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June 2010

Farrell Honored with Conservation Leadership Award

Rob Farrell, assistant  director for forestland conservation for the Virginia Department of Forestry  (VDOF), received the 2010 Conservation Leadership Award from Virginia United  Land Trusts (VaULT).Rob Farrell, assistant director for forestland conservation for the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), received the 2010 Conservation Leadership Award from Virginia United Land Trusts (VaULT).

The award recognized “The conservation efforts of Rob Farrell [to create] a comprehensive conservation program for VDOF that not only assists landowners and localities in protecting their forestland, but also successfully reaches out to assist other conservation partners in protecting their values as well.”

Farrell was instrumental in the development of a new conservation program at the state agency level.  The program incorporates the traditional method of conservation through easements and also utilizes all conservation strategies and tools for individual citizens and local governments in an effort to protect Virginia’s forestland.  Other conservation partners and their values are also acknowledged.

The program provides assistance to localities in protecting their forestland through the review of localities' comprehensive plans.  Recommendations to comprehensive plans may also include forest management plans and the use of green infrastructure planning.  Farrell’s successful collaboration with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) resolved sensitive environmental issues and ensured the protection and conservation of important natural resource values in addition to forestland.

VDOF Wildland Fire Academy Begins Today

More than 300 firefighters from across the Commonwealth and in neighboring states will be taking a variety of courses designed to better prepare them for the challenges and dangers associated with suppressing wildfires. The week-long program begins today at the annual Virginia Interagency Wildland Fire Academy at Longwood University.

“This is the largest and most comprehensive training program we do,” said State Forester of Virginia Carl Garrison.  “With financial support provided by the National Park Service, we are able to bring together hundreds of paid and volunteer firefighters, who are already outstanding structural firefighters, and teach them everything from the basics of wildland firefighting to the use of chain saws and fire plows to advanced tactics and leadership.”

In addition to the structural firefighters, a number of “students” at the academy come from the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and three other state agencies (Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Corrections, and the Virginia National Guard), as well as two federal agencies – the US Forest Service (USFS) and the National Park Service (NPS).  The 65 instructors at the Academy hail from numerous federal (USFS, USF&WS, NPS) and state (VDOF, DCR, Va. Dept. of Fire Programs, Maryland Forest Service) agencies as well as The Nature Conservancy, the Chesterfield County Fire Department, the North Garden FD, Rockingham Fire & Rescue, and Shenandoah Fire & Rescue.

While many of the courses are classroom based, several involve field work. These include: the chainsaw operations course, where participants learn how to properly fell trees during a wildfire, and the bulldozer/fireplow course, where participants operate these important pieces of heavy equipment over and through a variety of obstacles they will encounter in the woods.  In addition to the obstacle course they work through during the day, “students” in this course also will attack and suppress – using only their bulldozer/fireplows – a real wildfire at night as part of the program.

New this year is the Academy scholarship program that was established to honor the memory of Alex Williamson, who was killed earlier this year in a tragic car accident. Williamson was the VDOF’s chief forest warden in Halifax County for more than 35 years who trained hundreds of firefighters during his distinguished career. Catherine Lilly of Roanoke and Matthew King of Stafford are the first two recipients of the Williamson scholarship and are attending the Academy free of charge.

Forestry Camp To Be Held This Month

The 64th annual Holiday Lake Forestry Camp will be another fun-filled, learning-packed experience. Sixty campers from 36 counties will participate this year.

Camp's core classes are: Tree Identification; Forest Measurements; Timber Harvesting; Wildlife Management; Tree Improvement; Forest Ecology; Forest Management; Environmental Protection, and Reproducing the Forest. Other camp experiences include 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 round out the program.

The campers will take home excellent resource materials, such as tree identification books and Biltmore sticks. The top 10 campers (as scored academically throughout the week) will receive awards of outdoor recreation supplies. The top-scoring camper will also receive a $100 savings bond.

This year's program includes a Forestry Field Day for campers' parents. Twenty-eight parents will experience short versions of tree identification and forest measurement classes and tour Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest to see forest management in action. They’ll take home information to use on their own property and to share with neighbors.

Ensuring a safe, high-quality program takes a large number of dedicated staff, all of whom are taking time away from their regular duties to be at camp. This year, 23 full-time staff and 18 part-time staff represent VDOF and 10 other agencies and organizations. Donations from 34 groups, businesses and individuals - totaling nearly $12,500 - once again will allow campers to attend at minimal personal cost.

Communities Celebrate Tree City USA Status

The City of Lexington celebrated Tree City USA by planting a tree.Ceremonies celebrating Tree City USA took place in 55 communities across Virginia. The towns, cities and military installations that have achieved Tree City USA certification satisfy guidelines from the Arbor Day Foundation.

“Trees are much more than a pretty face,” said Barbara White, partnership coordinator with the VDOF. “They’re vital to supporting ourselves and the environment – trees are part of our ‘green infrastructure.’ They help clean the air we breathe and the water we drink. And, when properly placed beside a home, trees can even help us conserve energy.”

To learn how your community can become a Tree City USA, visit the Arbor Day Foundation at http://www.arborday.org/index.cfm or contact your local VDOF forester at http://www.dof.virginia.gov/.

Outdoor Recreation Focus of New Website

Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech announced a new Virginia parks and outdoor recreation website. The Virginia Outdoors website (www.Virginiaoutdoors.com) will make planning summertime trip planning easier. The site content includes video tours of trails in all Virginia State Parks and audio podcasts with park staff and others who provide an insider’s view on what our parks and open spaces have to offer.

Encouraging visitors to enjoy Virginia’s outdoors also has real benefits for the state’s economy. In 2009, Virginia State Parks had a record 7.5 million visitors. This generated an economic impact estimated at $175 million.

Donations from the Dominion Foundation helped develop the new website.