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December 2009

Southern Virginia Forests to Get a “Facelift”

Many popular “reality” television programs document dramatic improvement over a short period of time. Just as fashion stylists and make-up artists create a new “look” for contestants, foresters are undertaking a program to “makeover” forestland. In the process, they'll educate landowners about best management practices.

David Richert, a forester with Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and the New River-Highlands Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, said, “The ‘forest makeover’ will occur as participating forest landowners in the New River Valley design and then implement a forest stewardship plan, with assistance from a variety of natural resource professionals.” He added, “Sustainably managed forests produce a variety of public benefits - clean air, water, wildlife habitat, recreation, aesthetics and timber. Private landowners can increase their forests' productivity to produce these benefits through forest stewardship planning and implementation.”

NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker (center) presents New River-Highlands RC&D Council Secretary / Treasurer Bob Martin (left) and State Forester Carl Garrison (right) a ceremonial check for the extreme forest makeover project.Richert was on hand as State Forester Carl Garrison III, and Jack Bricker, state conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), recently unveiled the “Extreme Forest Makeover” program. Funded by an $111,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from the NRCS, the grant will be matched by in-kind contributions from VDOF and other project partners.

The New River-Highlands RC&D Council and the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) have begun recruiting New River Valley forest landowners to participate in this program. Program participants should have a minimum of 10 acres of forestland, and a strong interest in implementing sustainable forest management activities on their forestland.

This is a three-year project, and project partners are hoping the program will increase the acres of sustainably managed forestland in the New River Valley. The RC&D program was created during the Kennedy administration, and there are approximately 375 RC&D Councils in the United States and its territories.

Interested forest landowners can learn more about the program by contacting David Richert of the New River-Highlands RC&D Council by phone: 276.228.2879.

[Photo: NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker (center) presents New River-Highlands RC&D Council Secretary / Treasurer Bob Martin (left) and State Forester Carl Garrison (right) a ceremonial check for the extreme forest makeover project.]

Fall 2009 Fire Season Ends

Virginia's fall wildland fire season ended yesterday on a relatively quiet note - much like the entire 45-day period. Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry responded to 25 fires that burned 638 acres.

“The wet weather this fall really made the difference,” said John Miller, VDOF's director of resource protection. “By the time conditions dried out to the point where we had fire activity, rain would arrive. This pattern followed virtually all portions of Virginia, and helped reduce the threat of wildland fire.”

During the fall fire season (October 15 - November 30) last year, the Commonwealth experienced 67 fires that burned 304 acres.

“While we are pleased that there were far fewer fires this fall than last fall, we are already looking ahead to make sure that we are ready for whatever comes our way next March and April,” Miller said. “All the leaves, twigs and branches that came down during the last few weeks will dry out over the winter and become fuel for wildland fires in the spring.”

Miller reminds everyone that just because the “official” fall fire season has ended, it doesn't mean that wildland fires can't still occur - they can. So continue to take great care anytime you use fire in or near Virginia's woodlands. And pay special attention to the ashes from your fireplace and/or woodstove as they can retain enough heat to ignite a fire for several days. Put ashes in a metal can, slowly stir in water, and keep them in the metal can for at least three days before dumping them out.

For more information on what you can do to prevent a wildland fire, log on to the VDOF website or FirewiseVirginia.