Action Alerts

On April 26 Loudoun County’s Planning Commission voted, 6 to 2, to recommend a 160,000-square-foot, 35-foot-high building on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain in Western Loudoun. This was done with little public notice or input and it is going before the Board of Supervisors tonight, May 19, at 6:30 p.m.Many people are rallying against this outrageous proposal for a lot of different reasons. The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is opposed to it due to the impact it will have on what is probably Loudoun County’s richest area biologically because of the extensive and diverse wildlife habitats that exist there. Short Hill Mountain serves as the eastern border of the Between the Hills Valley while the Blue Ridge Mountains is its western border. The valley and the ridges that border it are heavily forested, offering unique and connected habitat that is becoming more and more rare in Loudoun County. It has farm fields and some of the cleanest streams in all of Loudoun County. Harpers Ferry National Park borders it on the north and northwest where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet and all of those factors combine to make this valley rich with wildlife. Short Hill Mountain is not only a major migration route for birds of prey in the fall, large numbers of other birds such as the Cerulean Warbler also migrate along the ridge in both the spring and fall. A state threatened turtle, the Wood Turtle, lives in the valley while amphibians that have disappeared in other parts of the county, are still plentiful in the many healthy vernal pools which can be find in the valley. Many species of birds that live and nest in the valley have seen their numbers plummet elsewhere but are, for now, still holding out in this area. As shown by our annual butterfly count, more species of butterflies thrive here than anywhere else in the county.There will probably be backup emergency generators at this facility which will need to be tested on a regular basis. Noise pollution in the valley is likely to be more extensive than it would be in an open space and because this building is to be built on the ridge, it will echo up and down the valley and beyond.

This facility makes no sense in such a wonderful place. Furthermore, we are outraged that something with as negative impact as this facility will have is being slipped through the planning process without giving the public any real opportunity to study it especially since there is no need for it to be rushed. To protect this area we are asking the Board of Supervisors to deny this application outright.

Joe Coleman

Vice President

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy


Below is an Action Alert from the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition on the issue, including a memo from LCPCC Chair Al Van Huyck to the Board of Supervisors. You can also read the memo and see the image referred to here.


The Loudoun County Planning Commission’s 6-2 vote on April 26 to approve the commission permit for a 160,000-square-foot, 35-foot-high building on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain in Western Loudoun, with little public notice or input, next goes before the Board of Supervisors at its May 19 meeting in Leesburg.The building, if constructed, will have a huge impact on the rural area’s viewshed (see image below; areas shaded in gold show where building will be visible from), with far-reaching implications for the area’s scenic and rural character.It is vital that members of the Board of Supervisors hear citizens’ concerns about this proposal. 

What you can do:

• Become informed about the proposal. There are many unanswered questions about what the facility actually will be—among them whether it in fact constitutes a permitted use under the zoning ordinance, and who will own and operate it upon completion. Noise, light, traffic, power and water needs for a facility operating 24 hours a day with 60 employees working three shifts—these impacts have not been assessed. Read more here.

• Email Supervisors and speak at the BOS meeting this Thursday, May 19 (speaking slots for the 6:30 p.m. period are available). Contact the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors at 703-777-0200 to sign up to speak. Click here for supervisor emails. Catoctin District Supervisor Geary Higgins has said he does “not support the current application as it currently stands.” Supervisors Higgins and Tony Buffington (Blue Ridge) need to hear more from their constituents about citizens’ concerns.• Attend the community meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 23, hosted by the project applicant, Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group Inc. (a private contractor which builds facilities but does not own or operate them), to discuss expansion of the facility at the Lovettsville Game Association building at 16 South Berlin Turnpike, in Lovettsville.

• Notify friends, neighbors, your organization’s membership list, and rural business owners in Loudoun about this precedent-setting intrusion into rural Loudoun, with its irreplaceable scenic assets—that so many of its rural businesses rely upon for their prosperity.

• Share this email and the LCPCC Facebook page link.


Below is a message from LCPCC Chair Al Van Huyck to the applicant and the Board of Supervisors. You also can download a PDF of the document here.


TO            : The Loudoun Board of Supervisors

FROM     : Al Van Huyck

DATE       : May 4, 2016



The Planning Commission approved the Commission Permit for A&T Short Hill Mountain at their meeting on April 26, 2016.  The Board of Supervisors now has 60 days to either to approve or deny the Commission Permit as an administrative decision without a public hearing.


