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May, 2011

Spring Fire Season Officially Ends

Spring fire season officially ended at midnight Saturday (April 30) along with the prohibition on outdoor burning before 4 p.m., but officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) caution that conditions are not ideal and that the threat of wildland fires is still very real.

From January 1st through April 30th, the VDOF responded to 608 wildland fires that burned 11,285 acres. Agency employees and members of numerous volunteer fire departments protected 848 homes and 495 other structures. Fifteen homes were damaged.

Significant fire activity occurred in mid-February as high winds whipped up fires across the state. Valentine’s Day saw 81 fires consume 1,858 acres, including a 176-acre fire in Dinwiddie County and a 760-acre fire in Craig County. February 19 saw 135 fires burn more than 7,701 acres. Across the state that day, 478 acres burned in Middlesex County, 907 acres in Louisa County and 1,262 in Rockingham County.

These figures represent a [42] percent increase in the number of fires and a [241] percent increase in the number of acres burned this year compared to last year. Comparable increases were seen in the number of homes and other structures protected. During the same period in 2010, a total of 424 wildfires burned 3,297. The remainder of the 2011 season was marked by short periods of light to moderate fire activity. Periodic rainfall helped reduce the number and size of fires.

“Even though the calendar says that spring fire season is over doesn't mean that the threat of wildland fires has ended,” said John Miller, VDOF's director of resource protection. He noted that yard debris, such as leaves and downed tree limbs and branches, are often burned as part of “spring cleaning.” These fires increase the potential threat of wildland fires.

Debris burning remains the No. 1 cause of wildland fires in Virginia, and Miller urges anyone planning to burn – regardless of the time of year – to properly prepare by clearing the area around the place to be burned; have available sufficient water and hand tools, such as a shovel or rake, and burn only when conditions of high humidity and low wind speed are present.

For more information on wildland fires or how to protect yourself and your property, go to www.firewisevirginia.org.

New Energy Program in the Twin County Region

To improve energy efficiency and demonstrate opportunities for renewable energy projects, the New River-Highlands RC&D Council entered into a partnership with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and the Claire and Jack Matthews Foundation to promote these goals in the Twin County region.

The “Community Scale Renewable Energy Program” is funded by a $75,000 Community-Based Energy Projects Planning and Implementation Grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The grant will be matched by more than $90,000 of cash and in-kind contributions from project partners.

The first phase of the program will identify renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the City of Galax and Grayson and Carroll counties. The second phase will fund renewable energy and energy efficiency demonstration projects at the Matthews State Forest in Galax, VA. This phase includes adding solar photovoltaic panels; energy efficiency upgrades, and a small-scale wood-fired gasification unit.

David Richert, a forester with VDOF and the New River-Highlands RC&D Council, said, “Wood from sustainably managed forests is locally abundant, with relatively high energy value and relatively low costs. This demonstration project at the Matthews State Forest will showcase the local potential to produce clean and renewable energy from our forests.”

Interested parties can learn more about the program by contacting the New River-Highlands RC&D Council by phone: 276.228.2879 or by email: david.richert@dof.virginia.gov.

Distinguished Service Award Presentation to John Carroll

By Ed Stoots, regional forester - Western Region

The deputy state forester for Virginia has received an award recognizing his forestry accomplishments and commitment.

John Carroll of Louisa received the Distinguished Service Award from the Virginia Forestry Association (VFA) during its annual awards banquet.

Carroll’s commitment to forestry includes more than 30 years of employment with the VDOF, where he is deputy state forester. During the past eight years, John has overseen VDOF’s nursery and State Forest operations providing valuable education, research and growing stock for many of Virginia’s citizens and landowners.

With his wife, Virginia, he co-owns and manages the Claybrooke Tree Farm. The farm provides wood products and paper as well as Christmas trees. As a member of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association, John has led the search for the last several years for the Capital Christmas tree and the Christmas tree for the Governor’s mansion.  He has helped secure a site for a second cycle Frasier Fir seed tree orchard established by the Mount Rogers Christmas Tree Growers Association. He is an active member of the Virginia Forestry Association and the Society of American Foresters.

I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with and for John Carroll for the past 10 years now. John not only has dedicated his career to the Virginia Department of Forestry, but to Forestry as a whole within the Commonwealth of Virginia. I can think of no more worthy person to receive the VFA’s Distinguished Service Award than my friend, my colleague, and my supervisor – John Carroll.

Purple Prisms Pluck Pests

More than 5,500 purple prism traps have been placed to help detect the emerald ash borer.The large, purple triangle-shaped objects you may have seen hanging in a tree are part of the 2011 Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) survey. This year, the survey has expanded significantly. More than 5,500 traps have been deployed statewide. With one trap placed per 2x2 mile grid area, you’ll probably see one soon.

The traps are especially useful for revealing new infestations that would otherwise remain undetected. This year, a large swath of central, southern and western Virginia forms the trapping grid. The 14" wide by 24" long traps are baited with natural plant oil attractant and covered with a non-toxic glue to catch the insects.

The EAB larvae kill ash trees by feeding on the inner bark and disrupting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients. EAB was introduced accidentally into the United States and was first detected in Michigan in 2002. The first EAB detection in Virginia occurred in Fairfax County in 2003. Subsequent detections at multiple sites in 2008 resulted in the establishment of a quarantine for more than 10 northern Virginia counties and independent cities. The quarantine is an effort to slow the spread of this destructive beetle by restricting the movement of articles capable of transporting EAB.

