Archive for October, 2015

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers are a very active bunch. You’ll find us in the field monitoring, at annual events and fairs getting the word out on local conservation issues, along creeks and stream edges restoring or putting in riparian buffers, or even at schools empowering students to lead the way in protecting wildlife. So who are these volunteers? Who are these dedicated citizens that want to make their world a better place, and why do they do it? Volunteer Connection will be a monthly piece profiling a different Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteer each month so we can get to know the names and faces of our neighbors who have committed themselves to environmental stewardship.

This month, we are featuring Rick Hardin. An outdoorsman at heart, Rick had a keen interest in conservation as he and his wife, Danné Hardin, have always enjoyed the natural world and all of the exciting beauty it offers. From hiking and cycling in various parks to learning about how individual species of wildlife interact with their natural environments, Rick has always had the environment in the back of his mind. It was likely this interest that informed his decision to choose geography and geo-environmental studies in his formal education. He later went on to work with the Water Resource Division of the US Geological Survey in Pennsylvania, which focused on several surface water projects, including stream monitoring efforts, turning his attention to surface water issues in particular. Currently, Rick works with the US Department of Agriculture as a Geographer, where he provides information on the farming industry, and studies the how the farming industry varies throughout the country as well as the challenges that exist between farmers and the environment.

His past volunteer work has included The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, but what brought him to us here at Loudoun Wildlife was seeing our local legacy. Researching the cache of information handy on our website and valuing our pro-active attitude reflective in our regular projects (including stream monitoring!), Rick and Danné thought Loudoun Wildlife would be a good fit. Rick has already completed some useful statistical work with our Bird Atlas Project!

After business hours, and between wooded adventures, you may find Rick and Danné, self-proclaimed sports junkies, in the stands at a baseball, hockey or football game cheering for our local teams. Still, wherever you see them, make sure to stop and introduce yourself because they are now part of our incredible Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy family!

Rick and Danné Hardin at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia

Rick and Danné Hardin at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia


If you are looking for ways to get involved like Rick and Danné, check out our volunteer page here.


This will make you smile!


Date: October 08, 2015
Contact: Jim Meisner Jr., DCR Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-8442,

Online tool helps identify best Virginia native plants for pollinators

Who loves Common Milkweed? Pollinators!

Who loves Common Milkweed? Pollinators!

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA —Virginians who want to plant beneficial plants for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds have a new resource at their fingertips.

The online Virginia Native Plant Finder now lets users search for native plant species that benefit pollinators. The finder is managed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program.

“Fall is a great time to plant, and we encourage people to remember native pollinators when they’re planning fall gardens,” said Kevin Heffernan, stewardship biologist with the program. “Pollinators provide an important service to many plant species by assisting in their reproduction. Without pollinator species, many plant species would disappear.”

Native plants are those that grow where they evolved. They have traits that enable them to adapt to local conditions.

The Virginia Native Plant Finder lets users create their own custom native plant lists by selecting from a few dropdown menus. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are among the choices, and there’s a special category for monarch butterflies.

Users also can search plants by common or scientific name to learn which plants benefit a particular pollinator.

The Virginia Native Plant Finder is an easy way for people to find which native plants were suited for certain light and moisture conditions, as well as regions of the state. It links users to photos of each plant species and to nurseries where they can purchase native plants.

The tool is free and anyone can use it. Searches can be completed on desktops, tablets or smartphones.

Scientists with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program are responsible for identifying and conserving Virginia’s plants, animals and natural communities. The program is housed at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and reaches its 30th year in 2016.

For more information about Virginia native plants, go to


Make Way for Monarchs
 has published a new 20-page, full color report entitled “Monarch Recovery from a Milkweed’s Point of View: Milkweed Seed Supply Chains for Monarch Habitat Restoration”.


The authors include Gary Paul Nabhan, PhD, University of Arizona WS.K. Kellogg Program, Chip Taylor, PhD, University of Kansas/Monarch Watch and Ina Warren, co-facilitator of Make Way for Monarchs. Joan Carstensen Design of Flagstaff Arizona provided the memorable design, and Paul Mirocha of Tucson provided color illustrations.

