Tag Archives: Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Our land, our water, our heritage

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Today we start a series about the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which turns 50 on September 3. Northeast Region Chief of Realty, Joe McCauley, starts off our series with his take on why the fund is so important to our country.

In 1964, the Congress and President Lyndon Johnson performed a great service to the American people when they established the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Land, water, and conservation: simple terms that, when combined, speak directly to who we are as a people.

We have not always been as vigilant as we should be to conserve our nation’s natural resources, as evidenced by the mass clearcutting of eastern forests in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the dust bowl era of the 1930s. But even if we have to play catch-up, time after time we show, through laws like the Land and Water Conservation Act, that we do care about our land and water, and the wild things that depend on them.

My job is to oversee the purchase of lands for national wildlife refuges in the 13 northeast states using the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Reflecting back on the work of our current and former land protection staff, it is gratifying to see the amazing results of our efforts, in partnership with thousands of landowners who have helped leave a lasting legacy for all Americans.

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The iconic Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, home to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural lakes in Virginia. The refuge provides unique fishing and boating on Lake Drummond, annual hunting opportunities and habitat for various species of mammals, birds and butterflies. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has conserved nearly 47,000 acres of this environmentally and biologically important 110,000-acre refuge.

Over 50 national wildlife refuges in our northeast states were established or have grown because of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  With these funds, more than 160,000 acres in the densely-populated northeast are now permanently protected as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Without the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the fate of these valuable fish and wildlife habitats would be in jeopardy. These lands and waters not only support hundreds of migratory bird species, and many threatened and endangered species of fish, wildlife and plants, but are also available for recreation and education, making these purchases a wise investment in our future.

We have many “greats” in our region: Great Swamp, home to the first Wilderness Area designated on Department of the Interior lands; Great Meadows, serving the urban and suburban population of Boston; and Great Dismal Swamp, our region’s largest refuge at over 100,000 acres, once surveyed by George Washington. History plays an important role in many refuges as evidenced by native American names such as Massasoit, Missisquoi, and Rappahannock. We honor conservation heroes like Rachel Carson, Congressman Silvio O. Conte and Senator John H. Chafee, who said if he was reincarnated, he wanted to come back as a Fish and Wildlife Service employee! We would have loved to have had him in the ranks.

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Since 1956, the fund has helped support our wildlife refuges, parks and historic sites; conserved our forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife habitat; and provided access to recreation, hunting and fishing for current and future generations.

If you have visited our 50+ refuges that have lands purchased with the Land and Water Conservation Fund, you know first-hand how important these funds are. You may have watched your child catch his or her first fish, or learned the skill of hunting from your grandfather. You may have gone on a field trip to learn about the fish and wildlife in the place where you live, or seen your first bald eagle diving for a catch. You may have seen tens of thousands of waterfowl take flight at dawn or a lone great blue heron stalking the marshes. If you haven’t, you still can, thanks to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the foresight of our nation’s leaders who made it happen 50 years ago.

The view from above – an aerial tour of Hurricane Sandy recovery and resiliency sites: Day 5

I’m Rick Bennett, Regional Scientist for the Northeast Region. This week, I am part of a team taking to the air to tour some of the locations that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Each evening, I will be sharing a little about what we saw, the projects on the ground and how we are working to ensure the coastline and the surrounding communities are #StrongAfterSandy. (Keith Shannon/USFWS)

I’m Rick Bennett, Regional Scientist for the Northeast Region. This week, I was part of a team that toured sites that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Each evening, I shared a little about what we saw, the projects on the ground and how we are working to ensure the coastline and the surrounding communities are #StrongAfterSandy. (Keith Shannon/USFWS)

The last day of our trip surveying Hurricane Sandy recovery and resiliency sites focused on the more than 112,000-acre Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The projects at the refuge will install, repair, or replace water control structures on some of the many ditches that have been dug throughout the refuge – some dating back to the days of George Washington. Increased control over water levels at the refuge will not only create a habitat more resilient to large storms, wildfires, and drought, but it will also help protect the city of Chesapeake and the Deep Creek community against flood events.

It was an awe-inspiring week, being able to see the scope and vastness of the projects that will help create a more resilient coast – benefitting so many communities along the way. It was also great to meet with staff and partners at the refuges and other project sites and see how dedicated they are to both the natural resources and the wellbeing of the residents that live in the surrounding cities and towns. And thanks to pilot Dale Fowler for giving us such a smooth ride!

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A tool to hunt fires in the Great Dismal Swamp?

It’s been two years since a lightning strike sparked the Lateral West Fire that burned at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge for four months. The fire burned over 6,000 acres in Virginia and North Carolina as more than 400 firefighters from local, state and federal government agencies worked to extinguish it.

Our friends at NASA’s Langley Research Center have begun a project to design and build equipment that could help locate fire sources within the Great Dismal Swamp. Check out how Mike Logan, an aerospace engineer is leading a team to design an build an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to do just that, which could help put out fires in the swamp and possibly save money.

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A firey tornado rages off Corapeake Road in the Lateral West Wildlfire on Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The fire burned in the scar of the 2008 South One Fire in a restoration area for Atlantic white cedar. Credit: Greg Sanders/USFWS

The following story was originally published on the NASA website: 

You could say that the idea came to him in a cloud of smoke.

Over the summer, Mike Logan, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, put a group of students to work designing and building an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that could one day help to snuff out fires in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp.

The origins of the project go back to August of 2011. A lightning strike in the swamp sparked a blaze that ended up burning for four months. At one point, wind pushed the smoke as far north as Maryland. Logan, who lives due north of the swamp in South Hampton Roads, often found his house in the path of the acrid cloud.

“After choking down a few dozen clouds worth of peat bog smoke, which I found out I’m allergic to, I thought, you know, there really ought to be a better way,” he said. Head over to the NASA website to keep reading this story >>