of creating a management plan, which should be ready by the year’s end for this forest.



Fall 2013

Virginia’s Natural Heritage Program, a partner in protecting this forest, spent two days there on a monitoring visit in September. The Foundation expects to receive a report on the visit in early 2014 from Natural Heritage staffers Larry Smith and Irvine Wilson. The two share forest owner Bob Gilvary’s concerns regarding a proposed wind farm project. Bob has received a map from Dominion Power suggesting direct impacts to the 500-Year Forest/natural area preserve. Natural Heritage has contacted the power company for a meeting to learn more about the project and share information with them about the restrictions over the tract and the sensitivities of the property.


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