Cedar Mountain Reserve is placed high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Albermarle County, in a landscape rich with biological diversity and cultural history. The strands of cultural and ecological history are intertwined. These mountains are shaped by geologic forces nearly beyond human imagining. Native Americans and mountain settlers in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries hunted and homesteaded here, lived out lives of pleasure and hardship, but clung fiercely to the “mountain way of life.” Today, the cultural story of this place, and the painful history that accompanies the creation of Shenandoah National Park, is disappearing as the forests close over the old relics of the past. Encompassing roughly 900 acres of Cedar Mountain and the upper N. F. Moormans River drainage, the landscape is nearly inaccessible by automobile other than all terrain vehicle.
Cedar Mountain Reserve is part of the Moormans Forks Sub-Watershed (approx 850 acres). Locally known as the Sugar Hollow Reservoir Watershed, it is the primary contributor to the Reservoir’s 339 million gallons of drinking water in service to the greater Charlottesville community. Approximately 27,120,000 gallons of that drinking water flows through the property. Regionally, the Moormans Forks Sub-Watershed is part of the South Fork Rivanna River Watershed, the Rivanna Sub- Basin, the James River Basin and the Lower Chesapeake Sub-Region.
Looking closely at the Cedar Mountain Reserve, NBW’s recent ecological assessment began by dividing the property into focus areas. To draw these areas consideration, was given to important natural characteristics like habitat type, watershed boundaries, elevation, slope, solar aspect, and soils. Past and current land use was considered. Elements of the human experience, such as views, roads and trails, and recreation opportunities all factor into these delineations as well. Cedar Mountain Reserve is defined in a first-time visit by an immediate sense of it being a remote, rare, and grand setting. This report is a first attempt to document, collect, and assess the natural history of the property; to reveal something of the wild things, especially those which distinguish wild mountain communities from their lowland counterparts. This report is informed by site visits and by extensive research into local and state natural history records. The goal is to provide initial insights, and to begin to develop a way of thinking combined with the adaptive flexibility to proceed with two philosophies: some things about Cedar Mountain Reserve should not change, and some things should. The following ecological principles were prioritized:
• Protect high conservation value ecological systems, recognizing that the loss of any species, population, or ecological community has an unraveling effect on ecosystems.
• Value the biological diversity of Virginia, the region, the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Albemarle County, and that of the N.F. Moormans River watershed.
• Stewardship of this property will be informed by building and maintaining a working knowledge of the biological relationships and dynamics of this particular land.
• Improving and maintaining the integrity of water systems - springs, streams, rivers, wetlands, and ponds - is a top priority throughout the Cedar Mountain Reserve ; in a watershed, we all live downstream.
• Wildlife habitat is to be maintained and managed for the benefit of both non-game species and game species.
• The Cedar Mountain Reserve will grow to become an example of excellence in conservation stewardship on private lands through the implementation of an adaptive management approach.
• The chief rewards for good stewardship of the land are the positive, personal effects of spending time in nature, and of sharing that legacy with future generations.
Exemplary of the wonder and mystery that define the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Cedar Mountain Reserve will serve to nurture a connection to place. Through respect, reverence, compassion for the landscape and progressive stewardship, value will be created that will be evident and accessible for generations of inhabitants and visitors.