Threatened or Endangered Species in Lee County, Virginia
- In the state of Virginia the Department of Conservation and Recreation maintains lists that carry the designation "rare animals" and "rare plants." Those lists appear under its Division of Natural Heritage and contain a comprehensive catalog of all species identified by either the federal government of the state. As of June 2010 the rare plant list contains no listings for Lee County while the rare animals lists three species found in the county.
- All three of the endangered species in Lee County inhabit the caves located within the county. The caves constitute an area known as the Cedars, a location with caverns, sinkholes and fissures that in the past has been subject to pollution. The cave isopod, or lirceus usdagalun, is a small freshwater crustacean without eyes that lives in these caves on rocks and gravel in underwater streams. The species only known habitat in the world is two caves and springs in an area known as the Cedars, a location with caves, caverns, sinkholes and fissures. The cave isopod was placed on the endangered species list in 1992 due to the cave's limited range and environmental hazards. Two other endangered species found in the caves are the terrestrial cave isopod and the cave amphipod.
The Cedars Natural Area Preserve
- The Cedars Natural Area Preserve contains over 30 square miles near the Powell River in Lee County, which include the caves of the endangered species. In December 2005 the state added 77 acres to the preserve including one cave that is home to the cave isopod. This area is known as a "karst," an environment where thin soil covers limestone bedrock. The result is rocky and rugged terrain that lends itself to underground streams and caves.
- The enlargement of the Cedars preserve greatly enhances the survival rate for the only known location in the world for the Lee County cave isopod. The protection efforts in this remote area of Virginia present an opportunity to encourage these crustaceans so eventually they can be removed from protected status.