The Conservancy Mission

Is to protect our land and promote conservation and sustainable farming so that our community discovers a deeper connection to nature and each other.

Our guiding principles:

A Forward Thinking Case Study

The product of forward-thinking and creative community development team, the Willowsford Conservancy hopes to be a model for future development that integrates a residential community, functioning ecosystem services and people-oriented agriculture.

In doing so, the Conservancy provides the management framework to ensure conservation and care of the land that was dedicated by the Founder. And it provides the peace of mind for homeowners that the natural open space throughout the community remains in perpetuity, creating value for years to come.

The Conservancy’s non-profit structure allows residents to enjoy recreational use of the land, and provides funding for land management, farming operations, recreational amenities, and education programs.

Strategic Plan

The Conservancy Board of Trustees spent most of 2022 working on a strategic plan following months of listening to you through focus groups, community survey analysis, and the staff and board’s hard work to then approve a consensus plan for the future. Thank you to the more than 1,100 residents who participated. The key themes from residents were that you wanted more from the Conservancy – it’s one of the main reasons many of you live in Willowsford. We’re a community like no other with our focus on farming, nature and land stewardship.

Our newly adopted Strategic Plan will guide our work for 2023-26. It includes an updated mission, value, and values. There are five key goals we will focus on for the next 3 years

  • Goal 1: Build Engagement and Community
  • Goal 2: Attain Operational Excellence in Land Management and Farming
  • Goal 3: Continue Building a High-Performing Governing Board of Trustees
  • Goal 4: Build and Strengthen Staff Talent
  • Goal 5: Expand/Diversify Funding Sources to Meet Capital/Operating Needs

Board & Staff

The Conservancy is governed by a Board of Trustees which provides guidance, resources and expertise to accomplish the Conservancy’s mission and goals. The Board currently consists of six trustees, including five Willowsford homeowners.  Usually, the Board meets bi-monthly, on the 2nd Tuesday of the month beginning in January. Agendas, meeting minutes and other documents are posted in the Document Center. For more information, contact

Conservancy Board of Trustees

Claudette PapathanasopoulosPresident
Willowsford Resident – The Greens
Term Ending 2026

Claudette is a research specialist with 20 years of experience in the environmental movement. She has spent her career investigating environmental, human rights and public health concerns and advocating for innovation and policy solutions. She began her career serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Zambia where she worked with community groups to protect water sources and promote sustainable agriculture. Claudette holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s in environmental policy from the University of Michigan. She has been a Willowsford resident since 2015 and lives in the Greens with her husband and two children.

Greg LicameleVice President
Willowsford Resident – The Greens
Term Ending 2026

Greg Licamele lives in The Greens with his wife, three daughters, two cats, one dog and a plethora of pollinators in his garden beds. For the last 15 years, Greg has worked for Fairfax County Government as a senior public information officer responsible for the government’s digital presence through its website, social media and online engagement platforms. Since March 2020, Greg has served in leadership roles for the county’s COVID-19 response. In addition to these roles, he also served during numerous emergencies and crises that have impacted the county, while also providing strategic communications guidance on issues ranging from strategic planning to land use to environment to homelessness. Prior to his public service for Fairfax County, Greg worked as a communications specialist at The George Washington University, where he earned two master’s degrees. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from St. Bonaventure University. Greg currently serves on the board of trustees for Mt. Irenaeus, a unique Franciscan community located near St. Bonaventure where connection to nature is a central element of the non-profit.

Karyn MorelandSecretary
Willowsford Resident – The Greens
Term Ending 2024

Karyn is originally from Chicago, though she has lived in Northern Virginia for nearly 35 years. She is a Professional Engineer with a degree in Civil Engineering from Notre Dame. Karyn retired from Fairfax County with 30 years of public service, overseeing projects ranging from sidewalks and trails to major interstates, all of which included thoughtful consideration of environmental elements. Karyn and her husband Ken live in The Greens, and have family in the Grove and Grant villages. They happily enjoy grand parenting, volunteering, and hiking and biking the trails of Willowsford and beyond.

