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February 2010

No Burning Before 4 p.m. Until April 30

The Commonwealth's 4 p.m. Burning Law goes into effect Feb. 15th - the start of spring fire season in Virginia. The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day until April 30th if the fire is in, or within 300 feet of, woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.

“This law is one of the most effective tools we have in the prevention of wildfires,” said John Miller, director of resource protection at the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). “Each late winter and early spring, downed trees, branches and leaves become 'forest fuels' that increase the danger of a forest fire. By adhering to the law and not burning before 4 p.m., people are less likely to start a fire that threatens them, their property and the forests of Virginia.”

A violation of this law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others' property.

In 2009, there were 837 wildfires that burned 7,494 acres of forestland in the Commonwealth. This was a 36 percent decrease in the number of wildland fires compared to the number (1,322) of fires in 2008. Similarly, the amount of acreage burned decreased 70 percent when compared to 25,704 acres that burned in 2008. Periods of wet weather during the spring and fall fire seasons were a critical factor in reducing the number of wildfires. Of the fires that did occur, citizens burning debris or yard waste continue to be the leading cause of wildfire in Virginia. Arson and equipment use also make up the majority of the fires.

To learn more about how to protect yourself and your property, go to the Agency's website at www.dof.virginia.gov.

Tree seedlings selling fast; order yours before they're gone

Each year, the VDOF grows and sells more than 24 million tree seedlings. And every year, many of the more than 40 species sell out before the harvest season ends in April. If you are looking to plant tree seedlings or reforest your land this year, you still have a few weeks remaining to order your seedlings. But don't wait too much longer as several species, including Black Cherry, Sugar Maple, Persimmon, Canaan Fir, Black Oak, Allegheny Chinkapin and Shortleaf Pine, have already sold out.

This year, VDOF has expanded the quantities of its offerings. Seedlings are now available in bundles of 10 and 25; previously, the smallest quantity of bareroot seedlings available was 50. Order yours today by visiting the VDOF Web store, calling the Augusta Forestry Center at 540.363.7000, or contacting your local VDOF office.

South River Floods Augusta Forestry Center

Forestry Center Supervisor Larry Estes examines a tree seedling for damage. The tree shelter was washed away by floodwaters. The riparian planting reduces erosion from the South River at the center.Heavy rains January 24 caused flash flooding in many areas of the state. In Augusta County, more than two inches of rainfall caused the South River to overflow its banks and flood the seed beds at the VDOF Augusta Forestry Center. Hardwood seedlings and shrubs were covered with water. The water level crested at midday January 25 and quickly receded to the boundaries of the river.

Tree shelters for a riparian project will need to be replaced, but an electric irrigation pump was the only major casualty of the flood. “The water didn't come up too far to do real damage to the beds,” said Forestry Center Supervisor Larry Estes. “The beds were underwater for about five hours, and there's some debris in the rows. You can also see where the river washed across the fields. We'll dry out quick enough and be ready to lift.”

Estes added that he factors in weather when scheduling a harvest, and he expects no flood-related delays in shipping seedlings.

Forestry Camp Profiled On Public Television

Holiday Lake Forestry Camp was included in a recent episode of the public television program “Virginia Currents.” Numerous student testimonials and teacher interviews highlighted the program, which included students hiking through the forest, competing during Lumberjack Day, and participating in arborist demonstrations. The WCVE (Richmond) production is also syndicated across Virginia.

The 2010 Forestry Camp will be held June 14-19, and registration is underway. To nominate a student to attend camp, visit the VDOF website.

Easement to Conserve Rockingham County Property

More than 1,100 acres on the eastern slopes of Feedstone Mountain in Rockingham County will be protected from future development. The VDOF will hold the conservation easement on behalf of the Feedstone Hunting Club. The easement ensures that the property may never be divided in the future. The Feedstone tract represents the second largest easement conveyed to the VDOF.

North of Rawley Springs, the Feedstone property forms an unbroken expanse of forestland within the George Washington National Forest. Sand Run and Miller Spring Run both originate in the upper elevations of the property. These two streams are major tributaries of the Dry River, a source of drinking water for downstream communities. The easement protects a unique oak heath forest type, and a critical habitat for several rare vertebrate species. The property contributes to the scenic viewshed of the area, as its upper elevations are visible from surrounding ridgetops.

In Virginia, more than 10 million acres of forestland are in the hands of 373,600 private landowners. Mike Santucci, VDOF forest conservation specialist, noted, “Private forest landowners, such as Feedstone Hunting Club, determine the sustainability of our forests and the benefits they provide. Feedstone's commitment to sustainable forest management, interconnected wildlife habitat, and improving water and air quality demonstrates their blue-ribbon conservation ethic,” Santucci said.

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or a non-profit conservation organization that protects the conservation values of a property. The landowner continues to own, use and control the land. Landowners who want to ensure that their land will be forever maintained as forest may consider a VDOF easement.

For additional information on the VDOF conservation easement program, contact Mike Santucci, forest conservation specialist, at 434.977.5193, or visit the VDOF website.