Knowing what natural resources a community possesses is a critical step towards protecting them. Such information can also help avoid environmental train wrecks that pit local conservationists against developers and leave residents dissatisfied with local government.
Two recently identified, globally rare plant communities at Silver Lake
are a case in point. One of these is an Upland Depression Swamp, a kind of seasonally flooded forested wetland composed of wet-tolerant plants such as pin oak, greenbrier, and jewelweed.
Upland Depression Swamps occur in a highly restricted range almost entirely within the metropolitan Washington, DC portion of the Culpeper Basin. The basin is an ancient rift valley and today consists of flat, low lying land from central Virginia into Maryland and includes a significant portion of Prince William County.
The highly limited range of Upland Depression Swamps coincides with large-scale suburban development, placing this plant community at high risk for disappearance.
The threatened plant communities at Silver Lake have already been slated for development and will be lost if a land swap can’t be arranged. Unlike endangered species, rare ecosystems don’t get much legal protection.
If these natural resources had been identified earlier, development of the Silver Lake area could have been planned to avoid them. This is why a natural resources inventory of Prince William County is so important and, given the rapid pace of development, very overdue. Keep reading...