Jake ViragTreasurer
Willowsford Resident – The Greens
Term Ending 2024

Jake is a Service Delivery Manager within Cisco’s National Security Office. He leads a team of 24 engineers in support of the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security. In 2015, He retired from the U.S. Air Force at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel after serving both command and staff roles at The Pentagon, U.S. Special Operations Command and Air Force Special Operations Command. Jake has deployed overseas in support of Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. He received a BA from The Citadel and an MBA from Georgetown University. Jake and his wife Lorena live in the Greens with their two dogs Butters and Sombra.

Chase RowanTrustee
Willowsford Resident – The Greens
Term Ending 2026

Chase Rowan currently serves as Principal, Corporate Development at AnaVation LLC. He has more than a decade of experience in operating and investing roles. Chase brings to the Board financial and managerial expertise as well as a passion for conservation. He received a BS from the University of Richmond and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Chase and his wife, Stephanie, live in The Greens.

Avi SareenTrustee
Term Ending 2026

Avi Sareen is president and principal wetland scientist with TNT Environmental, Inc., a leading wetland and natural resource consulting firm in Northern Virginia. He is a Virginia certified professional wetland delineator, professional wetland scientist, certified arborist, and certified ecologist. Mr. Sareen’s firm is multi-disciplined, specializing in fields of wetland science, regulatory consulting, biology, ecology, botany, forest ecology and arboriculture.

Conservancy Staff

Sophie Lambert
Sophie LambertExecutive Director

Sophie joined the Conservancy in 2023 as the Executive Director and brings over twenty years of experience to the position in her prior work as an urban planner and program director for nonprofit organizations. Most recently, Sophie served in a senior leadership role for the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on creating livable communities where she was responsible for the programming, operations and strategy for UrbanPlan, an education program which enables high school and university students, community members, and elected officials to redevelop a fictional site and engage in the complex tradeoffs that happen in the land use process every day in cities across the country. Before joining ULI in 2014, Sophie directed the LEED for Neighborhood Development program at the U.S. Green Building Council for six years where she worked with experts and staff to create a rating system for evaluating sustainable neighborhood projects.

Prior to that, Sophie worked at several historic preservation and planning consulting firms and the U.S. EPA, where she did research on the impacts of development on natural habitats. Sophie grew up in England and Canada, but has lived in the U.S. since moving there to attend university. She has a BA from Smith College, an MS in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Urban Planning from Virginia Tech. Sophie serves on the board of Project GROWS, a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve the health of children and youth through garden-based education and access to healthy food in the Shenandoah Valley. In her spare time, Sophie enjoys gardening, hiking, experimenting in the kitchen, running whether it be a marathon or along a local trail as well as spending time with her two children often cheering on their favorite soccer teams.

Sarah Uhrig
Sarah Uhrig Program & Engagement Coordinator
Sarah was born and raised in central Florida. She developed a love for the natural world at an early age exploring the diverse ecosystems of Florida. She attended the University of Florida and graduated with a BA in Sustainability Studies in 2019.

Following graduation, she began working as the Assistant Director for Conservation Burial Inc., a nonprofit cemetery company in Gainesville, FL that combines natural burial practices with land conservation. There, she helped manage one of the world’s first certified conservation burial grounds, Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. Her experiences there grew a deep passion for engaging with her local community and building connections between people and the environment.

After a short stint living in Chattanooga, TN, she relocated to Northern Virginia in 2023 and is excited to get involved with the Willowsford community. In her free time she enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors, baking, and hanging out with her two cats, Juno and Dudley.

Taryn McFarland
Taryn McFarlandLand Stewardship Director

Having grown up in the hills and mountains of the Shenandoah, Taryn cultivated a love for the forests and farms of Virginia. She spent several years working on farms and ranches in Virginia and realized that managing land was where her passion lay. She went on to obtain a B.S. from Virginia Tech in Environmental Resources Management with a minor in Urban Forestry.