The proposed facility is for a 160,000 square foot structure, 35 feet high and 433 feet long, with eight back-up generators, and eleven air coolers.


The following are unanswered questions or pending issues which should be clarified before the Board of Supervisors takes action.

  1. The Zoning Administrator has determined that the application is for an expansion of a “Utility Substation, Transmission” which is a permitted use.However, early Staff reviews and several outside experts suggest that this use is for a “Data Center” which is not a permitted use.The County’s Communications Commission should be asked to verify the Zoning Administrator’s decision.
  2. Is this facility to be a private commercial use or is there a compelling Federal Government need for this facility?The applicant should be required to state whether or not it will be a private commercial use or will it be restricted to Federal Government use.
  3. The applicant is Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group Inc. (a private contractor which builds facilities but does not own or operate them) and is not a public utility.Can a contractor be issued a Commission Permit or only the utility owner of the site? The Parsons Company should justify why they are the applicant, and should be required to state their proposed end use for the Commission Permit.
  4. If AT&T is to be the end user, they should be required to state that they will operate the facility and not sell or lease it to others as a speculative venture.A statement from AT&T should be required as to their commitment to the facility’s use.
  5. Has AT&T abandoned use of the existing facility? There is some evidence that there is no current activity at the site.A statement from AT&T should be required as to the current use of the existing facility on the Short Hill Mountain.
  6. There is a great need for broadband in rural Loudoun.Will Loudoun residents obtain any benefits from this facility if built?
  7. If the Zoning Administrator’s decision stands will any current transmission substation anywhere in Loudoun County be allowed to receive a Commission Permit to be able to massively expand based on this precedent.There are a large number of substations throughout Loudoun County east and west.  If this interpretation is allowed to stand will it set a precedent in future cases?  The Zoning Administrator should be required to clarify this possible situation.
  8. A Commission Permit’s test is “whether the general location, character, and extent of the proposed use are in substantial accord with the Comprehensive Plan.”The Staff report states that it is based only on the fact it is an “expansion of an existing “Utility Substation, Transmission” which is a permitted use in the Zoning Ordinance.The Staff should be required to explain that the overall reading of the Comprehensive Plan would not justify this facility on the ridge line of the Short Hill Mountain.


The View Shed analysis included in the application is totally inadequate when compared to a privately generated GIS viewshed analysis.The Staff Report notes the structure will be visible from the valley roads. However, a private analysis indicates the structure will be visible over a wide area of northwest Loudoun from the Catoctin Mountains to the Short Hill Mountain in the east and for miles along the Appalachian Trail and down the valley to below Hillsboro on the west.As such the potential negative impact on many rural economy businesses and residents needs to be considered.The County GIS Department should be asked to conduct an official analysis of the view shed impact of the structure located on the ridge line of the Short Hill Mountains.




The application is vague on important issues which can affect the impact of the facility.  If a Commission Permit is approved then there is only approval of the Site Plan left for discussion, and only existing County regulations can be applied.  Any special mitigating commitments must be written into the Plat Plan prior to the approval of the Commission Permit.  The applicant should be required to make binding commitments regarding the following issues.

  1. What will be the power requirement needed to service the facilities?The applicant orally stated they will upgrade the power source, but not increase the height of the poles carrying power to the site or seek a new line right of way.However, will there be any changes required in obtaining this power off-site?The power requirements should be put in writing on the Plat.
  2. The applicant states they will observe the County’s noise regulations. The noise generated at the top of the Short Hill Mountain, even if within County limits, will carry far and wide in the clear, quiet air of rural Loudoun.The applicant should be required to provide a noise suppression plan particularly because of the difficulty of enforcing the County’s noise regulations.
  3. The applicant states they will attempt to minimize security lighting, but there is no specific information on how this will be done.Lights high on the mountain will be seen over a wide area.The applicant should be required to specify exactly what the lighting requirements will be and how they intend to mitigate the light trespass.
  4. The applicant states they will use existing wells to supply the water needed for the facility.In Loudoun, if a neighbor’s well runs dry because of a well on another property, there is no recourse.The applicant should be required to produce a hydro study which states the expected water requirements of the facility, the flow of the existing wells, the ground water recharge levels expected, and commit to a water supply management plan.
  5. The applicant states there will be no impact on the eco-system on the mountain.However, the scale of the structure and the level of activity suggest that there will be a substantial impact on the environment of the Mountain and the birds and animals which make it their habitat.The applicant should be required to undertake an analysis of the impact of the facility on the eco-system on the mountain.



