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April 2012

Trees Destroyed By 2011 Tornado To Be Replaced

Washington County lost thousands of trees when a powerful tornado struck in the spring of 2011. The newly created Roots of Recovery Project is under way to replace them. The project is a joint effort by two Washington County groups.

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and Washington County Extension Office are assisting the project by donating 1,400 seedlings to be planted along streams and rights of way where large areas of devastation occurred.

The United Way of Russell and Washington Counties and the Washington County Long-Term Recovery Group will also provide 800 mature trees to individuals and families for planting at their homes. Residents can receive up to two trees. Tree plantings will begin April 27.

Trees Provide Annual Services Worth $6.6 Million in Just Five Communities

Jeannette Hoffman, a research technician in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, uses the i-Tree Eco software to record urban forest data in Roanoke, Va.The trees of our residential areas, schoolyards, parks, and along downtown streets are more than just pretty niceties; they are necessities. They increase property values, cool buildings, take in carbon dioxide, and mitigate air pollution – all valuable economic and ecological benefits.

Now, in a survey of five Virginia communities, Virginia Tech Associate Professor Eric Wiseman is using a tool developed by the U.S. Forest Service to provide scientific evidence of the value of the services that urban trees provide. It is the first time such a detailed study assigning value to urban trees has been undertaken in the state.

Wiseman’s crew of students spent the summers of 2010 and 2011 collecting field data on the trees and vegetation in plots in Abingdon, Charlottesville, Falls Church, Roanoke and Winchester.

Using analysis software called i-Tree Eco, they input data on the trees growing in each municipality – its urban forest – and arrived at an estimate of the forest’s functional benefits and economic value. These benefits include such contributions as air pollution reduction, carbon dioxide capture, and building energy conservation.

The analyses show that there are more than 3.4 million trees in these five communities alone, and that these urban forests provide nearly $7 million in annual benefits.

The project is supported by the Virginia Department of Forestry with funds from the U.S. Forest Service. Municipalities provided geographical information system (GIS) data and parcel information used by Wiseman to select field plots for data collection. In Charlottesville, the field crews were assisted by volunteers of the Rivanna Master Naturalist chapter, volunteers in a Virginia Cooperative Extension program based in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

After contacting landowners and securing permissions, the field teams measured trees, evaluated their condition, identified their species, and noted the ground cover and other characteristics of the assigned plots. A summary report of each locality’s urban forest assessment is posted online (

The cities and towns surveyed will decide how to act on the information they receive. Wiseman is urging localities to use these analyses of tree abundance and composition, along with canopy cover, as they plan their urban forests and green spaces.

Ben Thompson, City of Falls Church arborist, said, “The results of this study will help staff better plan and manage the city’s trees and forest, creating a safe, healthy and pleasant landscape for our citizens and visitors.”

VDOF and Dominion Cultivate Learning with Project Plant It!

Did you know that this year marks the 140th anniversary of Arbor Day? J. Sterling Morton, the Nebraska journalist who founded the annual tree-planting celebration in 1872, would be proud that the VDOF is partnering again with Project Plant It!, a program developed by Dominion to educate children, plant trees and improve the environment.

Project Plant It!, which will soon be recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation, distributes free tree seedlings to each participating student. The program, which has reached more than 100,000 students since 2007, provides teachers with a comprehensive kit of lesson plans, posters, stickers and other instructional tools that align with Standards of Learning in core curriculum subjects.

The website,, features several videos to help kids learn about trees and how to care for them. Online interactive games and puzzles teach students about plant life and tree vocabulary.

Lisa Deaton, education specialist for the VDOF, will share her expertise with students at some elementary schools that are enrolled in Project Plant It! She is conducting several interactive forester presentations that engage students with a variety of fun exercises and demonstrations about how trees benefit the environment.

Thanks to the VDOF and Dominion’s Project Plant It! Program, J. Sterling Morton’s vision for Arbor Day is branching out to the next generation. Don’t forget to plant a tree on April 27!

Rajdev Named 2012 National PLT Outstanding Educator

Dr. Usha Rajdev, associate professor in the Teacher Education Program at Marymount University was named one of five 2012 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educators.Dr. Usha Rajdev, associate professor of science and math methodologies in the Teacher Education Program at Marymount University in Arlington, VA, was named one of five 2012 National Project Learning Tree® (PLT), Outstanding Educators.