While studying at Virginia Tech, Taryn worked on a large wilderness operation, completing research on invasive plant removal and reforestation of native species. She managed an American chestnut tree orchard, monitored 2,500 acres of forest, and worked with the VA Department of Forestry to create a reference resources for landowners. Taryn later worked at Arborscapes in Richmond where she was an arborist and plant health care technician. She gained experience in the pruning and felling of trees, and in the diagnosis and treatment of plant disorders and pests.

Taryn joined the Willowsford Conservancy team in 2020 and she is excited to help achieve its vision. She is passionate about creating and conserving spaces where residents can better enjoy and understand nature. In her free time, Taryn can be found hiking the Appalachia or working in her garden.

Sam Adams
Sam AdamsAssistant Land Stewardship Manager
Sam joined the Conservancy team in February 2022. Sam attended West Virginia University and studied Forest Resource Management and Urban Forestry. Growing up in Northern Virginia, most of his weekends were spent fishing, golfing with his grandfather, and hiking landscapes with friends. Sam enjoys attending music shows, rock climbing, fishing, hunting, and rooting on his Green Bay Packers when he’s not working. He’s excited to bring his positive attitude and passion for connecting people with the natural world to Willowsford!
Rob Gavin
Rob GavinConservancy Ranger

I am very excited to be a Ranger with Willowsford Conservancy. Landscaping is in my blood. Since I was 13, I had several neighborhood clients who employed me to mow, mulch, weed, string trim their lawns. I was born in Russia and landed at Dulles Airport at 6 ½ months with my new Mother and Father on Christmas Eve. My sister, who also was adopted from Russia a year earlier, was waiting with family and friends. I graduated from Briar Woods High School in 2016. Throughout the years, sports were a big part of my life including Tae Kwon Do, soccer, volleyball and lacrosse (my favorite). Since graduating, I’ve taken classes at Northern Virginia Community College while working at various jobs.

I enjoy animals and have a Chinese water dragon and spotted gecko and the family has two “fat” cats and an old boxer. When I’m not working, you can often find me fishing, playing sports, generally enjoying the outdoors including the beach. I’m a huge ice hockey fan, especially the Washington Capitals. I love the time I get to spend outdoors working here. Every day is different, and I enjoy seeing all the wildlife including rabbits, deer, turkeys, etc. I’m happy to be a part of the Land Stewardship team and am excited to learn about conservation here at the Conservancy.

Emily Lawrence
Emily LawrenceConservancy Ranger

Originally from Michigan, Emily moved to Virginia for a seasonal position at Shenandoah National Park and fell in love with the plentiful mountain views, plants, and wildlife. In Michigan, Emily completed a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in ecology and evolutionary biology, and pursued a career in the field of conservation. During her time in college, she volunteered with the Michigan DNR, helped carry out restoration projects at county and state parks throughout Michigan, as well as assisting in an emerald ash borer monitoring program.

In her personal time as well, Emily loves to be outdoors. She enjoys kayaking, hiking, fishing, gardening, and anything else that will bring her out in nature. Emily is excited to bring her experience with tree care, restoration, and conservation to the team and Willowsford.

Andrew Richardson
Andrew RichardsonField Operations Manager

I have always had a penchant for the outdoors, it probably stems from my childhood where I was lucky enough to grow up in the small town of Letchworth, just north of London in the UK. It was one of the first modern day planned communities established in the 1800’s by a group of Quakers who were looking for a healthier way of life than could be found in the congested and dirty cities born of the industrial revolution.

Some of my fondest memories are of those warm summer days listening to musicians play on the band stand in the park, splashing in the paddling pools and walking with my mother through the commons on the way to school. As a teenager I played football in the green spaces and explored the trails through the countryside, farmland and woods that surround the town and are still there today. The green space has enabled the town to keep its identity in an otherwise world of suburban sprawl. Those old Quakers knew the value and beauty of the land and understood their connection to it. They didn’t use words like sustainability, conservation, recreation and lifestyle, they were farmers who valued the land and simply knew a healthier way to live.

As the Conservancy Ranger here at Willowsford I hope to find your connection to the land and its beauty, whether it’s through recreation, conservation, education or simply a love of the outdoors I hope that I can help develop a program that fits you.

