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Valley couple hopes pipeline does not interrupt wildlife efforts

Valley couple hopes pipeline does not interrupt wildlife efforts

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WAYNESBORO — Carol Taylor and her husband, George, have worked hard to create a habitat on their Swoope property conducive to wildlife, particularly the challenged bobwhite quail.

The bobwhite is a traditional Southeast game bird that grows only to a weight of 6 ounces, and is known for its distinctive spring mating call that sounds like “bobwhite.” The population has declined in Virginia in recent years, perhaps both because of lack of habitat and the efforts of predators.

Carol Taylor said she has planted switch grass, native shrubs, trees and wildflowers on the 31 acres she lives on off Morris Mill Road in Swoope.

Now the couple is concerned about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The path of the natural gas pipeline would come about 1,500 feet from their home. The 550-mile pipeline would run from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina.

“I am concerned. This would be close to our home, which is a wildlife sanctuary,” Carol Taylor said. She also worries that building a pipeline on Augusta County’s karst topography is risky.

She said the results of her wildlife habitat efforts have been evident. Taylor obtained bobwhite quail from a local farmer, and said they stayed at least through a mating season.

Also, she has witnessed foxes, raccoons, possum and evidence of bears on her land. But she said “my goal is a great habitat for bobwhite.”

Efforts to revive Virginia’s bobwhite quail population are ongoing, according to Marc Puckett, a small-game biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

“It is an uphill battle,” said Puckett. “We have had pockets of success. Individual or clusters of landowners have brought them back.”

Puckett said a habitat like the Taylors are working to create is the key to the future of the bobwhite quail. But he said one of the major ingredients is having a large amount of land for the bobwhite.

“They do need substantial cover of 1,000 to 1,500 acres,” Puckett said. He said the large amount of land is preferable because quail tend to move a lot.

But of the efforts of the Taylors, Puckett said it could benefit more than just the bobwhite. Such dedicated space could spawn habitat for dozens of species.

 “This will benefit rabbits and songbirds. Quail management is good for a lot of things,” he said.

Carol Taylor said she hopes the pipeline will “go away.”

“Quite honestly, I live in fear that it will happen,” she said.

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