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April, 2011

Forest Exchange Box Helps Showcase International Year of Forests

The Virginia Forest Box and its contents.The United Nations designated 2011 as International Year of Forests to promote broader understanding of the importance of forests, and to encourage global efforts to promote sustainable forest management and conservation.

Project Learning Tree® (PLT), a national network of environmental educators, worked with students to compile and decorate a “Forest Exchange Box” from each state to showcase the unique characteristics of America’s woodlands. In Virginia, PLT State Coordinator Lisa Deaton worked with elementary students at the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts. Curriculum activities took a “forestry” focus - - students collected tree and wood products, and created casts of animal tracks and the box itself during art classes.

Deaton said, “The students based many of the materials in the box on their studies of nearby Forest Hill Park. The photos they included from the park field trips are priceless!”

The students presented the box and its contents during a ceremony at the school. Students read their original works for the day, including poetry and “Virginia is for Forest Lovers.” Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore read the “Year of Forests Proclamation” signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell and accepted the box on governor’s behalf.

In March, all 50 state Forest Exchange Boxes, plus one from the District of Columbia, were displayed on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in conjunction with a Congressional briefing hosted by AFF on the state of America’s forests, and the role of environmental education in helping inform the next generation about the value of America’s forests.

Planting Education in Virginia Schools

Spring is in the air, so that means it’s the season for Project Plant It!, the environmental education program developed by Dominion to educate children and plant trees. Once again, the VDOF is partnering with Dominion to provide expertise and support to teach students about the important role of trees in the ecosystem.

Earlier this year, teachers received a comprehensive kit of instructional materials including lesson plans, posters, Arbor Day Ranger stickers and certificates to recognize each student. At the end of April, each participating student will get a tree seedling to plant at home on Arbor Day, April 29. All of the lesson plans align with Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) in language arts, math, science and social studies. The teaching materials and tree seedlings are provided by Dominion at no cost to the schools.

To enhance the learning experience for students in several school systems, two VDOF employees will share their love of trees in special presentations and tree-planting events.

This year, almost 30,000 elementary students across the Commonwealth are enrolled in Project Plant It! Since 2007, Dominion has distributed more than 100,000 tree seedlings to students in seven states, which is equivalent to 250 acres of new forestland.

For more information about Project Plant It! or to download lesson plans, play games and view videos about trees, visit www.projectplantit.com.

VDOF Honors Commitment to Firefighting

By Steve Counts, regional resource specialist and Adam Cumpston, forester

Russell County Forester Adam Cumpston presents Maj. Berk Artrip a plaque honoring the Appalachian Detention Center for ten years of service providing a wildland firefighting crew to the VDOF.A wildfire may have a single point of ignition, but containing it can require lots of personnel and equipment resources. To provide adequate attack on a fire, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) relies on local fire departments and other crews to provide these resources. Crews provided by Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities have provided firefighters for the last decade.

Since 2000, landowners in Southwest Virginia have been a major beneficiary of these crews. The DOC brought the idea of using their inmates to VDOF and the two agencies worked out an agreement to establish a wildland fire crew with these human resources. Training at the Appalachian Detention Center (ADC) in Blackford resulted in the first wildland fire crew. The success of this effort yielded subsequent training and crews established at the Wise Correctional Unit 18 near Coeburn and the Patrick Henry Corrections Unit in Henry County. Representatives from both facilities were presented a plaque recognizing 10 years of cooperative strength.

Regional Resource Specialist Steve Counts presents Maj. David Taylor with a plaque honoring the service  of the Virginia Department of Corrections, Wise Correctional Unit 18, as a wildland fire crew.“The crews [from the DOC] improve our response and flexibility during fires,” said Adam Cumpston, area forester for Dickenson, Wise, and Russell counties. “These crews respond directly to the scene and work to quickly establish containment lines around the wildfire. We are able keep fires smaller in size, and minimize suppression costs though the use of these crews.” Cumpston added that VDOF field personnel working with these crews noted the strong work ethic and motivation these crews possess.

[Photo caption (above):
Photo caption (below): Regional Resource Specialist Steve Counts presents Maj. David Taylor with a plaque honoring the service of the Virginia Department of Corrections, Wise Correctional Unit 18, as a wildland fire crew.]

Central Virginia Wildland Fire Academy

by Justin Barnes, forester, Shenandoah, Warren and Page Counties

Firefighters from Goochland, Louisa, Hanover, Henrico, Fluvanna, Madison, Orange and Spotsylvania counties participated in classroom training and outdoor field exercises.Cold weather doesn’t keep firefighters from a fire. It also doesn’t keep them away from firefighter training. Held each winter, the Central Virginia Wildland Fire Academy provides training for the suppression activities of fireline construction, engine operations and tractor operations.

Firefighters from Goochland, Louisa, Hanover, Henrico, Fluvanna, Madison, Orange and Spotsylvania counties participated in classroom training and outdoor field exercises. Students learned about fire shelters and how to correctly deploy one. Each student successfully deployed their shelter within 20 seconds. Students learned about wildland personal protective equipment (PPE) and firing devices, such as fusees and drip torches.

During basic dozer operations, participants learned how to safely operate Model 450 G, H and J tractors. Students practiced creating firelines using both the tractor blade and plow, and loading and unloading each model onto a transport. Students also learned how to push over live and dead trees safely. The day concluded with operators moving their tractor through an obstacle course.

Field exercises were combined with outdoor learning stations. A brush truck station demonstrated tactics, capabilities and safety. The tractor/plow unit station taught students the tactics, capabilities and safety procedures for the tractor. Students also constructed a fireline using hand tools.

Training was held at the Goochland County Fire Department Company 5 and the Goochland County Fire Training Center. Field activities were held at Leake’s Mill Park in Goochland County. Funds from VDOF helped support the academy.

Scholarships Support Urban Workshop

The Urban Forestry workshop “Growing For Sustainability” had more than 130 attendees. About 20 of the attendees were recipients of scholarships that allowed them to attend at no cost. The attendees benefit by receiving up-to-date information and hearing top-notch presenters. Networking with fellow urban and community forestry practitioners is also of value. Other values are a bit harder to quantify.

“I can never thank you enough for allowing us to come yesterday,” wrote Jane B. Clardy, a teacher at the W.W. Moore Jr. Detention Home. “The most important reason I want to thank you is because the whole experience made the students feel so positive about themselves. We take for granted so many things. One young man had never been out of Danville. None of them could believe how nice everyone treated them. All of the students were amazed at how much they understood and learned. I was proudest of the student who told me that the four of them were talking and they finally understood why the horticulture was so important.”

Paul Revell, VDOF’s urban and community forestry coordinator, said, “We gave out 20 scholarships to attend the workshop. We provided them to some municipal employees who have urban tree responsibility but little or no training budget. Underserved populations in Southside and Southwest Virginia are part of our focus, so we also gave scholarships to students and teachers there.”