As a project manager I have worked with local zoning, permitting, historic and civic groups to make sure that projects fit in with the neighborhood and community they serve. As a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and BSA Scoutmaster I have training and experience in youth leadership, trail construction and maintenance.

Andrew Dunham
Andrew DunhamFarm Manager

Andrew founded Grinnell Heritage Farm and farmed with his wife, Melissa, on family land which was settled by his great-grandparents in 1857. Andrew became interested in pursuing a career in organic agriculture while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. His agricultural and wildlife habitat interests stemmed from his upbringing in northeast Iowa while planting thousands of native trees and shrubs and gardening alongside his parents.

At Grinnell Heritage Farm this led to a growing 25 acres of organic produce, establishing pollinator gardens, seeding cover crops, planting beetle banks, and growing hundreds of thousands of plants for transplant in the greenhouse. These practices have been highlighted during field days by Practical Farmers of Iowa, NRCS, the Xerces Society, and numerous educational institutions.

The Dunhams have been recognized as leaders in agriculture, including receiving an Iowa Environmental Leader award. Andrew has a degree in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University. When not farming, Andrew enjoys spending time with his three children, reading, and exploring the natural world.

Eric Morrison
Eric MorrisonFarm Production Manager
Eric grew up on the rolling hills of Iowa where he helped with his family’s 700-acre conventional farm. His love of the outdoors has stayed with him through the years as his interest shifted away from conventional crops to growing top quality organic produce. He can frequently be found on a tractor out in the fields singing as he goes about the daily tasks of farm life. When not at work, Eric likes to relax in the shade with his wife and two pet cows.

Deborah Dramby
Deborah DrambyFarm Stand Retail
Deb Dramby was one of the founding farmers here at Willowsford, breaking early ground, building the Farm Stand, and growing the CSA program from 2012 – 2018. With more than a decade of experience in organic farming, marketing, and animal husbandry, she currently leads Communication, Outreach, and Membership at Future Harvest, a regional non-profit focused on training the next generation of farmers in the Mid-Atlantic and strengthening the regional food economy while protecting land, water, and air. Deb and her ever-growing herd of goats reside in Bluemont, VA, but the Willowsford community is home to her in so many ways. Find her at the Farm Stand during open hours, Thursdays 4:00 – 7:00 pm and Saturdays 9:00 am – 1:00 pm.
Rachel Harford
Rachel HarfordFarmer

Rachel is new to the Willowsford Farm team, but has several years of experience working on certified organic fruit and vegetable farms. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay area where her love of the great outdoors was spurred by the beautiful and diverse terrain.

When not working Rachel enjoys hiking, reading and spending time with her husband and pets.

Daris Delph
Daris DelphFarmer
Daris (rhymes with Paris) joined our team as our newest Farmer in spring 2024. She comes to us after completing AmeriCorps where she worked as a farmer with Grow Ohio Valley in West Virginia. Most recently, Daris held policy and nonprofit positions including with the US Global Leadership Coalition, Meals on Wheels, and Rock Creek Conservancy. She graduated from Wake Forest University with a major in politics and international affairs and a minor in environmental studies (I can envision her having some good convos in the fields with the team). Daris has a foster pup and lives in Leesburg.

Our Environmental Seeds

For some of us, we can recall the moments from our youth when our environmental seeds were planted. For many, it was through our parents and their guidance in nature : a routine hike, a family camping trip, a walk along the river’s edge to skip rocks or dig in the mud, building forts under our favorite tree, eating a fresh snap pea in the garden, or through attending a ranger led program at a nature preserve. And for some, those seeds grow into adulthood, producing humans who make it their life’s work to serve, protect, and share the natural world with others.

Each of our staff members can vividly remember those pivotal moments that planted the seeds that would bring us to where we are today. Read our stories below.

Job Openings

When available, we will post open positions here for our Farm team, Land Stewardship team, and Programs & Operations team. If you don’t see a position relevant to your area of expertise, please check back at a later date.

Business Manager


Annual and financial reports allow us to share information with Willowsford residents and others who support the Willowsford Conservancy.

