"The idea behind the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund is to protect our rural heritage and our iconic places," said David Warner of Shanks, the Fund's vice president. "Here, we're able to do not only that, but also to link together protected lands like Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and improve public accessibility."
The Nature Conservancy bought an option on the property to hold it until the $2 million could be raised, and then contributed $50,000 toward the purchase price through a grant from the Topping Family Fund.
Newland said the sale allows CVI to better "focus our attention on serving small rural communities throughout the region and solving their water problems. We wanted to keep the land open for public use, and for education and research, and that will continue under the DNR. The DNR is also better able to maintain and manage the property on a long-term basis."
All things considered, "We got the best possible deal we could have gotten," Newland said.
CVI will keep a 36-acre tract immediately adjacent to its headquarters building off W.Va. 93. The National Youth Science Camp Foundation retains a 111-acre tract across the Blackwater from the CVI campus, where the organization plans to build a new National Youth Science Camp facility.
Nearly all the land in the CVI tract lies outside the planned expansion boundaries for Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Jezioro said CVI's trail system would remain open to the public, although there will be seasonal closures of some trails for safety reasons during firearms seasons. Whether camping will continue to be allowed in designated sites along the Blackwater will be the topic of a review.
"There's a lot we can do to enhance this land for wildlife, such as restoring early successional habitat" that includes seed-producing brush and grasses and small trees, such as aspen, he said.
As a wildlife management area, the tract is likely to attract grouse, woodcock, deer and bear hunters, as well as trout anglers.
"Our state needs public land you can take your gun and your dogs to, and spend the day hunting without having to seek permission from someone," Jezioro said. "This place helps us live up to our 'Mountaineers always free' motto."
To date, no name has been selected for the wildlife management area.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.