The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) announced today that it has purchased 1,965 acres in Sussex County, Virginia, adjoining the existing Big Woods Wildlife Management Area and Big Woods State Forest. This acquisition, approved by the DGIF Board for the price of $3.8 million, supports the DGIF’s efforts to restore pine-savannah habitat and provide additional public land in an underserved area of Virginia.
“Our goal here is to provide a diversity of opportunities, as expressly requested by hunters surveyed last fall at the Big Woods WMA,” said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Executive Director Bob Duncan.
Funding for the acquisition came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the form of a Wildlife Restoration Grant, administered through its Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, and from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation. The sale was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy through its purchase and temporary holding of the property.
The area is predominantly upland loblolly pine forests and mature forest swamps. The habitat supports a wide range of wildlife species including white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, bobwhite quail, brown-headed nuthatch, red-headed and pileated woodpeckers, summer tanager, and a variety of warblers. The Parker’s Branch Tract provides additional opportunity to restore longleaf pine and to develop habitat that will benefit the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, currently found on nearby property. These woodpeckers are the northernmost population of this species in the U.S. Excellent opportunities also exist to recover local populations of northern bobwhites.
Details on usage, public access, permit requirements, and land management strategies are currently being developed by the DGIF as part of its detailed management plan. Hunting will be permitted during the 2016-2017 hunting season. The property is established for still-hunting only for deer and bear, with the nearby original Big Woods WMA remaining open to hunting with hounds A few interior roads on Parker’s Branch provide opportunities for hunters to retrieve hounds from the area; firearms must be unloaded and cased when retrieving hounds. An antler point restriction is in place on this tract that requires that any antlered deer harvested have four (4) or more 1” or greater points on one side. Youth or apprentice hunters may harvest one (1) buck per license year that does not meet the APR. The use of slugs is prohibited during the general firearms season. Muzzleloaders are allowed during the special muzzleloader season.
The DGIF currently owns 41 Wildlife Management Areas around the Commonwealth, encompassing over 200,000 acres.