The Board of Supervisors should either reject the pending Commission Permit and return the application to the Planning Commission for further analysis or send the application to TLUC and clarify the answers to the questions identified here.


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.


Loudoun-flooding-aerialThe Loudoun County Planning Commission is reviewing a proposal to weaken protections for floodplains, the buffers before our streams which protect our water from pollution and help protect us from flooding.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has written the following letter to the Planning Commission.   Please join us in speaking up for floodplain protections!  You can email the Planning Commission, or speak at their public hearing scheduled for Tuesday July 21, 6 pm at the Loudoun County Government Center.  (Email contact information in the letter below, and at  Public meeting information at


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy also plans to join the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition in speaking up for floodplain protections to the Board of Supervisors – especially in preparation for the Supervisors’ scheduled October 14, 2015 public hearing on this issue.


Additional details about the proposal can be found on the Loudoun Preservation and Conservation Coalition website, and also in county documentation prepared for the July 21 Planning Commission meeting.


Photo: Virginia State Police image: Loudoun flooding in 2012.




Please Reject Proposals to Weaken Floodplain Rules


Dear Planning Commission Members:

I write to you on behalf of the 1,000-member Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, to ask that you say ‘NO’ to proposed zoning rule changes whose purposes include:

  • Allowing more uses in floodplains, such as new storm water management facilities, parking areas, outdoor storage, and swimming pools.
  • Relocating natural stream channels.
  • Allowing specific changes through the Minor Special Exception process, which would reduce opportunities for citizen input.

County professional staff have identified numerous ways in which the proposed zoning rule changes could introduce contaminants into our water supply, and increase flash flood threats to life and property.

Throughout our 20-year history, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has stressed the important role of floodplains in mitigating downstream flooding, protecting surface water quality, and providing critical wildlife habitat.  We have emphasized that the cumulative effect of floodplain construction increases the volume and velocity of flood flows, and the rate of stream bank erosion.

We ask that you promote Loudoun County citizens’ health and safety, and our environmental quality, by rejecting proposed floodplain rule changes that are apparently designed to benefit a small number of individuals at the expense of the larger community.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Alysoun Mahoney

Conservation Advocacy Chair

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy



15-DSC_0130The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is in process of reviewing proposals that would threaten steep slopes and floodplains.  Protections for these critical natural resources have been in place for many years under the Revised General Plan that was adopted by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors with extensive citizen involvement.


The first proposal, which would open up fragile steep slope land for new uses, will be put to a vote of the Board of Supervisors Transportation and Land Use Committee in their Friday, July 17, 9 am meeting.


Additional details about the proposal can be found in documentation prepared for this meeting at, and also on the website of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition of which Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is a member.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has written the following letter to the Board of Supervisors, and we urge our members and friends to share their views with their elected County representatives as well.


Contact information for the Supervisors can be found here:, and public meeting information can be found at






Dear Board of Supervisors Transportation and Land Use Committee Members – Supervisor Volpe (Committee Chair), Supervisor Clarke, Supervisor Delgaudio, Supervisor Higgins, and Supervisor York:


I write to you on behalf of the 1,000-member Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, to ask that you reject proposed zoning changes in ZOAM 2014-0004 whose purpose is to allow more uses in steep slope areas.


First, the proposed changes would violate the Revised General Plan that was adopted by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors with extensive citizen involvement, which states in Chapter 5 that the County will “prohibit land disturbance on slopes with a grade of more than 25 percent,” and that “special performance standards are to be used to protect slopes with grades from 15 to 25 percent.”


Second, the proposed changes threaten Loudoun County’s environment. As stated in the Revised General Plan, “steep slopes protected as part of a river and stream corridor or mountainside often serve as forested and vegetative areas that filter stormwater run-off and support various plant and wildlife habitats….Development on steep slopes often requires high volumes of clearing and ‘cut and fill.’ Such earth moving is subject to erosion and sedimentation that causes adverse effects on surface water quality and aquatic habitat.”


Third, we are concerned that the proposed changes would benefit a small number of individuals – for example, those seeking to build hillside residences – at the risk of general public health and safety. As stated in the Revised General Plan, “if improperly used and disturbance occurs, these areas could experience erosion, building and/or road failure, downstream flooding, and other hazards.”