Download 2022 Form 990

Download 2021 Form 990

Download 2020 Form 990

Download 2019 Form 990

Download 2018 Form 990


With approximately 2,000 acres dedicated to open space, Willowsford’s founders believed it was important to establish an entity that would administer, maintain, and operate open space, trails, and other amenity areas within or otherwise serving the Willowsford community. Relieving the HOA of this responsibility and expense was viewed as essential for the Conservancy’s long-term viability and success. It is important to note, however, that both the HOA and the Conservancy share a commitment to making Willowsford a special place that people invest themselves in and become a part of a true “community” where people not only live and play, but put down roots and build relationships and get involved in a way that creates a better quality of life for themselves, their neighbors, and the community at large.

The founders intended for the Conservancy to be a catalyst for a wide variety of programs, services and activities to appeal to the diverse interests of those who live in Willowsford.

Active management and conservation of Willowsford’s natural resources is a vital part of the Conservancy’s mission. Conservation practices may include reforesting farmland, creating edible landscapes, wildlife management (including hunting programs), the harvesting of trees, eradication of invasive plants, meadow restoration or naturalization, as well as other active land management activities.

During development, the Conservancy is run by a Board of Trustees, appointed by the founders. The Board meets bi-monthly, on the 3rd Thursday of the month beginning in January, at 5:00 pm at Sycamore House. For more information, contact

To be effective, the Conservancy must have a reliable source of funding as well as options for developing additional funding to expand its programs and services. Today, the Conservancy is funded in a variety of ways, including Community Enhancement Fees and assessments. The Community Enhancement Fee is charged to the purchaser upon the transfer of property ownership. The amount of the fee is set by the Board of Trustees, but may not exceed 0.25% of the gross selling price. Builders also contribute an initial fee. Revenue derived from the Farm’s products and services as well as fees from events organized by the Conservancy help support the mission and work of the Conservancy.

While it is true that the mission of the Conservancy extends to individuals beyond Willowsford’s borders, only activities sanctioned or organized by the Conservancy allow the use of its amenities by non-residents strictly during authorized times. One of the benefits of being a Willowsford resident is that the Conservancy amenities that have been activated for safe use are right in your backyard and available from dawn to dusk. Please note that due to ongoing development, certain trails or areas may be temporarily closed until deemed safe for resident use.

No, all Willowsford trails are intended for pedestrian use and bicyclists. Motorbikes and all-terrain type vehicles are not permitted due to safety concerns, environmental impacts and trail maintenance costs. Only our trail maintenance crews are permitted to use these types of vehicles to access trails for cleanup and repair. Please report any suspected violations to a Conservancy Ranger.

Only a small fraction of the ultimate open space area has currently been transferred out of private ownership. Until a section of the property is fully planned and the engineered plans are approved by the County, it is not possible to determine the exact size and shape of the open spaces. As Willowsford prepares to sell a section of lots to a community builder, the staff creates a Subdivision Record Plat, (aka Plat) depicting the exact configuration of roads, lots and open space parcels. Many factors are considered in designating which entity will own and maintain the community’s open spaces.

Generally, the areas with resident-only amenities, (e.g. pools) and higher maintenance areas (e.g. entry features) are deeded to the HOA. Parcels of open space that are to be utilized by the Farm or maintained as natural habitat, including fields, forests and wetlands, are deeded to the Conservancy. The Plat is recorded in the County land records along with a deed of dedication that subjects each open space parcel to either the HOA Charter or the Conservancy Covenant. Either form of dedication provides protection from further development and qualifies as Open Space. Upon recordation of such a Plat and deed the newly created parcel(s) come under the Conservancy’s governance and maintenance responsibility. Thereafter, the Conservancy Trustees direct maintenance of the land, such as agricultural practices, game management, programs, trail repairs, etc., in accordance with the Conservancy’s Mission statement and guiding principles.

In the eastern United States, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are spread through the bites of infected blacklegged ticks, primarily those in the nymph stage. Spread of Lyme disease bacteria from an infected tick to a person generally occurs after the tick has been attached to the person’s body for at least 36 hours. Blacklegged ticks are found mainly in densely wooded areas and in transitional habitats between woodlands and open areas. Trails and campsites are often located in these areas.

