© Bruce McNitt/Panoramic Images (Virginia)

Natural Area Preserves

Managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program, the State Natural Area Preserve System protects rare, threatened and endangered species and natural communities. Natural Heritage Inventory staff search the state and have thus far identified 125 distinct natural communities; 635 rare, threatened or endangered plant species; and 827 rare, threatened or endangered animal species. 

Where a concentration of rare species exists, DCR targets the preservation of that property to protect species and/or communities. When acquired, these lands become public, preserved in perpetuity, and often open to visitation. This makes the preserve system the highest and most valuable form of land conservation in Virginia. This assemblage of permanently preserved and managed lands can be explored further via the Natural Heritage Program’s Tier I preserves.

Tier I Preserves
So what do these special places look like? To select a few of the preserves to highlight is difficult, as each preserve is special in its own right. However, six preserves stand out in terms of accessibility and recreational opportunities. These preserves also provide a partial cross section of the Natural Area Preserve System in terms of area and location. The six Tier I preserves range from 298 to 3,971 acres in size and represent Virginia Natural heritage resources harbored and managed in mountain and coastal regions.

These, and all, preserves are actively managed by Virginia Natural Heritage’s Stewardship section. A team of five Natural Area Stewards perform prescribed burns, invasive species control measures, restoration practices, rare species monitoring, research, volunteer coordination, outreach, and public access management. These stewards work in tandem with three Natural Area Conservation Officers who provide law enforcement for the sites, post and maintain boundary lines, design and install signs, demolish old buildings, and maintain roads and trails.

Tier I Preserves

  • Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve

    One of the most significant natural areas in Virginia, the Buffalo boasts an impressive number of rare plant, animal and significant natural communities.

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  • Dameron Marsh and Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserves

    These two northern neck preserves feature similar habitats and protect significant marsh-bird comunities as well as the federally threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle.

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  • Grassy Hill Natural Area Preserve

    A prominent landmark on the Town of Rocky Mount's west side, Grassy Hill features rocky slopes forested with hardwood species and scattered patches of Virginia pine.

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  • Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve

    Towering cliffs, sheer limestone ledges, and waterfalls are but a few of the spectacular features of this preserve.

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  • Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve

    Savage Neck Dunes features outstanding beach, dune and maritime forests as well as critical habitat for migratory songbirds and the federally listed northeastern beach tiger beetle.

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