Fourth, we have reason to believe that although the goal of the proposed changes is to be more ‘business friendly’, in fact the reverse will occur:  new development on steep slopes would have adverse impact on Loudoun County’s rural economy and tourism.


Finally, the proposal includes allowing changes to development standards through the Minor Special Exception process, which would reduce opportunities for citizen input.


Please work to keep Loudoun County beautiful, and to keep all our citizens safe and prosperous, by rejecting zoning changes that would allow more uses in steep slope areas.


Thank you very much for your time and consideration.




Alysoun Mahoney

Conservation Advocacy Chair

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy



bluebirds Efforts are underway in the U.S. Congress to prevent the enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).


The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) advises that “the Senate may soon consider a rider in the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill to bar the Department of Justice from enforcing the MBTA, which protects over 1,000 species of migratory birds.”


Furthermore, in the House, Rep. Jeff Duncan is trying to add to the Interior Appropriation Bill an amendment that would prevent the enforcement of laws protecting Bald and Golden Eagles, as well as the laws protecting migratory birds.


SEO_Liam_McGranaghan2a-150x150Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is joining ABC and conservation organizations across the nation in cosigning a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking that they maintain all existing protections for migratory birds.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy also invites individual members to send the same request to Virginia’s U.S. Senators.  You can easily do this by going to and personalizing and sending a letter prepared by ABC.  Alternatively, you can deliver your message directly by calling or writing the offices of Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine.  Contact information can be found at


As always, thank you for your efforts to protect Loudoun’s wildlife.


Photo credits: Bluebirds, by Nicole Hamilton.  Short-eared Owl, by Liam McGranaghan.  These are just two of more than 1,000 species currently protected under the MBTA.




Rachel Carson said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

This year, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is expanding its Youth and Family Programs by adding a host of field trips, nature walks, school programs, and speaker programs designed specifically for Loudoun’s K-12 citizens.  We know our young stewards are the future of conservation and people and wildlife living in harmony. Please check our programs calendar to sign up!

One of the main features to this new effort is the addition of the  “We’re Going Wild” Family Nature Walks, a series of discovery hikes in various natural habitats all over the county, and led by seasoned naturalists.  These walks are special because they are EDU-taining and designed to be hands-on, unstructured to allow for deeper exploration of findings, and FUN for FREE!

They are not just for the kids, but also for their families!  When families go wild together, a special process of shared learning takes place…where adults and children are students together as equals.  This is a significantly powerful paradigm shift that creates a richer learning environment for children learning alongside their adult role models!  This further fosters applying new knowledge together outside of our programs–in your own backyards and communities.

This group WENT WILD at Algonkian Regional Park on May 17, 2015.

This group WENT WILD at Algonkian Regional Park on May 17, 2015. Guide Ed Clark (far left) will see you again in June for the next “We’re Going Wild” Family Nature Walk at  the South Riding Blvd. pond…on Father’s Day, June 21st!

Our first “We’re Going Wild” walk took place Sunday, May 17th at Algonkian Regional Park on The Woodlands trail along the beautiful Potomac River. Local entomologist and naturalist, Ed Clark, led an enthusiastic and inquisitive group of families who seemed to have an EYE for wildlife!  Highlights of the many exciting finds on their 1.5 mile hike were a Broad-headed Skink, North American Millipedes, 6-spotted Tiger beetles, Blue-Black beetles, Skippers, and this season’s Eastern Tent Caterpillars and their tented silk nests. Additionally, hikers studied the difference between a beetle and a true bug, as well as between dragonflies and damselflies.

Broad-headed Skink

Broad-headed Skink

Plant ID included Poison Hemlock, Poison Ivy, Bush Honeysuckle/ Barberry Bush/Autumn Olive (providing the platform for a talk about non-native plants), Multi Floral Rose, Pawpaw trees (host plant for Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly), Wingstem (native aster blooming yellow later in summer), Deer Tongue plant, Morning Glory and Bindweed, Virginia Creeper, Common Milkweed (host plant for Monarch Butterflies), and Sycamore trees.

Our families also found the handiwork of wood-peckers on trees, identified as work of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker based on the pecking patterns in the tree bark, and they enjoyed learning the distinct songs of the Cedar Waxwing, Warbling Vireo, and Gray Catbird.

What an exciting day spent outdoors on the trail together!

