Preserve Our Forests

More protection for Virginia’s wilderness in National Forests

The Virginia Wilderness Additions Act will protect old-growth forests and important ecosystems in Virginia’s National Forests


View from Buzzard Rock in George Washington National Forest, Virginia.

Virginia’s George Washington & Jefferson National Forests have amazing wilderness areas and the state’s Senators want more of the forest protected. Wilderness areas are the most strongly protected lands with no development, roads or motorized vehicles allowed.

Approximately a three hour drive from Washington D.C., two wilderness areas, Rough Mountain Wilderness and Rich Hole Wilderness, provide some of the most rugged terrain in the state. 

The Rough Mountain Wilderness is hard to access with steep ridges that show off great views of the Allegheny Mountains. On trails, visitors may spot rocks encrusted with fossilized shells. These are evidence of a time when the entire region was underwater.

To the southeast and across the Pads Creek Valley lies the Rich Hole Wilderness. This protected area is full of hardwoods like hemlocks, hickories, oaks and pines, all benefiting from the drainage water from nearby Brushy and Mill Mountains. In fact, a portion of the old-growth forest has many trees with diameters larger than two-feet. This densely packed, remote forest also is home to a significant population of black bears.

Both designated in 1988, the Rough Mountain and Rich Hole Wilderness are separated by the Pads Creek Valley, which is not a wilderness area. Senators Kaine and Warner have introduced the Virginia Wilderness Additions Act to connect these two Wilderness areas and creating Virginia’s largest block of wilderness on national forest land– a nearly contiguous swath of 21,000 acres.

The bill would add 1,000 acres to the existing 9,327 acres of the Rough Mountain Wilderness. This addition would include a portion of the Big Hollow watershed and add the only stream that flows year round to the designated  wilderness area. In the proposal, 4,600 acres would also be added to the existing 6,532 acres of Rich Hole Wilderness. The addition would designate some of Pads Creek Valley as Wilderness, connecting the two Wilderness areas. 

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