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July, 2009

Wildland Firefighting Skills Focus of Fire Academy

More than 265 volunteer and paid firefighters from 70 departments across the Commonwealth and seven other states gathered at Longwood University (Farmville, Va.) to take part in a training program that prepared them for the challenges associated with fighting wildland fires.

The Virginia Wildland Fire Academy featured both hands-on and classroom instruction on a variety of skills used in suppressing fires in forests and fields. Classes took place on campus as well as at the 6,496-acre Prince Edward/Gallion State Forest, which is located approximately 15 miles southeast of Longwood University. The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) coordinates the Academy and receives financial support for the program through a grant from the National Park Service.

A total of 16 classes - ranging from basic firefighting and tactics to incident command, aerial operations and fireplow operations - were offered during the week-long program. Many of the classes are a mix of classroom instruction and field activities, while a few are classroom-instruction only. Two of the most experiential learning experiences are the power saw class, in which firefighters are trained how to safely and correctly fell trees during a fire, and the fireplow operations class, in which the firefighters must successfully suppress a live night-time wildland fire using only their fireplows.

Two Virginia Cabinet Secretaries and two state agency heads visited the academy and observed the training as it was underway. Secretary of Public Safety John Marshall and Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry Robert Bloxom joined State Forester Carl Garrison and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Executive Director Willie (Billy) Shelton to see first hand what the firefighters were learning as they trained to better protect the lives and property of Virginia's citizens.

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “The Wildland Fire Academy is the most comprehensive training program we offer each year. The more techniques we can teach firefighters the better prepared they will be to safely attack and suppress wildland fires. And that will help reduce the loss of life and property.”

As the threat of wildland fire continues to grow in Virginia, preparing people to fight these fires is vital to preventing the loss of lives, homes and other property. Already this year, firefighters in Virginia have protected 438 homes and 412 other structures, such as barns, garages and sheds, from wildland fires.

In The Woods at Forestry Camp

Students use fire rakes during a wildland forest fire exercise.The 63rd annual Holiday Lake Forestry Camp was another fun-filled, learning-packed success. 80 campers participated this year.

Camp's core classes were Tree Identification, Forest Measurements, Timber Harvesting, Wildlife Management, Tree Improvement, Forest Ecology, Forest Management, Environmental Protection, and Reproducing the Forest. Other camp experiences included a field trip to Greif-Riverville paper mill, an afternoon of arboriculture demonstrations, wildlife presentations, and forest products exploration. Exploratory short courses, Lumberjack competition, sports and swimming rounded out the program.

The campers and teachers took home excellent resource materials, such as tree identification books. The top 10 campers (as scored academically throughout the week) received awards of outdoor recreation supplies. The top-scoring camper, Daniel Nadkarni from Albemarle County, also received a $100 savings bond for his efforts.

This year's program included a Forestry Field Day for campers' parents. Twelve parents experienced short versions of tree identification and forest measurement classes and toured Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest to see forest management in action. They took home information to use on their own property and to share with neighbors.

State Forest Use Permit Required For Certain Recreational Activities

During this year's legislative session, the Virginia General Assembly passed a new law requiring certain recreational users of the Commonwealth's State Forests to purchase an annual permit. The law went into effect July 1, 2009.

The State Forest Use Permit is required for anyone 16 years and older who hunts, fishes, traps, rides mountain bikes or horses in one of Virginia's 19 State Forests. Anyone walking, hiking or canoeing does not need the Use Permit.

The new Use Permit replaces the state forest license that used to be required of those hunting or trapping on the state forests. Obtaining a Use Permit is a new requirement for those who fish or ride horses or mountain bikes in the state forests. The State Forest Use Permit is valid for all five activities. This State Forest Use Permit does not apply to our national forests, national parks, state parks or state-managed wildlife management areas.

The Use Permit, which costs $15 annually, is good for one year following its purchase. All funds generated by the Use Permit will go toward enhancing recreational opportunities on the State Forests.

Since the founding of Virginia's first state forest (Prince Edward - Gallion State Forest) in 1919, the state forests have been self-supporting entities - meaning they receive no tax dollars. Now, with 19 state forests in the system and increased demand for recreational use by Virginia's citizens, the system cannot rely solely on the sale of timber on just the three largest forests to provide enough funding to operate, maintain and improve the entire system of 19 state forests - hence the need for the new Use Permit.

The State Forest Use Permit is available online or at authorized retailers who sell the Virginia state hunting license. Visit our website at www.dof.virginia.gov to make a purchase.

New Logging Notification Process Takes Effect

A new method designed to improve the harvest notification process in Virginia took effect July 1, 2009. The change requires the issuance of a unique identification number that is used by the logger when notifying the VDOF of a timber harvest.

Loggers began registering for their identification numbers several months ago. A total of 800 identification numbers have been issued thus far.

A change in the Silvicultural Water Quality Law also requires loggers to provide contact information (name, address and phone number) for the owner of the tract where the harvest will occur.

“The new process is designed to ensure the accuracy of the information associated with the harvesting of timber,” said Matt Poirot, VDOF's water quality manager. “Before this change went into effect, it was possible for one logger to be listed under various business or family names. In addition, by adding landowner contact information, our inspectors can do an even better job of protecting the quality of our water for the benefit of all Virginians.”

Under the new notification process, loggers also have access to the Virginia Department of Forestry's GIS-based information system. When a logger notifies the Agency of a timber harvest and provides the longitude and latitude of the site, he or she can choose to receive topographic maps of the tract and other information that will help the logger make better decisions during the actual harvest.

“We believe the new notification system will help the logging community be more efficient and make the more than 5,000 water quality inspections we perform each year even more effective,” Poirot said. “But the true beneficiaries of this program are the citizens of the Commonwealth who are enjoying clean water.”