Please join us for next month’s walk:

“We’re Going Wild” Family Nature Walk Series ― Sunday, June 21, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., South Riding Blvd. Pond, South Riding. Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and local naturalist and USDA entomologist Ed Clark to explore the natural world through the wonder-filled eyes of children! This series of family nature walks invites families to explore the wide world of nature together, led by an expert in nature and fun! This month’s walk will explore a community pond habitat during pollinator week and ON Father’s Day! Space is limited to 12 children, ages 7+, with accompanying adult. Note: Not designed for Scout groups; no strollers or pets. Registration required: Sign Up Online.




fieldPer a May 6 announcement at, Loudoun County is seeking public comment on a proposed revision to the Lyme disease awareness and prevention brochure, now posted at Comments may be emailed to, and will be accepted through May 15, 2015.

Today, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy submitted the following remarks.


Dear Loudoun Lyme Disease Commission members -

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is pleased to have the opportunity to review your new draft Loudoun Targets Lyme brochure.

We would like to thank your Commission for the approach you are taking in developing new materials for Loudoun County.  We appreciate your new draft brochure’s emphasis on personal protective measures:  as discussed in our 2014 paper at, we have found substantial evidence that these measures are effective in preventing Lyme disease, while also protecting general public and environmental health and allowing for wise use of taxpayer dollars.

We hope that after your new brochure is published, all Loudoun County print and online materials will be revised and replaced as needed for consistency with the points in this brochure.

Additionally, although beyond the scope of the current brochure, we hope that future public information materials will more fully reflect recent research on the complexity of tick ecology, pointing to conservation of diverse wildlife and habitat as one key to reducing the spread of tick-borne diseases.  (References include and

Thank you again for your service to Loudoun County.



Give the Gift of Nature to Loudoun’s Youth…..Choose Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy!

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is on a mission to expand our Youth & Family Programs. Specifically we need your help funding 10 Nature Programs and Field Trips that engage experts in teaching youth about local wildlife & habitats.
Our goal is to reach 200 children through programs offered free to our community.

Children have a natural love of nature. Won’t you help give them the opportunity to nurture that love?

LWC youth pic  20130324 discovery walk (23) corrected

On May 5th, for one 24 hour period, you can choose Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and help us help the children of Loudoun County.  Click Here on May 5th!

397318_10151089075739227_1228459050_n  100_0368

THANK YOU for GIVING to Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and help nature come alive for Loudoun’s children!  Mark your Calendars for May 5th – when the giving begins!

GIVE…CHOOSE Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy!




With so many people involved in Loudoun County’s Monarch efforts, it’s a delight to shine a spotlight on some of them, so we thought it would be purposeful to share a few exciting and diverse efforts coming out of Loudoun county.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy joined in the extraordinary citizen science and conservation effort for the Monarch butterfly in 2013 by launching the “Bringing Back the Monarch, Keeping the Magic Alive” program consisting of several important goals.  A local information campaign is key to this effort, including public talks, workshops, and hands-on opportunities to learn about raising and releasing Monarchs and restoring and protecting the dwindling habitat along their migratory path between Mexico and Canada.

The campaign has been enthusiastically embraced county-wide and has inspired eagerness among all age groups, resulting in a deeply committed effort across so many levels of involvement.  Dozens of Loudoun’s public and private schools have taught their students by planting and registering Monarch Waystations, and countless residents now know of and understand the importance of Milkweed, the Monarch’s only host plant.

In my own close-knit community, South Riding, it is not so rare to see a neighbor of mine now carefully turning over milkweed leaves in the yard. Such selfless volunteers are looking for Monarch eggs or caterpillars.  They have joined in the effort because the Monarch is a creature we can save just by KNOWING more and adjusting our compass to align with their needs as they journey North and South, crisscrossing Loudoun County in that tell-tale glide as they seek out a nectar source or a tender milkweed plant just right for egg-laying. We are making a difference in that magical journey here in Loudoun County, one garden plot or Monarch talk at a time.

