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CONSERVATION TODAY

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Amazon Jumps the Gun on Tree Cutting

Citizens for Fauquier County (CFFC) is alarmed about site clearing work at Amazon’s data center location on Blackwell Road, and we are troubled that the Town of Warrenton is not supervising activities there to ensure strict compliance with the Special Use Permit (SUP) granted on February 14th and other local, state, and federal laws.


Tree Clearing: Amazon’s contractors have felled hundreds of large hardwood trees in a significantly larger area than what was designated in Amazon’s April 2022 Tree Study. The deforestation also contradicts another SUP condition requiring a Tree Preservation Plan to be completed before clearing and conflicts directly with Warrenton’s own Site Conservation Manual regarding the process, authorities and required permits. Even worse, this senseless deforestation also means that the data center will be more visible now and that its noise and vibrations will penetrate deeper into neighboring communities, schools, and medical facilities.


From a conservation perspective, this extensive tree-cutting will lead to habitat loss, soil erosion, and sediment problems. No steps have been taken to reduce runoff, contain erosion and sediments, or assess the impacts on wetlands and wildlife. Runoff from this site, which will now increase, empties into one of Fauquier County’s most important wetlands, Cedar Run, and into a flood plain feeding directly into the Chesapeake Bay.


Endangered Species Act (ESA): Based on information from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Amazon’s current tree-cutting activities may be in anticipation of the March 31, 2023 listing of the Northern Long-Eared Bat (NLEB) as an Endangered Species. After that date, federal requirements and guidelines kick into effect, especially for tree-cutting in areas inhabited by these bats. Forest clearing in anticipation of new listings can violate federal law.

Site Access: Contractors have accessed the construction site from Route 29 while the SUP explicitly states, “there shall be no access from either Routes 17 or 29.” This creates serious safety problems at an already accident-prone exit ramp from Route 17 and local westbound traffic on Route 29.


Collectively, these violations of environmental and safety regulations indicate disregard by Amazon for our natural resources and public safety, and insufficient oversight by town officials, who continue to give Amazon a pass on requirements.


Citizen for Fauquier County encourages all residents to write to the town officials (citizencomment@warrentonva.gov) and request that they enforce all SUP conditions for Amazon’s data center and relevant local laws and regulations.

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