Just 35 miles outside of Washington DC, the Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia and cover roughly 13,000 acres. The Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve comprises and permanently protects 2,500 acres of this biologically and geologically unique mountain terrain.
The first biological surveys of the mountains occurred in the 1930’s when Henry A. Allard began a botanical inventory and collected over 15,000 vascular plants. His specimens now largely reside in the Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of Natural History’s herbarium. Allard was one of the first scientists to recognize the ecological uniqueness of the habitat, noting that it is more akin to the mountains that reside to the west than the surrounding lowlands.
In 1965, the federal government directed each state to create a central agency to develop long-range conservation and recreation planning. It was during this time that the Virginia Outdoor Recreation Study Commission identified Bull Run Mountains as their highest priority location for open space in Northern Virginia. Key philanthropists and neighbors began to work privately on the large scale conservation project by purchasing tracts on the mountains through the Natural Areas Council (NAC), a non-profit conservation organization.
After acquiring multiple parcels totaling nearly 3000 acres, the NAC began looking for a partner to continue the project in the early 1970s. Having always conceived of the project as being for public benefit, a public owner seemed like the natural choice to receive the properties and carry the project forward.
Established by the Code of Virginia “to promote the preservation of open-space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open-space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth”, VOF is unique among state agencies in its ability to receive gifts of land and money. It is this feature that positioned VOF to acquire NAC’s properties and to carry the project forward.
VOF received the gift of the properties in 1979. Today the land is appreciated, by Virginia residents and visitors alike, for its significant natural heritage, cultural heritage and its recreational, aesthetic and educational resources.
VOF continues to actively monitor and protect the natural and historical features of the preserve for the future. Acquisitions of Bull Run Mountains properties and conservation easements are ongoing.
To learn more about donating land in the Bull Run Mountains Special Project Area, contact Leslie Grayson, director of land acquisition and policy.