"Tres Amigos" 4th generation caterpillars in Loudoun, so to be adults Monarchs headed to Mexico. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

“Tres Amigos” 4th generation caterpillars in Loudoun, soon to be adult Monarchs headed to Mexico.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

From all corners of Loudoun, we are hearing reports of Monarch caterpillar and butterfly sightings (please report your sightings to Journey North), we receive inquiries about how to rear the caterpillars, and we answer requests for native plant and milkweed plant needs with plant sales to foster the development of habitats across our area.  Waystations bursting with these native beauties and with the Monarch’s milkweed are now popping up on apartment balconies, in school courtyards, in park meadows, and in front yard planter beds.  These Waystations are diligently registered with Monarch Watch, too.  And why is that, really…why REGISTER your garden?  Well, among the many incentivizing reasons, my favorite is that a SIGN goes up to communicate the good news of the important work that space is now up to. That sign is powerful because people walking past stop to read it, then they ask questions or visit the website whimsically scripted at the bottom ( Really, a sign like that on a garden means something special is going on, and people want to know more.  That’s the golden ticket! It’s the Salesman’s “grab” convincing you that there is something new to learn today. Remember those neighbors of mine I mentioned…those curious souls staring carefully into the milkweed?  They saw our sign, and then they asked what it was all about.  Sometimes, it’s just that easy. In other ways, the efforts are more gregarious and elbow-greased.

Ed Felker's Waystation proves successful in its first season. Photo Credit: Ed Felker

Ed Felker’s Waystation proves successful in its first season.
Photo Credit: Ed Felker

To start with, our dedicated president, Nicole Hamilton, along with another very active Loudoun Monarch advocate, Caroline Kuhfahl, has been writing letters and hosting meetings with local wineries (like 868 Vineyard and Sunset Hills) to foster event planning initiatives that call attention to the wonderful butterfly habitat opportunities available on the grounds of these vineyards. There are several events in the works, and some already successfully held, so keep your eyes on the events calendar to catch the next “WINGS & WINE” event (to be posted).

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy works with public libraries, parks, and community centers all over Loudoun County to host Monarch talks aimed at informing our local communities of the plight of the Monarch and to invite citizens to be awed by the Monarch’s unique story.  In addition, a series of “Raising and Releasing Monarchs” workshops have been very popular and have equipped a growing crowd of citizen scientist volunteers with the knowledge, the tools, and the support to collect eggs and caterpillars from the wild that are then reared in captivity to be released as adult butterflies.  This is a fascinating and joyful journey for all involved.  One such Loudouner, Ed Felker, wrote about his first-time experience raising and releasing Monarchs this summer in a stunningly poetic photo-essay.  If you have not read it yet, here is the link; trust me, you’ll feel as though you are watching it all unfold before your own eyes.

A stunning capture of this last life cycle stage. Photo Credit: Ed Felker

A stunning capture of this last life-cycle stage.
Photo Credit: Ed Felker

Loudoun citizens are showing their commitment to habitat restoration, too.  Aside from the countless private Waystations, Monarch Waystations are now registered at public spaces including Ashburn Farms, Brambleton, Loudoun Soccer Park (where Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch himself planted milkweed), and at over 30 Loudoun County Public Schools. This is an extraordinary response! In an effort to learn just how many Monarch releases are occurring in Loudoun County, Loudoun Wildlife has created an online form where citizens can report their release data.  The total count and information will be displayed on Loudoun Wildlife’s website–that portion is still in development to be deployed in the coming days. Click HERE to enter YOUR releases!

The greatest hope of all of these sorts of activities is to spread a little wonder with the education we are sharing.  Wonder leads to that special kind of curiosity that motivates one to seek information. More than a year ago, that marvelous wonder sparked something in a now 9-year old Loudoun student, Carter Steadman.  Carter has been chasing down every bit of current Monarch information available, and he’s been chasing Monarchs through milkweed patches, collecting over 200 eggs and caterpillars this season alone.  It’s a daily exercise in observation and careful caterpillar headcounts as he rears his Monarchs to adults that flit off with whimsy while he watches with that stunning wonder in his smile. He is determined to save this creature, and he takes every opportunity to tell anyone willing to listen, earning him the nickname, “The Monarch Kid.”


Child-like wonder is all over Carter Steadman's face as he admires the Monarch caterpillar. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Child-like wonder is all over Carter Steadman’s face as he admires the Monarch caterpillar.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Brotherly love. Photo Credit:Sarah Steadman

Brotherly love.
Photo Credit:Sarah Steadman

This summer, Carter’s level of passion, along with his natural at-ease disposition, have been at play for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Monarch.  He has presented with Nicole Hamilton to children and families at local libraries and community centers, and he has created and planted four registered Monarch Waystations, including a very large and already successful garden at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School in South Riding. Planting events at his school were held at the end of May to put the plants in place for summer, and Carter tended to the school’s garden twice a week all summer making sure it was weeded, watered, and ready for Monarchs should they arrive.  Well, in his own words, “THEY CAME, I FOUND A MONARCH!”  The first Monarch caterpillar was found in mid July, and since then Carter has found eggs, caterpillars, and butterflies in the garden.  He proudly reared the first caterpillar at home and released it back into the school’s garden as a healthy adult male named “Husky” in honor of the school’s mascot. Carter’s enthusiasm for sharing the magic of the Monarch with the students led the school to rename the hallway leading to the garden “Monarch Hallway,” which Carter thought was pretty cool because it means “…everyone will say ‘MONARCH’ every day, and that means people will be wondering about Monarchs.”  We think he’s on to something there.

