Fortnite video game CEO makes Va.’s largest land conservation gift
Billionaire Tim Sweeney donates 7,300 acres in Halifax County
North Carolina billionaire and Epic Games Inc. CEO Tim Sweeney has donated 7,300 acres of privately-owned land in Halifax County to the state — the largest single private land conservation gift in Virginia history, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday.
Cary, North Carolina-based Epic is the company behind the massively popular video game franchise Fortnite, which amassed 350 million players in less than three years following its September 2017 launch. As of April 15, Fortune magazine reported that Epic was valued at $28.7 billion and Sweeney has a net worth of $7.4 billion.
The tract of land that Sweeney donated, which is known as Falkland Farms, will be owned and operated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and renamed the Southside Virginia Conservation and Recreation Complex. The property will be the first joint project between DCR’s Natural Heritage Program and Virginia State Parks. The Natural Heritage Program will conduct a habitat restoration project at the site, using controlled burning “to restore the Piedmont savanna and forest ecosystems the tract once supported,” according to a news release.
Home to 17 species of rare plants and animals, the conservation area has a high concentration of biodiversity, state officials said. The tract forms a key link in a network of natural lands that includes the Kerr Reservoir, Banister River South and Wolf Trap federal wildlife management areas. These state- and federally-owned properties will total 40,000 acres of conserved, contiguous wetlands, floodplains and upland forests.
“This announcement represents one of the most significant conservation successes in Virginia history,” said Northam in a statement. “Falkland Farms is exactly the kind of priority land we want to conserve and by setting it aside for conservation, we will protect the natural habitat and ecosystem, increase floodplain resilience and preserve its scenic views. I am deeply grateful to conservation philanthropist Tim Sweeney for his generosity and vision in conserving this land and for entrusting the Department of Conservation and Recreation with this tremendous opportunity.”
It was also announced on Thursday that Sweeney would donate 7,500 acres of land in northwest North Carolina to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, according to The News & Observer. Sweeney, a conservationist, also donated a 7,000-acre conservation easement in North Carolina’s Box Creek Wilderness to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016.