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Dubbed the "second most ecologically important watershed in the Chesapeake Bay" by the Smithsonian Institution, Dragon Run includes the northern-most tidal cypress swamp community on the western shore of the Chesapeake.

Home to a diverse community of plants and animals, this ecological treasure in eastern Virginia is being protected for generations to enjoy through Lowe's support. In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Lowe's is helping to conserve hundreds of thousands of acres of forests, waterways and natural habitats across the United States and Canada.

Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation's $1.25 million contribution in 2010 allowed The Nature Conservancy to identify forestland most in need of funding. The Dragon Run watershed is unique because of its significant forest cover, expansive bald cypress swamps and pristine water quality despite its proximity to the rapidly expanding metropolitan areas of Hampton Roads, Richmond and Fredericksburg, Va.; and Washington, D.C.

Dragon Run contains five rare, natural communities; 22 rare plants and animals; and more than 55 species of fish. More than 80% of the 90,000-acre Dragon Run watershed is in a forested condition, with approximately 17% in agriculture and open space — making the long-term protection of this already forested landscape even more important.

A $100,000 grant from Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation supported the purchase of 4,188 acres from the Hancock Timber Resource Group. Of that, 2,411 acres are being acquired by the Virginia Department of Forestry and added to Dragon Run State Forest. The Nature Conservancy will keep the remaining 1,700 acres as a preserve, which the Virginia chapter will restore by re-establishing diverse hardwood forests where pine plantations now grow.

The ecological benefits of restoration are amplified by the landscape context. The preserve is located in an unfragmented forest "core," which represents the best potential habitat for animals and plants that are sensitive to human disturbance.

"The Dragon Run watershed is one of the few watersheds in eastern Virginia that remains primarily undeveloped, rural forestland," said Michael Lipford, director of The Nature Conservancy in Virginia. "This partnership between the Hancock Timber Resource Group, the Commonwealth of Virginia, The Nature Conservancy and corporate supporters, like Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation, represents our shared interest in conserving the ecology and traditional industries this special place supports."

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