RLEP's new Biodiversity Task Force had its first meeting in July, with representatives of RLEP, RappFLOW, and the Piedmont Environmental Council attending. Discussed was the proposed agenda for the Task Force. First up is creating liaisons with groups and individuals who are interested in biodiversity in the county. We're compiling a database of contacts for these resources and hope to have it available (and searchable) on this website eventually.
The BTF will also begin assessing what data are already available on species in the county and try to determine how we might fill in the gaps in these data. We're following progress on the Clarke County Natural Resources Mapping Project, which is attempting a thorough survey of wild species in that county, to see if it might serve as a useful model here. While various data exist on Rappahannock's wild species, no comprehensive survey has ever been done here.
William McShea, a research scientist with the Smithsonian's Conservation Research Center near Front Royal, heads the Clarke County project. Speaking to the RLEP board at its August meeting, McShea said he sees many similarities between Rappahannock and Clarke counties and thinks the Clarke model may work here.
With the year-long Clarke survey due to wind up in December, data has been collected on 45 percent (50,600 acres) of land in the county. Except for the Appalachian Trail and the University of Virginia's Blandy Experimental Farm, Clarke has little public land, unlike Rappahannock. Since little is known about flora and fauna on private land, McShea says, engaging private landowners in the project has been key to its success. With the project depending on state funding, it focuses to a great extent on a state concern—whitetail deer populations. The survey also includes common wildflowers and shrubs, invasive plants, and common butterfly species.
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