As the faculty leader for science education in Marymount University’s Teacher Education Program, Rajdev works with future teachers to prepare them to teach science and math to K-12 students. “Since becoming a PLT facilitator in 2009, I have provided PLT training every semester, including summer sessions, and it has become part of my syllabus requirement,” Rajdev says. “The PLT curriculum is adaptable to different teaching environments and cultures, and provides a way for teachers to engage their students in hands-on learning that also increases their environmental awareness and sense of stewardship.”

In addition to preparing her Marymount students to teach in U.S. schools, Rajdev has led two groups to Porbandar, India, on a study abroad program. Her students modeled a different approach to learning to Indian teacher candidates, as well as to school children in India, using the hands-on activities of PLT. Children in India are accustomed to learning by absorbing lectures from teachers. Instead, PLT got the children out of their seats to learn by doing, and into the outdoors for some lessons about trees and how they differ between the two countries.

“This exchange of environmental awareness and appreciation was a moment to capture,” says Rajdev. “The Indian students talked of all the activities conducted during the day to their families, who reported to the school principal their own enthusiasm for this new approach to learning.”

PLT is the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation.

A High Point in a Lifelong Relationship with the Land

The VDOF recorded the agency’s first forestland conservation easement in Essex County.

Essex Land LLC – owned by Joe Thompson, Temple Moore and Fred Sachs – developed a conservation easement on 211 acres of land immediately adjacent to Hoskins Creek.

The mixed hardwood and conifer forest is home to foraging bald eagles, turkey, deer and many species of songbirds, including the neo-tropical migrants that use the forest as nesting habitat during the summer. The wetlands and creeks provide habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, songbirds, opossum, beaver, raccoon, turtles, frogs and salamanders. The tract is entirely forested and fronts more than a mile of Hoskins Creek.

Virginia Del. Keith Hodges said, “I’m very pleased to know that the three fine gentlemen who own this land adjacent to Hoskins Creek have seen fit to forever protect it from development through a conservation easement. Their actions in this regard will help ensure clean air and clean water for the citizens of Essex County and maintain vital wildlife habitat for many species of animals and birds. As theirs is the first forestry conservation easement in the County, I’m hoping that other forest landowners in Essex will follow their lead and work with the Virginia Department of Forestry to conserve their properties as well.”

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or a non-profit conservation organization that protects the conservation values of a property. The landowner continues to own, use and control the land. The VDOF conservation easement program is the only one in the state that focuses primarily on protecting working forests. To be considered, a property must be at least 50 acres in size, 75 percent forested, and the landowner must be willing to have a forest stewardship management plan prepared. Landowners who want to ensure that their land will be forever maintained as forest may consider a VDOF easement.

In addition to the state and federal tax benefits, this conservation easement was awarded a matching grant by the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), a competitive state grant program administered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The VLCF was created in 1999 by the General Assembly to help fund permanent protection of open spaces and parklands, lands of historic or cultural significance, farmlands and forests, and natural areas.

For more information about VDOF’s land conservation program, please contact Rob Suydam at 804.328.3031 or Mike Santucci, forest conservation specialist, at 434.220.9182.

SRS Announces New Invasive Plants iPhone App

The Southern Research Station (SRS) recently released the first version of a new iPhone/iPad application designed to help southern forest landowners and managers identify and manage nonnative invasive plants in the field.

“Invasive Plants in Southern Forests” provides photos and information to enable users to identify the 56 nonnative plants and plant groups that are invading the forests of the 13 southern states. It also includes recommendations for prevention and control.

Nonnative plants from across the world continue to invade the forests of the southern United States, spurred on by wildfire, hurricanes, changing temperature ranges, and land-use change. Incursions of nonnative plants impact forest productivity, hinder recreational use and management activities, and change native plant diversity and wildlife habitat.

To download the free app, go to the Apple iTunes store.

Darden Named Director

Harvey Darden has been promoted to the position of Director of State Lands. Darden has been acting as the Director of State Lands since June 2011. He was formerly the area forester for Southampton County. Prior to coming to VDOF, he spent 29 years at Union Camp/International Paper, where he reached the position of Timberlands Transaction Forester.