One of the most effective methods for preventing Lyme disease is to check for ticks during or immediately after outdoor activity, and to promptly remove attached ticks. Wearing light-colored clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants with tucked-in pant legs, is another effective method for preventing tick bites and Lyme disease. DEET-based repellents that contain 20% to 30% DEET have also been shown to be effective. Perfume and cologne can attract ticks and should be avoided when outdoors.

Willowsford Conservancy’s general policy is to avoid pesticides that kill beneficial insects and pose hazards to humans and wildlife. We recognize that ticks and tick-borne disease have become prevalent in Loudoun County. We recommend the commonly prescribed protocols of wearing light colored clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants with tucked-in pant legs, and shoes that cover the foot, and checking and changing clothing after outdoor activity. The best prevention is to frequently check yourself and your clothing, check your children and your pets. DEET-based repellents that contain 20% to 30% DEET have also been shown to be effective.

To reduce exposure to ticks, we mow established Conservancy trails bi-weekly, mowing at a wider width to remove overhanging grass. Wooded trails are monitored to keep vegetation from encroaching. Conservancy grassland areas are generally mowed twice per year. Additional buffer strips are mowed biweekly by the HOA in all grassland areas that adjoin resident property. Please report any overgrown trail segments to the HOA or Conservancy.

There have recently been black bear sightings in the Grove and Grange villages. Black bears are the only native bears in Virginia and for the most part are rarely seen. Bears live shy and secretive lives and it’s a real treat to see one. We share their habitat and it is our responsibility to be good neighbors. Black bears lead solitary lives and travel through the wetlands and forests that surround Willowsford. We need to make sure that we don’t unnecessarily attract bears to our homes and gardens. The website of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) has an excellent pamphlet on “Living with Black Bears in Virginia.”

Most residential bear problems arise from people attracting them with food. Policing your trashcans, outdoor grills, pet food and bird feeders will deter them from your property. Young bears, only a year or two old, are frequently left to roam on their own by their mothers during the summer months. Food found in back yards may make an easy meal for a young, hungry bear. Unfortunately, bears that associate humans with food and become nuisance bears are not relocated. It is the policy of VDGIF to kill nuisance bears.

We love all our wildlife, especially those bears that call this neck of the woods home; you can help by reading the VDGIF pamphlet and telling your neighbors.

Deer populations can nearly double in size annually and hunting is a necessary tool to control population. Over-population of deer causes damage to residential and agricultural landscapes, leads to more frequent vehicle collisions and has a negative ecological impact on forests and other wildlife. During hunting season, the Conservancy permits hunting on Conservancy-managed land where safe and appropriate, within the guidelines set forth by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Participation in the deer management program is limited to Willowsford residents, employees and volunteers. The program is designed to be safe, sportsmanlike and ethical, with program regulations meeting or exceeding applicable laws and regulations. Program information is available in the “Wildlife Management” section of the website.

Residents may hear gunfire from adjacent properties. Target practice and hunting are part of rural living, and not unusual. The activities on adjacent properties are beyond our jurisdiction.

There are many opportunities to get involved with Conservancy and Farm activities, from helping during events, to volunteering at the Farm, assisting with trail maintenance, monitoring wildlife, researching and writing, photography, leading tours and programs, and supporting our conservation work. To learn more and get involved, check out the Volunteer section or e-mail .

Trees in various stages of decline are part of a natural woodland environment, and dead wood is a great resource for animal species in the forest. If there is no danger to persons, structures or trails, leaving standing dead trees (called “snags”) or uprooted trees provides habitat and food to many kinds of wildlife.

Snags are used by many species of birds and mammals for shelter and nesting, and are a source of insects and other invertebrates. This food source is particularly important for overwintering birds. Uprooted trees provide habitat for many animals, plants and microorganisms and, occasionally, create vernal pools that support amphibian breeding.