The challenge before us is to successfully build collaborations for the largest habitat recovery initiative in American history. The team conducted interviews with numerous agencies, for-profit and non-profits regarding the hurdles we must overcome to achieve sufficient milkweed seed, plug and plant availability for monarch forage to rebound. The target set was for 4-6 hectares of overwintering grounds filled by high elevation oyamel fir forests of central Mexico.

Two striking maps are also included in the Report:

(1) Artist Paul Mirocha created a US map showing spring / summer monarch breeding areas overlaid by the growing use of glyphosate from year to year; it is the first map which graphically helps restorationists fathom the magnitude of restoration needed;

(2) A US map showing ecoregions that is linked to the best milkweed species to plant in each in order for assist highways of transportation seed buyers, conservation organizations and habitat restorationists in understanding the different seed transfer zones within their region.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHighlights of this report include: 

•           six major ways of protecting and better managing existing milkweed populations

•           ten steps toward designing and managing the milkweed seed supply chain

•           currently-available seed sources and their costs that can be employed to help specific Departments of Transportation access sufficient seed supplies for highway right of way restorations

•           seven substantive groups that are potential sources of foundation seeds for DOTs

•           seven regional areas in US and the milkweed species and targets for those areas

To conserve natural resources, the Report is being made available online and downloadable as a free PDF here:

To purchase printed bulk copies for training workshops for practitioners, please email Gary at at least three weeks in advance of the planned event.

We hope you find the Report helpful and would appreciate your help in sharing the link, especially to Departments of Transportation in your area.

For more information check out:


Well worth watching:


Wood Turtle, one of our state threatened species due to habitat loss. Photo by Nicole Hamilton

Your Action Needed

On Wednesday, October 14 at 6 pm, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider proposed zoning ordinance amendments that would undo existing floodplain protections.

County professional staff have outlined numerous concerns about the amendments, which you can read here.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy sent the letter below to our Board of Supervisors.

Please join us – along with our partners on the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition – in asking our Supervisors to maintain existing floodplain protections, and reject new amendments that would threaten those protections.  

Now is the time to defend Loudoun County’s precious natural resources and wildlife, before they’re gone forever.

MacDowell Property Floodplain Mar 19 2005 4Write your own letter to the Supervisors using the points below, or come to speak at the public hearing, October 14 beginning at 6 pm, in the County Government Center at 1 Harrison Street, SE in Leesburg.

Email all the Supervisors together at or find your Supervisor’s email here:  To call in advance to sign up to speak at the public hearing, call the Clerk to the Board of Supervisors at 703-777-0200.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Letter to our Board of Supervisors


Dear Chairman York and Members of the Board of Supervisors -

I write on behalf of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, a 20-year-old organization with over 1,000 members.  This month, you will make a critical decision on Loudoun County’s future when you vote on proposed amendments to longstanding Zoning Ordinance protections for floodplains.

We have reviewed the many proposed amendments to floodplain ordinances as described in item 6 of the October 14 Public Hearing package, which would include allowing new stormwater management facilities, parking, and outdoor storage in floodplains; and weakening standards for relocation of natural stream channels.  Each of these would threaten what remains of Loudoun County’s once-thriving natural environment and wildlife, while at the same time putting citizen health and safety at risk, and causing adverse economic impact to the majority of our local residents and businesses.

We ask that you reject the proposed amendments, and thereby maintain longstanding county floodplain protections which in turn help to protect our county’s citizens and natural resources.

Floodplains are critical to survival for many of our native wildlife species.  Wood Turtles, a Virginia Threatened Species, once thrived in our county – but today are found in only a few remaining pockets of floodplain habitat.  Other native species that rely on floodplain habitat include the Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo; and amphibians like the Marbled Salamander, Spotted Salamander, and Three-lined Salamander. The proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments would compound threats these species already face, by authorizing new uses directly on top of their now-rare habitats.  The amendments would also exacerbate threats to these species by permitting new floodplain uses upstream and thereby causing pollutant run-off into their few remaining habitats in Loudoun, Fairfax, and other adjacent counties.

