Rappahannock Tribe gives Kaine a close-up view of conservation partnership

Summarized from: Rappahannock Tribe gives Kaine a close-up view of conservation partnership | WVTF

From left: Richard Remmer, board member National Wildlife Refuge Association; Rappahannock Chief Anne Richardson; Sen. Tim Kaine; Joel Dunn, president & CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy; Heather Richards, The Conservation Fund’s Mid-Atlantic regional director


Rappahannock Chief Anne Richardson is sitting quietly amid a group, excited by acres of pristine marshes and curious bald eagles as their boat plies the Rappahannock River 100 feet below Fones Cliffs, the place of her ancestral towns. She’s been here before, seeking help from conservation organizations that support her Tribe in buying back their former lands, some that may have burial grounds. She’s also seeking financial support from Congress for the 574 federally-recognized Tribes in the U.S. as they seek to buy ancestral lands. So, she invited Sen. Tim Kaine.

“It’s becoming a little bit of a national model for land conservation, heavily driven by tribal priorities,” Kaine said during a recent trip to the cliffs. “And there are many more opportunities for that all across the country and Chief Anne is becoming really known as a leader in this.”

Donors and landowners helped the Rappahannocks get back their ancestral town of Pissacoak. Last year, the Conservation Fund paid $8.1 million for nearly 1,000 acres in a bankruptcy auction for the town of Wecuppon. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which owns adjacent properties, is partnering with the Tribe and will buy the conservation easement.

“Conservation agencies in particular had been used to working with NGOs for conservation. But they never thought about Tribes as being partners,” Chief Richardson said. “As a federally-recognized Tribe our lands have special protections for wildlife and waters. And so, taking our traditional cultural knowledge and transferring it to U.S. Fish and Wildlife while we co-manage this beautiful place, is a win, win for everybody.”

The land handover is slated for later this year.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.