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March 2012

VDOF Employee Earns Agency’s Highest Honor

Stephen L. Morris, a forestry technician who protects and serves Cumberland and Powhatan counties, was nominated by a group of his peers to receive the first-ever Alex Williamson Distinguished Public Service Award.A 22-year veteran of the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has earned the first-ever Alex Williamson Distinguished Public Service Award – the highest honor the Agency bestows upon an employee.

Stephen L. Morris, a forestry technician who protects and serves Cumberland and Powhatan counties, was nominated by a group of his peers.

Morris said, “Knowing that my coworkers and friends appreciate me for the way I am and believe that I demonstrate some of Alex’s qualities is just as gratifying as receiving the award. Alex touched so many people in his life, including me, that it is really hard to express how grateful I am to have received this award in his honor.”

The Alex Williamson Distinguished Public Service Award was created to honor and recognize a VDOF employee who embodies the qualities that were the hallmark of long-time Halifax County Forestry Technician Alex Williamson who was killed in a tragic car accident in 2010. During his 35-year career with the VDOF, Williamson trained hundreds of firefighters and lived a life of service to others.

Morris joined the VDOF in August of 1989. He and his wife, Charlotte, have been married almost 25 years. The couple has two children, Stephanie and Daniel. The family lives in the Buckingham County community of Dillwyn.

Easements Conserve More Than 1,000 Acres in Eastern Virginia

The VDOF recorded two forestland conservation easements in Dinwiddie County and the agency’s first forestland conservation easement in Northumberland County.

In Dinwiddie County, Forest Consultant Lee Bethea and his wife, June, developed conservation easements on their land along the Nottoway River and land along Stony Creek. These two conservation easements, known as the San Marino and McCann tracts, total 565 acres. These conservation easements protect large blocks of working forestland with nearly 400 acres of forest on the San Marino tract and 165 acres of woodlands on the McCann tract. In addition to protecting well-managed forestland, these easements also provide significant watershed protection. The San Marino tract along the Nottoway River contains nearly one mile of river frontage and more than 6,000 linear feet of Smith Creek. The McCann tract contains nearly one mile of frontage along Stony Creek.

The two new easements are also part of the VDOF’s Tomorrow Woods program, a land conservation program with funding, due in part, through support from Dominion Virginia Power. This program reimburses landowners with funding towards the conservation easements’ up-front costs, such as attorney’s fees, appraisal and title insurance. The Tomorrow Woods program has assisted landowners in Southeast Virginia in developing conservation easements that protect more than 2,200 acres of land.

Bethea has been managing his forestland for many years and has developed a good working relationship with the VDOF. Area Forester Heather Dowling said, “Lee Bethea’s efforts to conserve his personal land show that sustainability and conservation are important not only to natural resources professionals, but also to landowners. The historic property he owns will now be protected from development pressure and allowed to remain working forestland no matter if the owner is a forester or not.”

VDOF now holds four easements in Dinwiddie County that are protecting a total of 860 acres of important, privately owned forestland.

In Northumberland County, former US Sen. Paul Trible developed a conservation easement on 508 acres of his family land, Gascony Farm. This easement is the first VDOF easement in the county.

“My family and I have owned Gascony for almost 100 years and love the rich natural beauty and history of the property. We want future generations to be able to know and love and experience this property as we do,” Senator Trible said.

The Trible family has managed the forest on this tract of land for many years with the help of the VDOF Area Forester Rich Steensma. “I admire Paul for his ability and willingness to gather lands back together,” Steensma said. “Several years ago, when others were eager to subdivide and maximize profit through parcelization, Paul was following in his father’s footsteps of stewardship by continually working to bring subdivided parcels of land back together, into one whole working landscape of forest and farmland.”

