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June, 2011

Agency Authorized to Fill Positions

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has been authorized to fill several vacant positions.

VDOF will fill the positions of Scott County Technician; Isle of Wight County Technician; Halifax County Forester; Cumberland/Powhatan County Forester, and the mechanic stationed at Headquarters in Charlottesville. In addition, the Eastern Regional Forester position will be filled.

In an email to VDOF employees, State Forester Carl Garrison said, “In these difficult economic times and during a state government hiring freeze, none of this would have been possible without the support of Secretary Todd Haymore and Deputy Secretary Matt Conrad. I thank them for helping us in this regard.”

Moore’s Creek State Forest Dedication

State Senators Emmet Hanger and Creigh Deeds; State Forester Carl garrison and Del. Ben Cline.Virginia's 20th State Forest -- the Moore's Creek SF in Rockbridge County -- was dedicated May 12th at a ceremony held in the Effinger Volunteer Fire Department building. State Forester Carl Garrison provided remarks and introduced the keynote speaker, Del. Ben Cline. State Senators Emmet Hanger and Creigh Deeds also spoke at the event. The more than 2,000-acre tract is almost entirely forested and surrounds a 40-acre lake that serves as a reservoir for the City of Lexington.

Funding for the purchase, which totaled $2 million, was provided to the VDOF through the General Assembly's 2008 conservation bond fund. The tract features mountain vistas, scenic trails and abundant wildlife, including black bear, wild turkey and a host of migratory songbirds.

Delegate Cline (R - Rockbridge) said, “I am pleased to work with Governor McDonnell toward our shared goal of protecting Virginia's natural resources and preserving active farmland and forests throughout the Commonwealth. Today's action will ensure that generations of Virginia citizens will be able to enjoy our state forests for hiking, hunting and fishing in the years to come.”

Access to the trailhead is via US Forest Service road off State Route 612 in southwestern Rockbridge County. As with most of the State Forests, visitors should carry their own supplies, such as drinking water, and be advised that there are no facilities at the Moore's Creek State Forest.

Three Landowners Conserve 1,000 Acres On The New River Through Forest Legacy

Three Galax-area families have placed conservation easements on their land that fronts the New River through the USDA Forest Legacy program – a federal/state partnership that supports Virginia’s efforts to protect environmentally sensitive and privately owned forestlands.

Dr. Jim and Mary Lily Nuckolls (434 acres); Dr. Vaughn and Dr. Jo Ann Arey (434 acres), and Dr. Stephen and Lisa Lowder (160 acres) agreed to permanently protect their properties through conservation easements in exchange for federal funds equivalent to 75 percent of the value of the easements. The families retain ownership of their lands but have given up any rights to further develop the properties.

A celebration of the three easements was held at Froggy Bottom Farm, home of the Nuckolls family.

Easement To Preserve Working Forests in Charles City County

Renwood Farms is a 700-acre working farm in southeast Charles City County along the James River that will be protected from future development. Stanley and Nancy Hula granted the VDOF a working forest conservation easement on their property. Under the terms of the easement, the property may not be divided in the future, perpetually contributing the tract to a larger block of unfragmented forestland in the area. This easement is the first VDOF has been granted in the county.

The farm contains nearly 300 acres of well-managed hardwood and is used to grow crops, such as corn, small grains, soy and cotton. The property has been recognized with numerous conservation awards over the years, including the Clean Water Farm Award (1986 and 2003); Va. Association of Soil and Water Forestry Award (1989); Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Award (2003), and Conservation Legacy Award (2004).  Most recently, Mr. Hula’s son, David, won the overall highest corn yield in the U.S. for the irrigated class in the 2010 National Corn Growers contest.

Managed, or working, forests provide a sustainable flow of natural goods and services that benefit all Virginians. Because larger blocks of working forest provide the greatest range of benefits, VDOF conservation easements focus on keeping the forestland intact and unfragmented, protecting the ability of current and future landowners to manage their forestland for timber products and environmental values.

For more information about VDOF Forestland Conservation Easement Program, please contact Rob Suydam at 804.328.3031.

Greenway Workshop Held To Benefit Underserved Communities

By David Richert, RC&D forester

Representatives from Southwest Virginia communities tour a riparian forest buffer in a working agricultural landscape along the Luray-Hawksbill Greenway in Luray, Va.Greenways and trails conserve natural areas and link the “built infrastructure” of residential and urban settings with the “green infrastructure” that filters air and water; conserves energy; promotes physical well-being and enhances aesthetics. The Greenway / Trail Conservation Planning workshop helped promote these values to underserved communities in Southwest Virginia.

