Hickory Hollow Natural Area Preserve dedicated into Old-Growth Forest Network

From left, Dr. Joan Maloof and members of Northern Neck Chapters of Virginia Master Naturalists and Audubon Society attend dedication of Hickory Hollow Natural Area Preserve into the Old-Growth Forest Network. Photo by Martin Hill

On April 13, the Hickory Hollow Natural Area Preserve (NAP) in Lancaster County was formally dedicated into the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN).

The dedication took place following a day-long training session for Northern Neck Virginia Master Naturalists, which included field studies in the Hickory Hollow forest.

Dr. Joan Maloof, OGFN founder and director, presented a plaque to Betsy Washington, a member of the board of directors for the Northern Neck of Virginia Audubon Society which owns Hickory Hollow NAP.

Hickory Hollow off Regina Road in Lancaster County encompasses 254 acres of mixed pine-hardwood forest, ravines and swamps. Although the forest is not old-growth, there are some large beech and oak trees.

This protected tract contains important habitat for migratory songbirds, wild turkey and a wide array of other flora and fauna. Within the Preserve is the 22-acre “Cabin Swamp,” a globally rare seepage swamp community that supports a very high diversity of unusual plants including several plant species usually found only in the mountains.

“Hickory Hollow is a rare and exceptional natural area in the Northern Neck with a number of hiking trails and beautiful spring flowers including a variety of orchids right along the trails. It is also a great birding area that is protected in perpetuity, thanks to the foresight of previous members of the Audubon Society, Lancaster County officials and county citizens about 20 years ago when it was established,” said Kevin Howe, vice president of the Northern Neck of Virginia Audubon Society. “Our children and grandchildren are very lucky to have this natural area to enjoy as we have.”

The mission of OGFN is to connect people with nature by creating a national network of protected, mature, publicly accessible, native forests. The goal is to preserve at least one forest in every county in the U.S. that can sustain a forest in perpetuity.

Founded in 2012 by Dr. Maloof, ecologist and professor emeritus at Maryland’s Salisbury State University, the network has more than 90 forests in 21 states. Hickory Hollow is the sixth Virginia forest to be included and represents Lancaster County.

“We look forward to adding more forests to the network in the future. We depend on a volunteer, such as Betsy Washington, in each county to help us identify candidate forests,” said Dr. Maloof. “In addition to creating a network of forests, we are also creating a network of people who care about forests.”

Hickory Hollow Natural Area Preserve is one of 63 preserves in Virginia and is open to the public year-round.