Stewardship in Action Field Workshop - Virginia

This Natural Areas Association (NAA) Stewardship in Action Field Workshop is being offered in partnership with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. 


*Programming subject to change. Please refresh the page for the most up-to-date information. Check back frequently for updates. 

Sustainable Summits: Managing Public Access for the Protection of Rare Plant Communities
Claytor Lake State Park, Buffalo Mountain Natural Areas Preserve, The Channels Natural Area Preserve


The Natural Areas Association (NAA) and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program will host a professional training workshop on managing sensitive natural communities concurrently for biodiversity conservation and public access based out of Claytor Lake State Park. Workshop participants will tour the Buffalo Mountain and The Channels Natural Area Preserves, two ecologically significant and spectacular sites owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and subject to high levels of public visitation. Virginia Natural Heritage staff have documented natural resource degradation, implemented strategies to reduce ecological damage due to recreation traffic, and are monitoring restoration success at both preserves.

Sustainable Summits is a two-day workshop that will include expert-led discussions of the sites‘ natural history and innovative stewardship strategies for improving the sustainability of public access to rare plant communities on public lands. The workshop will feature opportunities for collaboration and networking among land managers, ecologists, and outdoor recreation experts working in Virginia, the mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

All proceedings will be professionally filmed. Film will be used to produce a remote training/professional development video that will be included in a live Zoom event that will feature collaborative discussion. The Zoom event will be recorded and made available as on-demand training for NAA members and other audiences as appropriate.


aGENDA

All times Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)

Day One - September 29, 2021
6:30am - 7:30am

Grab-N-Go Breakfast

7:30am - 7:40am
Welcome and Opening Remarks
  • Lisa Smith, Executive Director, Natural Areas Association
  • Rick Myers, Ph.D.Natural Areas Stewardship Manager, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Div. of Natural Heritage
7:40am - 8:00am
Stewarding Virginia's Natural Area Preserve System: 25 Years of Balancing Resource Protection with Public Access
  • Rick Myers, Ph.D., Natural Areas Stewardship Manager, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Div. of Natural Heritage
8:00am - 8:20am
Public access management at Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve: balancing sustainable visitation & biodiversity conservation
  • Ryan Klopf, Ph.D., Natural Areas Association Board Member, Regional Supervisor, Virginia Natural Heritage Program
  • Wes Paulos, Mountain Operations Steward, Virginia Natural Heritage Program
8:20am - 8:40am
Public access management of a geologically unique heath bald in the Southern Appalachians
  • Claiborne Woodall, Regional Supervisor / Western Fire Manager
    Virginia Natural Heritage Program
8:40am - 9:00am
Restoration challenges of a mountaintop natural community at Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve in Northern Virginia
  • Michael Lott, Northern Region Steward / Regional Supervisor, DCR - Division of Natural Heritage
  • Joe Villari, Preserve Manager, Virginia Outdoors Foundation
10:30am - 10:45am

Break

10:45am - 11:45am

Transportation to Field Site

11:45am - 12:00pm

Arrival at Field Site

12:00pm - 12:30pm

Hike to Field Location

12:30pm - 1:00pm

Lunch

1:00pm - 2:30pm

Site Exploration and Discussion

2:30pm - 3:00pm

Hike to Transportation

3:00pm - 4:00pm

Return Transportation

4:00pm - 5:00pm

Break

5:00pm - 6:00pm

Dinner and Campfire Social

Day Two - September 30, 2021

6:30am - 7:30am

Continental Breakfast

7:30am - 9:30am

Transportation to Field Site

9:30am - 11:30am

Hike to Field Location

11:30am - 12:00pm

Site Exploration & Discussion

12:00pm - 12:30pm

Lunch at Field Site

12:30pm - 2:30pm

Hike to Transportation

2:30pm - 4:30pm

Return Transportation & Departure


Presenters


Ryan Klopf, ph.d.

Natural Areas Association Board Member
Regional Supervisor
Virginia Natural Heritage Program
Ryan Klopf is the Regional Supervisor for the Mountain and Shenandoah Valley Regions of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program; he has worked for this Program since 2011. Ryan works to protect and restore rare species and natural communities within the Ridge and Valley, Blue Ridge, and Piedmont regions of Virginia. He earned a B.S. in Biology at William and Mary, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Biology from Southern Illinois University.

michael lott

Northern Region Steward / Regional Supervisor
DCR - Division of Natural Heritage
Michael Lott is the Regional Supervisor for the Northern Region of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program which he joined in 2012.  Michael works to protect rare species, natural communities and monitor ecological resources at the preserves in the Northern Region, particularly those found at Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve.  Prior to moving to Virginia, Michael spent 8 years working on a variety of research projects in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. He has a B.A in Geography/Ecosystems from the University of California, Los Angeles and a M.S. in Environmental Science from Florida Atlantic University.

