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April, 2007

Forest Legacy Conserves 960 Acres in the New River Valley

The Virginia Department of Forestry and the New River Land Trust have won a $2.1 million federal appropriation to protect more than 960 acres along the New River in Grayson County. The funds, included in the 2007 federal budget, will be used to buy conservation easements on three large forested tracts, advancing a strategic effort to conserve an entire landscape of productive forests as well as the scenic character of Virginia’s only American Heritage River.

Funding comes through the federal Forest Legacy program. All three tracts are heavily wooded and protect water quality in the New. In addition, they enhance the river’s scenic character along a popular recreational stretch now being promoted as part of a three-state Blueway Canoe Trail. One of the properties is adjacent to a state boat ramp, further enhancing the land’s recreational value.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Vaughn Arey, one of three landowners whose land will be conserved. “I think it’s important the land along the New River not be cut up in 40-foot lots and sold.”

This proposal – the New River Corridor Protection Project – had to compete against other projects at the state, regional and national levels to be included in the President’s 2007 Budget. U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D- Abingdon, and Gov. Tim Kaine’s staff both worked with Congressional budget committees to support funding for the proposal.

VDOF staff shepherded the project through the lengthy federal budget process.

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “This is a major success that will benefit all Virginians. As funding for projects as important as this one becomes more and more scarce, we owe a debt of gratitude to all who helped forever conserve this incredibly important section of the New River. Their efforts have ensured that our children’s children will enjoy the same beauty that we see today.”

The three properties include:

  • 428.5 acres owned by James G. and Mary Lily J. Nuckolls along the New River just above the Freis dam and the start of the New River Trail State Park.
  • 375 acres owned by Vaughn R. and Jo Ann H. Arey adjacent to U.S. 58 and a state boat ramp along the river
  • 160.13 acres owned by Stephen Lowder with a mile of river frontage

“At a time when real estate prices are soaring on the New River, all of us who value this beautiful river and the forests and farms along its banks owe a debt of thanks to these landowners. They are conserving their lands forever for the benefit of the public,” said Elizabeth Obenshain, executive director of the New River Land Trust, said.

Conservation of these three properties will enhance the 4,000 acres already conserved under easement in Grayson County with both the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the National Committee for the New River. Much of this acreage is along the New River.

"Partnerships are key to achieving Governor Kaine's 400,000-acre goal," said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, L. Preston Bryant, Jr. "I commend the partnership among the New River Land Trust, Virginia Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service that has allowed these landowners to conserve their lands for future generations."

Spring Fire Season a Busy One

A total of 736 fires have burned 6,505
  acres since Jan. 1, 2007.Fire crews protected 439 homes and 284 other structures so far this year.

As we enter the final month of the “spring fire season” in Virginia, it’s been a busy one thus far. A total of 736 fires have burned 6,505 acres since Jan. 1, 2007. During the same period last year, 880 fires burned 5,743 acres.

“We’ve had 144 fewer fires this year, but the fires we have had have burned 13 percent more acreage,” said John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection. “And this year’s fires have threatened many more homes and other structures (barns, sheds, garages, etc.) than last year.”

Fire crews protected 439 homes and 284 other structures so far this year. That compares to 370 homes and 230 other structures during the first 95 days of 2006.

“Even with a marked increase in the number of homes and structures being threatened, fire damage to homes is down 33 percent and it’s down more than 90 percent for other structures,” Miller said. “Fire crews have done a tremendous job in this regard.”

Officials are concerned about the number of arson fires that have taken place across the Commonwealth this year. From James City County in the east to Lee County in the far southwest, several individuals have been arrested and charged with woods arson.

Spring fire season and the annual 4 p.m. Burn Law officially end April 30.

A Walk in the Forest

The Virginia Department of Forestry partnered with the Rappahannock Chapter
  of the Society of American Foresters for a day-long program March 24th designed
  to teach adults and children about the important role forests play in Virginia.The Walk in the Forest program took place at VDOF’s New Kent Forestry
  Center.The Walk in the Forest offered several hands-on learning activities; a guided forest trail
  walk; a tree-planting demonstration, and a seedling giveaway.

The Virginia Department of Forestry partnered with the Rappahannock Chapter of the Society of American Foresters for a day-long program March 24th designed to teach adults and children about the important role forests play in Virginia. The Walk in the Forest program took place at VDOF’s New Kent Forestry Center and offered several hands-on learning activities; a guided forest trail walk; a tree-planting demonstration, and a seedling giveaway.

“Several dozen people took part in the program,” said Lisa Deaton, one of the event’s coordinators. “All of them said it was a positive experience.”