Mount Fair Farm includes 765 undeveloped acres known as Cedar Mountain Reserve (CMR), which is surrounded by the Shenandoah National Forest. Accessible by off-road vehicle, 15 minutes from the main farm house, the property’s eastern border runs along the ridges of Cedar and Pasture Fence Mountains, rising 3000’ above sea level and dropping 1400’ to the west into the valley of the north fork of the Moorman’s River, parallel to the Appalachian Trail and Skyline Drive. Pristine and largely untouched since the creation of the National Park in the 1930’s, this land is teeming with wildlife, providing an ideal site to conduct biological research.
In 2017, Mount Fair retained Nelson Byrd Woltz, who specialize in design which incorporates ecological and cultural systems, to coordinate a biological survey with scientists and staff from the Roosevelt Wild Life Station at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Survey teams from regional institutions, universities, and private ecological service providers assembled in June 2018 to develop a baseline biological inventory of the property. Sampling was conducted over a two-day period, during which the survey focused on vascular plants, lichens, reptiles, amphibians, birds, small mammals, fish, and aquatic invertebrates, along with a special concentration on exotic vegetation management. This inventory of CMR’s biodiversity will be studied in relation to future biological changes and will help guide prospective recommendations for enhancement of the ecological and biodiversity value of the property.
Several conservation significant species were observed and numerous opportunities were identified to design, manage and study various biological and ecological features of the property for the benefit of many regionally significant plants and animals. Below are the recommendations which have guided our subsequent use and management of the property:
Areas of high-quality habitat were identified for preservation in order to maintain their integrity. Specifically, the streams and their forested riparian buffers and the floristically diverse rock outcrops have been designated protected areas.
Infestations by exotic invasive plants had diminished the quality of habitat in certain areas. A program was developed by Virginia Forestry and Wildlife Group and was implemented in late 2018 and throughout 2019 which has successfully arrested the invasive overgrowth on the Reserve’s interior. Other areas of invasive overgrowth lie along a border the Shenandoah National Park, on the Reserve’s east and west boundaries, and we hope to partner with the Park Service to collaboratively address our shared challenge. With these programs, we hope to improve wildlife habitat for conservation of significant species.
Impending colonization by the emerald ash borer will drive widespread and rapid plant community changes as ash trees die. Ash mortality presents an opportunity to increase the biodiversity of the property. For example, if coupled with strategic exotic vegetation management, canopy gaps in forest interiors created by ash mortality can be capitalized upon to create habitat for sensitive forest birds such as the Cerulean warbler. A research team from West Virginia University is conducting a long-term monitoring program of on-site Cerulean Warbler populations, spending 4-6 weeks per summer monitoring the species.
Integrated monitoring of a suite of taxa on co-located plots, such as forest interiors or the canopy gaps referred to previously, can be conducted by local experts and the products of this monitoring should inform property management.
We are pleased that the Cedar Mount Reserve Master Plan received a Commendation in the Analysis and Planning category in the 2019 Virginia American Society of Landscape Architects Professional and Student Awards Program.
Mount Fair welcomes research teams to conduct studies on CMR which are consistent with our goals of sustainability, wildlife conservation and the promotion of biological diversity. Please contact [email protected] if you have interest and wish to submit a proposal.