Rick Myers, Ph.D.

Natural Areas Stewardship Manager 
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation - Division of Natural Heritage

Natural Areas Stewardship Manager with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Natural Heritage Program; 1998 to present. Rick earned his BS, Masters and PhD in Forestry and Forest Ecology from Clemson University. His doctoral research focused on the ecological roles of fire and hurricanes in the southeastern U.S. He has worked as Extension/Research Forester at Purdue University and as Consulting Fire Ecologist with The Nature Conservancy. For the last 24 years with DCR in Virginia he has overseen all aspects of managing the State Natural Area Preserve System, which currently consists of 66 preserves protecting nearly 60,000 acres of the Commonwealth's most biologically diverse lands. He supervises 20 full-time positions, located in seven field offices statewide, whose primary duties are to maintain habitats for rare species, restore natural communities and provide compatible opportunities for public recreation. Outside of work, Rick's interests include acoustic music & guitars, dogs, fishing, boating, gardening and parenting boy-girl twins born in August 2001.


Wes Paulos

Mountain Operations Steward
Virginia Natural Heritage Program
Wes Paulos has worked with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage for 10 years as the Mountain Region Operations Steward.  Duties for this position include prescribed fire management, invasive plant management, recreation planning and development and overall site management.  Prior to working in Virginia, Wes was a park ranger and assistant park manager  in Colorado and Florida State Parks.  Wes obtained degrees from Augusta University and the University of Georgia in Criminal Justice and Recreation.  He also has graduate credits from the University of Florida in Natural Resource Recreation.

Claiborne Woodall

Regional Supervisor / Western Fire Manager
Virginia Natural Heritage Program
Claiborne Woodall has worked managing state Natural Area Preserves for the Virginia Natural Heritage Program since 1999.  He specializes in habitat restoration, prescribed fire planning and implementation, invasive species control, conservation planning, and public access management.  Prior to Virginia Natural Heritage, he worked for The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey and Florida.  He earned a B.S. in Natural Resources from Sewanee: The University of The South and a M.S. in Forestry from The University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

joe villari

Preserve Manager
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
Joe Villari currently manages VOF‘s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve in Northern Virginia, which is VOF‘s largest and most-visited reserve. His focus there is on implementing science-based management practices that balance the conservation needs of the property, while maximizing its scientific and educational potential. Before coming to VOF, Joe received his MS in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University and worked for the Smithsonian Institution‘s National Museum of Natural History. He is a passionate advocate for habitat conservation, field and specimen-based scientific research, and making science more accessible to the general public.

Registration


  • This workshop has limited in-person capacity and is by invitation only.
  • Please know that we will be monitoring the CDC guidelines for in-person events, and that the workshop will be limited to vaccinated individuals - including presenters, participants, and staff. 
  • Registration includes access to a modern meeting facility, guided site visits to two locations for hands-on experience, and two night's accommodations in a semi-private cabin.
  • Meals to include:
    • Breakfast each day
    • Picnic lunch at field sites each day
    • Dinner and camp fire Wednesday evening
Registration Fees
Member      $249
Non Member       $299


accommodations

Claytor Lake State Park

photos by VADCR

Good things to Know:
  • Temperatures at the Summit is 8 to 10 degrees cooler than Basecamp
  • Cars should arrive in Claytor Lake with full gas tanks.
  • No linens are provided. Guests must bring their own linens and towels.
photo by VADCR

Watch the Claytor Lake Marina live!

Please know that we will be monitoring the CDC guidelines for in-person events, and that the workshop will be limited to only vaccinated individuals - including presenters, participants, and staff. 

Workshop participants will be sharing cabins. If this is a concern, participants are welcome to secure hotel rooms in nearby Dublin, VA

Twelve two-bedroom cabins and three three-bedroom cabins have been reserved for Tuesday, September 28 and Wednesday, September 29. 

Cabin Details

  • Cabin check-in is 4 p.m., check-out is 10 a.m.
  • Cell phone service is available in most of the park.
  • Bedrooms: nightstands, clock radios.
    • No linens are provided. Guests must bring their own linens and towels.
    • One bedroom has a queen sized bed. 
    • In cabins 1-9, the second bedroom has two bunk beds. In cabins 10-12, the second bedroom has two twin-sized beds.
    • Twin mattresses are slightly oversized. We recommend twin xl-sized linen.
    • Pillows are provided.
Meals
Meals to include:
  • Breakfast each day
  • Picnic lunch at field sites each day
  • Dinner and camp fire Wednesday evening

Directions

6620 Ben H Bolen  Dr, Dublin, VA 24084
Latitude, 37.057372. Longitude, -80.627394.

From I-81, take Exit 101 (Claytor Lake) to State Park Road (State Route 660).

State Park Road ends at the park's entrance.

