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Protect the herons at Crow's Nest


Date published: 7/9/2014

On June 25, I appeared before the Stafford Planning Commission to object to an application to extend public sewer and water utilities to the undeveloped Crow's Nest Harbour.

Future development directly threatens the great blue heron nesting sites along Potomac Creek that the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust has owned and protected since 1997.

We strongly encourage the Planning Commission to deny this application. Once sewer and water are introduced to Crow's Nest, development is sure to follow.

On the process side, the application is for a "review" proceeding, which typically evaluates very minor changes to the Comprehensive Plan, not the departure this application requests.

Stafford County designates the subdivision as future parkland. This is a sound approach that encourages economic growth in higher-density areas. Extending public utilities outside the urban services area directly contradicts public policy and would encourage additional extensions for other developments.

Few will dispute the value of the Crow's Nest peninsula as a natural landscape.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and Stafford County purchased a total of 2,872 acres in 2008 and 2009 for what is now Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve. This land is adjacent to NVCT's 70-acre heronry.

Yet, despite these significant investments and strong support from the community, Crow's Nest remains at risk. This heritage is worth protecting for future generations.

The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust supports the county's Comprehensive Plan that reserves this area as future parkland, enhancing public access to the existing preserve while protecting the great blue heron habitat.

Research biologist Michael Wilson at William & Mary's Center for Conservation Biology says the health of the heron colony is significant for its size and long history, and it is due in part to the fact that it has been "buffered from human disturbance" on the peninsula.

NVCT is proud to have the heronry under its stewardship and is committed to this responsibility. As Stafford County celebrates its 350th anniversary, the Crow's Nest Peninsula is part of what makes Stafford unique and why people are proud to call this home.

When the 500th anniversary rolls around, we will be praised for protecting this natural heritage.

Patrick Coady

Fairfax

The writer is chairman, Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.