Snags are also important launch sites for birds to catch insects. A snag that borders a field or orchard may be used by hawks and owls to catch mice. Similarly, kingfishers, ospreys and bald eagles perch on or fish from dead trees standing in or near water. At least 30 kinds of birds commonly use snags for foraging perches. In addition, certain bird species regularly use snags for singing perches.

The Conservancy will remove trees that impact established trails or buildings, or otherwise present a safety hazard.

Coyotes have been in Virginia for at least 60 years. They generally avoid humans, even when living in urban or suburban areas, and should be left alone.  However, the presence of pet food, compost, dirty BBQ grills or trashcans lure coyotes into yards, and a coyote who finds food in one yard may learn to search for food in others. Don’t make your yard a food source to coyotes!

  • Avoid feeding pets outside, or remove the food bowl as soon as your pet has finished the meal.
  • Birdseed on the ground attracts mice and rats and can attract coyotes who feed on rodents.
  • Keep trash in containers with tight fitting lids. Place the cans curbside the morning of collection; much wildlife is active at night.
  • Keep unattended cats and dogs indoors or in in a secured, covered kennel.
  • Keep dogs on short leashes while walking outside, no longer than 6 feet.

Coyotes typically try to avoid people whenever possible.  However, as you and your pets spend more time outdoors, the possibility of a coyote encounter increases.  In the spring, when coyotes raise litters, they may be territorial and challenge dogs that come close to the pups.  Or they may try to escort you out of an area to protect their pups when you encounter them on a trail.  It is important to recognize such incidents for what they are: defense of space, not an attempt to stalk or attack.

If you encounter a coyote, do not run away.  Haze the coyote by clapping, shouting, and waving your arms, or throwing sticks and small rocks to persuade the coyote to move on.  Noisemakers, such as whistles, can help scare coyotes away.

If you spot a coyote in or around Willowsford, do not panic. Unless an animal is a nuisance or a threat, wildlife should be left alone and precautions should be taken not to attract wildlife to the home or yard.

Invasive plants are non-native plants that cause ecological harm to forests, native grasslands, wetlands and waterways as well as economic damage. They can rapidly invade and overtake a site, forming dense layers that interfere with or completely displace native plants. Invasive plants alter habitats by decreasing light availability and depleting soil moisture and nutrients. Some invasive plants release chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants.

Unfortunately, many plants that are invasive in Virginia are still sold through the nursery trade and recommended by landscapers and garden designers. These include Winged Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), various non-native honeysuckles including Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Akebia (Akebia quintata), Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and English Ivy (Hedera helix).

Plants often escape gardens when seed is carried away by birds and deer that feed on seeds and plants.  Seeds can also disperse through wind and water, or by attaching to shoes and clothing, or to animals that carry seed back into forests and open space.

Controlling invasive plants is difficult once they have become established.  Therefore, not using the plant, and removing highly invasive plants from gardens, are the most important steps toward control.

Poison ivy is extremely common in our area, growing along roadways and in fields, forests, yards and gardens. Although well known for causing an itching, painful rash in most people who touch it, the plant is eaten by many animals and the seeds are consumed and spread by birds. Knowing how to identify it is one of the best defenses against accidental contact. If you believe you have come into contact with poison ivy, wash the affected skin area with soap and cold water, or with a skin cleanser made to remove poison ivy oils. Always use cold water.

A good way to identify poison ivy is by its leaf that consists of three pointed leaflets. The middle leaflet generally has a longer stalk than the two side ones. Each group of three leaflets grows on its own stem, which connects to the main vine. The leaflets are 2-4” long; leaflet edges can be smooth, toothed, or lobed. The leaves are usually glossy and can be reddish when they emerge in the spring. They turn green in the summer, and become various shades of yellow, orange, or red in the fall. Yellowish-green flowers appear in June or July followed by light colored berries. Poison ivy can be found in one of three forms: an erect woody shrub, a trailing ground vine with many shoots, or a woody vine. The vine usually grows on trees or other objects for support. It has aerial roots along the stem that give it the appearance of a fuzzy rope. Poison ivy has no thorns and is commonly confused with the boxelder tree and Virginia creeper vine. Good images of eastern poison ivy in its various stages can be found here.