Find additional information about the EAB at www.emeraldashborer.info.  Additional information regarding specific trap locations can be obtained by calling Delta-21 Resources, Inc. at 877.207.9406.

Horsing Around on Virginia’s State Forests

The Virginia Horse Council (VHC) honored VDOF with its Industry Service Award. The plaque notes VDOF’s emphasis on access and trail management for horses and riders. VDOF has improved the parking lot at the Appomattox Buckingham State Forest, where a corral is available. Features at the Cumberland State Forest have also been upgraded. Efforts to offer fresh water on both forests is also underway.-

“The state forests are designed for multiple uses, and for different types of recreation,” said Erik P. Filep, recreation forester for VDOF. “Enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest while on horseback is a unique way to spend your time outdoors.” Filep noted that trails on these forests are generally well-suited to horse traffic and have parking areas that can accommodate horse trailers. All facilities and access are available on a “first -come, first-served” basis.

A State Forest Use Permit is required for all equestrians ages 16 years and older. The $16 annual permit is available for purchase online. Since March 2, 2011, horse owners must also have a valid Coggins report with them when their horses are on public property. According to National Agricultural Statistics Service data, the equine industry generated about $65.3 million in state and local taxes in 2010. The state’s horse industry has an annual economic impact of $1.2 billion. There are an estimated 215,000 horses in Virginia.

Artist Patrick Dougherty To Harvest Local “Sticks” For Sculpture In Richmond

From May 2 – 4, 2011, internationally renowned artist Patrick Dougherty and a team of area volunteers will harvest local sticks and saplings for a monumental, site-specific sculpture planned at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The materials will be procured in a sustainable manner by thinning trees on private, rural tracts of land. Three to five tractor trailer loads of sticks and saplings will be collected and transported to the Garden during the three-day period.

The VDOF worked closely with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Dougherty to identify material sources. Private landowners in Chesterfield and Hanover counties will provide access to red maple and sweet gum.

A team of local volunteers from the Garden will assist Dougherty in the harvesting, as well as the construction of the sculpture. Dougherty is artist-in-residence at the Garden from May 2 – 22, providing these volunteers a once-in-a-lifetime experience and offering visitors a rare glimpse into the creative process.  Since the sculpture will be built in the Anderson Wildflower Meadow, the Garden is calling this time-frame “Meadowmorphosis.” It will be incorporated into Garden events and activities for at least a year, including the popular Dominion GardenFest of Lights. Learn more at lewisginter.org.

Fall Cankerworms Attacking Richmond-Area Trees

Fall cankerworms are native insects that usually go unnoticed in the forest, but occasionally  develop into large outbreak populations that can strip trees bare by feeding on all parts of the leaves, leaving only the midribs or larger veins behind.The suburban Richmond area, including the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Powhatan and Amelia, is experiencing an outbreak of fall cankerworm – a native insect pest that is defoliating many forested areas.  Hardest hit are areas around Route 60 between Powhatan and Midlothian that have experienced defoliation so intense that many trees have been stripped of all their leaves. Areas around Interstates 95 and 295 in Henrico and Hanover counties have also reported significant damage.

According to VDOF officials, fall cankerworms are native insects that usually go unnoticed in the forest, but occasionally develop into large outbreak populations that can strip trees bare by feeding on all parts of the leaves, leaving only the midribs or larger veins behind.

VDOF’s Forest Health Specialist Dr. Chris Asaro said, “Most of the trees that have suffered complete defoliation are oaks and maples. Cankerworms do feed on many other tree species – such as elm, apple, hickory, ash, beech and cherry – but generally these species have suffered much lighter defoliation with the current outbreak.”

Though these insects present no health problems to the public, homeowners with heavy defoliation around their property may be distressed by the sudden appearance of defoliation; the large degree of webbing, and the insect excrement (called frass) that falls from the trees and covers everything. The frass is dry and harmless, but can fall in such large quantities that if you listen carefully, it can sound as though a light rain is falling, according to Asaro.

“As for the trees, even those that are completely defoliated usually recover by leafing out again,” he said.  “Since fall cankerworm is an early spring defoliator, trees that are otherwise healthy will have time to refoliate and green up again by mid-summer.”

“In most circumstances, spraying an insecticide, such as B.t., is not desirable or practical over such a large scale, although some communities with chronic fall cankerworm infestations have opted to have trees treated,” Asaro said.  “With the current outbreak, however, most of the feeding has already occurred so spraying at this point would serve no purpose. Larvae have to be controlled soon after they hatch from eggs before they become large enough to cause damage.”

Tree Line USA Award Presented to Dominion Virginia Power CEO on Arbor Day

Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domemech bestowed the Arbor Day Foundation’s national Tree Line USA award upon Dominion Resources Inc.  The presentation occurred in conjunction with a City of Richmond elementary school’s Arbor Day celebration through Dominion’s Project Plant It! program.  Dominion Virginia Power’s  President and CEO Paul D. Koonce accepted the award.

More than 60 third-grade students at Southampton Elementary School participated in the event. Students sang songs, read poems about trees and, following the award presentation, helped plant several trees on school grounds.

The Tree Line USA designation recognizes utility companies that protect and enhance America’s urban forests by promoting safe, reliable electric service and abundant, healthy trees across utility service areas. Project Plant It! is Dominion’s school-based program that educates children about trees and the environment.  For more information, visit www.projectplantit.com.