Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Virginia Department of Transportation

Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Management Area

Densely shaded, dark green forest with thick understory of shrubs vines and ferns on wet forest floor Wooded green forest with light filtering down to undergrowth of shrubs and leaf covered forest floor
Great Dismal Swamp habitat (Virginia DOT)


Map of Management Area (Virginia DOT)

When the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) donated 758 acres of Great Dismal Swamp forested wetlands to the State Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), it ensured a brighter future for the habitats of more than 200 species of birds and countless varieties of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The VDOT's initiative will also protect rare and endangered species like the canebrake rattlesnake, eastern big-eared bat, and Dismal Swamp shrew.

The more than 750-acre property is located in the Northwest River watershed within the City of Chesapeake, adjacent to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Route 17. The VDOT donated the land as part of its mitigation package for improvements to 12 miles of Route 17 in Chesapeake.

To develop its mitigation and restoration strategy, VDOT worked with an interagency team from FHWA, DGIF, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation-Natural Heritage. The collaborative approach resulted in a conservation easement that places this land into a new State wildlife management area and substantially adds to DGIF's suburban wetlands.

According to the mitigation package, VDOT will build designated black-bear underpasses (deer and animals, such as raccoons, opossums, and foxes will use them too). As a highway bridge is being built across the wildlife management area, VDOT will minimize impacts to the wetland below by constructing a temporary work bridge on temporary pilings and piers. This will avoid the need to place temporary fill in sensitive wetland areas. Around the bridge abutments, wetland specialists will loosen the top 12 inches of soil "from the inside out," avoiding soil compaction and damage.

As for protecting wildlife habitat . . . Restoring the wildlife management area will reduce wildlife habitat fragmentation. Yet the project will do more than provide habitat; it will also link habitats, in this case, the 107,000-acre Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and a mosaic of forest tracts extending to "Green Sea" wetlands being preserved by The Nature Conservancy and the Department of Conservation and Recreation-Natural Heritage.

Humans will benefit from the VDOT project too. The restored wildlife management area will offer visitors numerous wildlife-viewing opportunities and provide scientists with a large outdoor laboratory within an unparalleled primeval forest.

For more information, contact Ricky Woody at ricky.woody@virginiadot.org.

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