Drive Time: Northern Virginia, 5 hours; Richmond, 4 hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, 5 hours; Roanoke, 1 hour



photos by VADCR
Meeting Facilities
Claytor Lake Conference Center

Workshop presentations, meal service and back-up space for inclement weather will be hosted in the Claytor Lake Conference Center, a modern, fully functioning meeting facility that features an auditorium, deck space and a kitchen space. 


FIELD SITES


photo by virginia.orgphoto by VACDR
The Channels Natural Area Preserve
Owned by the VA Department of Forestry
721 Acres

The Channels Natural Area Preserve contains a significant high elevation forest, rock outcrop and cliff communities. Following a 3.5-mile hike to the 4,208 ft. summit of Middle Knob, workshop participants will enter a maze-like system of sandstone crevices and boulders which gives the Channels its name and makes the site popular for outdoor recreation. During our visit site managers will lead discussions about the unique natural history and stewardship of the Preserve and the surrounding 4,836-acre State Forest.

As of June 10, 2020, the parking area is limited to 10 vehicles. If the parking area is full when you arrive, please come back another time. Parking along Highway 80 is not permitted, and violators will be ticketed. Please take this capacity into consideration when arranging carpooling for the workshop. 

Location Description, via dcr.virgina.gov: 
The Department of Conservation and Recreation and Department of Forestry dedicated this state natural area preserve in April of 2008. The Channels, the 53rd state natural area preserve, is an area of significant high elevation forest, rock outcrop and cliff communities. The preserve name is derived from the maze-like system of sandstone crevices and boulders that occur near the 4208ft. summit of Middle Knob on Clinch mountain. The 721-acre Channels Natural Area Preserve is part of a 4,836 acre State Forest that was purchased by the Department of Forestry from The Nature Conservancy in March 2008.


Learn More


photos provided by Ryan Klopf
Parnassia Grandifolia
Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve
DCR with assistance of 1992 Park and Natural Areas Bond
1146 Acres

Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve is home to a globally rare invertebrate species, and rare plants including grass, wildflower, and fern species, prairie-like glades, outcrop barrens and four other significant natural communities. Workshop participants will hike ~1 mile to the 3,971 ft. naturally treeless summit, a hiking destination popular for its long-distance panoramic views. Preserve managers will lead observations of rare plant communities and showcase multiple stewardship strategies, including installations of soft barriers, implemented to make public access to this fragile environment more sustainable. 

Public access facilities consist of a 10-car gravel parking area, portable toilet, information kiosk, interpretive signs and three hiking trails. When the parking lot is full, the natural area preserve is full, and visitors will need to wait for a spot to open, or come back another time. The parking lot is most likely to be full midday on weekends. The narrow 0.9-mile gravel road to the parking area has multiple pull-offs to facilitate passing cars. 

Location Description, via dcr.virgina.gov:
Buffalo Mountain is one of the most significant natural areas in Virginia, supporting an amazing 15 rare plant occurrences, three rare animals and nine significant natural communities. The combination of high-elevation (3,971 feet), wind-exposed rocky openings at the summit, and magnesium rich soils make it unlike any place else in the Commonwealth.

On the treeless summit, strong winds and boreal climate support subalpine vegetation including three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldia tridentata) and Mountain sandwort (Minuartia groenlandica). The upper south slopes support grassy, prairie-like openings composed of wildflowers and native grasses. Wet, magnesium-rich seeps at the base of the mountain support globally rare grasses and wildflowers such as bog bluegrass (Poa paludigena) and large-leaved grass-of-parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia).

Buffalo Mountain is also the only known location in the world for a mealybug (Puto kosztarabi).

Learn More

About Buffalo Mountain - VADCR pdf


Directions
  • From Roanoke, follow I-81 south towards Christiansburg. Exit onto VA 8 and head south towards Floyd.
  • At Floyd, turn right onto US 221, and follow it about 6 miles.
  • Turn left (south) on 727 (Union School Road) and go about 4.5 miles to Conner Grove Road (VA 799).
  • Turn right onto 799, go about 100 feet and turn left onto Moles Road (VA 727). 
  • Go about 1 mile, and turn right to stay on VA 727.
  • Go 1 mile to a 3-way fork. Bear to the right and follow the gravel access road to the preserve parking area. From the "End of State Maintenance" sign, it is approximately 1.1 miles to the parking area and trail head.
  • From Wytheville, follow I-77 south towards Galax.
  • Merge onto US 221 north towards Hillsville/ Floyd. Follow US 221 about 15 miles to the town of Willis.
  • Turn right onto VA 799 (Conner Grove Road). Follow VA 799 about 5 miles to VA 727. Turn right onto Moles Road (VA 727).
  • Go about 1 mile, and turn right to stay on VA 727. Go 1 mile to a 3-way fork. Bear to the right and follow the gravel access road to the parking area / trail head.

JOIN US

Join the people who protect and manage our natural areas.