VDOF Forestland Conservation Specialist Rob Suydam said, “The Department of Forestry was very excited when Senator Trible contacted us about helping him develop a conservation easement on his family’s land. This beautiful piece of forestland protects the conservation values of forest, farm and open space. In addition, because this property is so close to the Chesapeake Bay, the watershed and wildlife habitat protection this easement provides is outstanding.”

For more information about VDOF’s land conservation program, please contact Rob Suydam at 804.328.3031.

Workshop for Women Landowners Planned

Women who own or manage forestland or farmland in the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Fauquier, Page and Clarke are invited to participate in a Women and Land workshop.

Created by women for women, the interactive workshop will be held March 15 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the North Warren Volunteer Fire Department Celebration Hall, 89 Rockland Road, Front Royal, VA.

Workshop creator Heather Dowling of the VDOF said, “This is a great opportunity for women to learn about proper management techniques for their property in a casual and welcoming environment.” Female natural resource professionals from the VDOF, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the USDA Farm Service Agency, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Appomattox River Soil and Water Conservation District will be the presenters.

All registrants will receive a three-ring binder packed with valuable information and tips to take home. In addition to the presenters’ organizations, the workshop is made possible by the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District; the Shenandoah Valley RC&D, and the Lord Fairfax SWCD.

To register, send a check for $5 (payable to Appomattox River SWCD) to Heather Dowling, Virginia Department of Forestry, 13209 Courthouse Road, Dinwiddie, VA 23841. For more information about this workshop, contact Joe Lehnen, VDOF, at 540.459.3151 or joe.lehnen@dof.virginia.gov.

Landowners Invited to Workshop on Conservation Easements

To date, Virginia landowners have protected more than 850,000 acres of land by developing conservation easements on what is often their most valued family heirloom – their land.

Conservation easements will be the focus of a March 30th landowner workshop hosted by the VDOF at its New Kent Forestry Center, on Route 60 near Providence Forge.

The workshop, “A Landowner’s Perspective: Interviews of Landowners with Conservation Easements,” will offer a panel of six landowners to share their experience - from the very beginning stages, through the easement development process and the resulting Federal and State tax benefits, to living with the easement today.

Advance registration is $10 per person and lunch will be provided. To register, please visit: http://cnre.vt.edu/forestupdate/Pages/onlineregistration.html

This event is a partnership of VDOF, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and the Capital Region Land Conservancy. For more information about this workshop, please contact Rob Suydam at 804.328.3031.

Family Fun - A Walk in the Forest

A free day of family fun is planned for March 17th at the New Kent Forestry Center in Providence Forge. Hosted by the Rappahannock Chapter of the Society of American Foresters, the “Walk in the Forest” will offer guided nature hikes, wildlife and forestry exhibits, papermaking and other crafts, a guided bird-watching trip, and a tree-planting demonstration.

The VDOF will give away 500 tree seedlings - 250 people will be able to choose two seedlings each from a mix of baldcypress, persimmon, shortleaf pine, eastern redbud, flowering dogwood and American plum. Galax-based Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. is providing the seedlings as part of the company’s 1-4-1 Program, which donates one tree seedling for every tree it harvests for use in the manufacture of its adult bedroom furniture.

People are invited to bring a picnic lunch and their own drinks as none will be available on site. For more information, please call Lisa Deaton at 804.512.2933.

Practice Preparedness during the Tornado Drill

Last year, 51 tornadoes struck Virginia. This was the second highest number on record. Ten people were killed and more than 100 were injured. Approximately 212 homes and 17 businesses were destroyed, and more than 1,050 homes and businesses were damaged. Many Virginia communities continue to heal from their losses and to rebuild their community.

This year, Gov. Bob McDonnell has proclaimed Tuesday, March 20, as Tornado Preparedness Day in Virginia. At approximately 9:45 a.m., the Statewide Tornado Drill will be held so that schools, government agencies, businesses and families can practice their tornado emergency plans.

Learn how to develop a tornado safety plan by visiting the Virginia Department of Emergency Management's website at www.vaemergency.gov.