Floodplains are an asset to all our county’s citizens, as they help to keep our water clean and reduce flood risk. They help to trap pollutants and prevent these substances from reaching streams and drinking water, thereby reducing adverse human health effects and filtering costs. Floodplains provide flood control by storing stormwater and reducing the volume and velocity of flood flows, thereby reducing flood hazard risk to people and property. The free ecosystem services provided by floodplains help to keep Loudoun County property values strong and insurance costs low.

Existing Loudoun County zoning rules, put in place with comprehensive citizen input more than twenty years ago, call for maintaining the natural benefits of floodplains and requiring that certain floodplain uses be restricted or prohibited.  According to our County website, “because of the implementation of Loudoun County’s floodplain management program, there are very few properties that experience recurring flood damage.”

The proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments would put our county’s citizens at risk in many ways. Proposed new stormwater management facilities would prevent our floodplains from providing the flood control services they now provide naturally and for free – thereby increasing flood risk and taxpayer costs. New parking lots would prevent floodplains from absorbing water during a flood event, and thereby increase the intensity of flood waters.  New storage facilities in floodplains could result in stored materials being dislodged in a flood, causing water pollution and harm to people and property.  Reducing standards for stream channel relocation would undermine county efforts currently in progress to maintain and improve water quality and habitat through the Watershed Implementation Plan.

Please protect Loudoun County’s future by rejecting the proposed amendments and maintaining existing floodplain protections.

Alysoun Mahoney
Conservation Advocacy Chair and Member, Board of Directors
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy


Photos by Nicole Hamilton.  1) Wood Turtle, one of our state threatened species due to habitat loss.  2) Floodplain, an undervalued resource that we need to preserve.


Why did the turtle cross the road?

She was likely living between two ponds, both man made, one in a golf course, the other in a planned townhouse community, separated by what is now a busy Loudoun County road. At some point, her life was destined to intersect with a mass of metal moving at 50 mph. It didn’t take much to crack her carapace and flip her over. I found her upside down, legs waving frantically, in the middle of the road. Her injury didn’t look too bad (considering) and she was feisty (a good sign). Painted with brilliant red and yellow veins, she was a gorgeous painted turtle in the prime of her life.

2015-09-05 12.30.08

On the way to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center where she would receive treatment and their magical healing abilities.

Painted turtles are the most widely distributed turtles in North America. They spend their lives in and near freshwater habitats with soft bottoms. In Native American folklore, a turtle fell in love with the chief’s daughter but neither the daughter nor her parents would take notice of him. Finally, he painted himself to attract attention and as soon as the chief’s daughter saw him, she fell in love and followed him to the water where she became a soft shelled turtle.

After a week of treatment by the highly skilled angels at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, she was ready for release. Painted turtles, along with other turtle species, must be released where they are found. Relocating turtles spreads disease and can result in the turtle dying in its attempt to return to its home territory. Nicole Hamilton, Executive Director of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, suggested using Google Maps satellite imagery to look for a safer place within a mile of where she was found. Just a bit over a mile away, still within a reasonable range, the Willowsford Grange Community with native wildflower meadows bordered by creeks and wildlife friendly residents and farmers, provided everything this girl needed to spend what would hopefully be an uneventful remainder of her 40 or so years of life.

2015-09-12 13.04.16

After meeting her new neighbors at the Willowsford farm stand, she was ready for her new beginning.

2015-09-12 13.27.51

We walked along the stream bed in a gentle drizzle to where a giant blue lobelia was blooming.

She took her time making her way to the water. Maybe she was resetting her internal compass, or perhaps she was taking a moment to absorb her peaceful surroundings, so different from her previous home.

2015-09-12 13.23.19

…finally, she entered the water. Live long and prosper beautiful painted turtle.

Please drive carefully. Their lives depend on us.

2015-09-12 13.17.28-1




Huge thanks to all the volunteers who planted 9000 native plants for Monarch butterflies! The planting occurred Sept. 29 at the Dale City rest area at mile marker 156 of I-95 heading north – and yes! Monarch butterflies heading south were seen and wished a safe journey.

Way to go, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, VDOT and VA Dominion Power for teaming up to keep the magic alive.

We are making a difference!