The VDOF, the New River Highlands RC&D Council and other project partners coordinated the event where representatives from Southwest Virginia localities could meet and learn from regional trail/greenway conservation planning experts. The Luray-Hawksbill Greenway in Luray, Va., served as a backdrop and case study to the workshop.

Developed in four phases with a completed trail length of two miles, the Luray-Hawksbill Greenway borders the Hawksbill Creek for most of its length and runs through the middle of the town of Luray. The greenway incorporates riparian buffers, a flowering forest arboretum, open space, recreation areas and a working agricultural landscape along the greenway corridor. Signs, kiosks and other interpretive features highlight the beneficial ecosystem services that this green infrastructure provides.

The workshop received more than $9,000 worth of volunteer and/or professional staff time from project partners, including the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program; National Park Service-Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program; Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation; Town of Luray Parks and Recreation Department; Town of Blacksburg Parks and Recreation Department; Virginia Tech Community Design Assistance Center, and various Southwest Virginia localities.

In some communities, greenways and trails may be the first or most significant connection that local residents have with their surrounding forests, streams and other natural resources. As various greenway/trail projects take shape in Southwest Virginia localities, additional acres of urban and community forests will be added; riparian forest buffers will be established, and more local residents will have an opportunity to experience firsthand the beneficial impacts of Virginia’s green infrastructure.

Shed Added to Pulaski Office

Many volunteers donated their time, tools and expertise to realize a project that will help protect equipment used by VDOF and the crew members working for VDOF keep Pulaski County green and protected from wildfire. Equipment stored outdoors can take a beating throughout the year as it endures the extremes of hot and cold and wet and dry conditions. In Pulaski County, VDOF’s partnership with local government resulted in the county’s donation of land for a pole shed to help protect VDOF’s county bulldozer. Part-time Fire Mitigation Specialist Brad Wright and members of the Pulaski Wildland Fire Crew thought the shed could be expanded and improved. Using mitigation funds for materials, Wright and his crew added on space to provide an engine bay. They framed in a door and enclosed the structure with aluminum siding. The equipment is now protected from weather and secure.

Many volunteers donated their time, tools and expertise to realize this project. These efforts help protect equipment used by VDOF and the crew members working for VDOF keep Pulaski County green and protected from wildfire.

Good job by Brad Wright and the many other crew members who assisted on the project, and thanks to Pulaski County for providing a base of operations for the storage of the equipment.

National Trails Day is June 4, 2011

Forestry officials invite citizens out to Virginia’s state forests to celebrate National Trails Day June 4.

Many of Virginia’s 21 state forests offer miles of trails for walking, hiking and bird watching. Trails allow for recreation and are a great way to get the public to increase their physical activity in an outdoor setting. Trail users can explore in solitude and find peace and tranquility. Or, join family or friends for an outdoor social activity.

“Hiking is an excellent outdoor activity that can be enjoyed on Virginia’s State Forests,” said Erik Filep, recreation forester for the VDOF. “The state forests offer another possibility for users to enjoy public land in addition to state and local parks, national parks and national forests.”

Filep has overseen a series of trail and habitat service projects on some of the forests. These include trail marking and trailhead signage; parking access; new picnic pavilions, and trail creation and maintenance. Forest visitors are encouraged to follow the Leave No Trace outdoor ethic.

Passive recreational opportunities, such as walking, hiking and canoeing, are provided free of charge. Horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and trapping all require a State Forest Use Permit when persons 16 years and older enjoy these activities on a state forest.

Located in the Richmond area, the Appomattox-Buckingham, Cumberland, Zoar and Prince Edward – Gallion state forests offer more than 60 miles of trails. A complete list of state forests can be found on the Virginia Department of Forest website at http://www.dof.virginia.gov. To learn more about recreation improvements on the forests visit http://virginiastateforest.blogspot.com/

Southern Forests for the Future Survey

Southern woodland owners can share their experiences by participating in a survey from the Southern Forests for the Future project. The online survey asks for responses from Southern woodland owners about issues related to management of small family forests.

The World Resources Institute will use the data gathered by this survey to design incentive programs that help family woodland owners conserve and sustainably manage their lands. All responses will be kept strictly confidential.

You can view the survey at: http://southernforestsurvey1.org/r/survey.html.