The Monarch Waystation Carter planted at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School, is active with Monarchs just 2 months after planting. The students who helped plant this garden are learning hands-on that they are "never too young to make a difference." Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

The Monarch Waystation Carter planted at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School, is active with Monarchs just 2 months after planting. The students who helped plant this garden are learning hands-on that they are “never too young to make a difference.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Perhaps the most special part of Carter’s efforts is that he truly has a tireless passion for the recovery of the Monarch migration…he believes recovery will happen. This is not a “maybe” or “if” scenario for him, perhaps because he is only 9 and at this young age possibilities are limitless, or perhaps because part of the answer to the problem is so simple:  tell people.  Share what you know.  When people know better, they often do better.  And so, Carter tells people…and some people with rather large audiences have started listening. Louder voices, like local and national newspapers and TV news, are helping Carter share the magic of the Monarch.  This summer, Carter was filmed for “The Meadow Project”, an independent educational “documentary focused on showing how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems.” Nicole & Carter were also interviewed for a news spot related to the recent pollinator task force appointed by the White House. The piece aired in California where a portion of the annual migration takes place. Such opportunities to share Loudoun’s efforts far and wide have an important role toward inspiring others to become involved, and ultimately impact the Monarch’s chance to bounce back. See the news video HERE.

"On your way Little Lady...enjoy your journey," says Carter, releasing a healthy female. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

“On your way Little Lady…enjoy your journey,” says Carter, releasing a healthy female.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Follow Carter on Facebook, join in any of Loudoun Wildlife’s free events, and participate from the comfort of your home by simply sharing this post with your own networks in a sort of information migration effort.

carter mon on head






Snickers Gap Hawk Watch is in need of volunteers, and we’re pretty sure you would LOVE such an extraordinary experience to view so many hawks!

Every fall, thousands of hawks migrate south, many of them following the Blue Ridge Mountains on their journey.  There are several official hawk watches in Virginia which monitor their numbers from year to year. The closest location to those of us here in Loudoun County, manned solely by volunteers, is the Snickers Gap Hawk Watch, on the borders of Loudoun and Clarke Counties.  It is affiliated with the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), which compiles the migration data of over 200 such sites located in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Typically, about 12,000 raptors are counted at Snickers Gap each season.  The highest seasonal count was just shy of 41,000 in 2011.  The birds are generally observed traveling in a southwesterly direction, either directly over the ridge-line or just off to either side, at varying heights and distances depending on weather conditions. Some can be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars (and when possible, a tripod and telescope) can be required for identification.

Peregrine in flight.  Photo by Liam McGranaghan

Peregrine in flight.
Photo by Liam McGranaghan

The Snickers Gap Hawk Watch season officially begins September 1st and will continue until November 30th. At this time, volunteer site counters are needed since many days are still not covered. Both volunteers with experience and those willing to learn are most welcome and encouraged to take part in this fascinating citizen count effort.  The Hawk Watch is a magnificent place to observe hawks, especially if you would like to learn to identify them. Volunteers are sure to find regular participants on the weekends, especially between 10am and 2pm, who take great pleasure in sharing their experience and knowledge.

Osprey in flight. Photo by Liam McGranaghan

Osprey in flight.
Photo by Liam McGranaghan

If you are interested, contact Joan Boudreau or Bob Abrams at 703-734-1238 or or just come on up (if no one is watching when you arrive, start counting!).

The Hawk Watch is about 10 minutes west of Purcellville where Route 7 crosses the Loudoun-Clarke County line and the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Bluemont.  The watch is adjacent to the highway (take a left at the top of the ridge on Rte 601 and an immediate right into the parking lot) and is conducted from the parking lot serving both commuters and AT hikers. Directions and a map can be found here at the site online.

Report by Joe Coleman
Edited by Sarah Steadman




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