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March 6, 2014

Arson Suspected As Cause Of Wildfires in Scott, Lee Counties

Wildland fire investigators suspect that a 244-acre wildfire that burned in Scott County and a 200-acre wildfire that burned in Lee County last week were ignited by one or more arsonists.  According to officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), the West Brain Hollow Fire in Scott County started during the evening of February 28 along Route 600 about two miles east of the Lee County line. On March 2 in Lee County, a fire started around midnight along Route 603 about two miles east of the old Blackwater School.

“We need the public's help in the continuing investigations of the causes of these suspicious fires,” said Bill Miller, VDOF’s senior area forester for the counties.  “Please call me with any information no matter how insignificant you might feel it is. Your information may be just the piece of the puzzle that helps us put an end to potentially criminal acts.” Twelve homes and 20 structures were directly protected by firefighters in both wildfires.

The VDOF needs citizens to be vigilant in the fight against arson. If you believe you have information relating to the cause of these fires, call the Scott County Sheriff’s Office at 276.386.7679 or the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at 276.346.7753. Or, call the Virginia Department of Forestry office at 276.346.4095 and report it. Your help may be worth up to $2,000 – the reward offered for information that leads to the conviction of an arsonist. For other emergencies or to report a new fire, call 911.

Woods arson is the common term for deliberately burning forests, grasslands or brush without the owner’s permission. The VDOF and other law enforcement officials are concerned with the number and frequency of these dangerous, destructive and senseless criminal acts. Woods arson is a felony in Virginia and, when convicted, the guilty person could serve up to five years in prison, pay a fine of $2,500 and be liable for the cost of suppressing the fire.

Estate Planning and Land Conservation Workshop

Landowners interested in the future of their forestland are invited to attend an estate planning, land conservation workshop offered by the VDOF with the support of Virginia Cooperative Extension.

This workshop will provide legal and financial advice on intergenerational land transfer from experienced attorneys, appraiser, conservation specialists, and forester. There will also be a landowner interview that will discuss their experience with developing and owning a conservation easement.

The workshop will also highlight VDOF’s expanded Tomorrow Woods Forest Conservation Values Reward Program, which provides landowners with reward funding after recording a conservation easement.

The Tomorrow Woods Estate Planning Land Conservation Workshop will be held March 21, 2014, at the Eastside Community Enhancement Center in Dinwiddie, Virginia.  A $10 per person registration fee includes lunch.  Please register by March 14, 2014 at: http://forestupdate.frec.vt.edu/landownerprograms/registration/index.html

For more information, please contact Rob Suydam at 804.291.7623 or Beth Burnam at 434.220.9184.

Forest Owners Retreat to the Woods 

Virginia landowners can learn more about actively managing their woodlands during the 6th annual Forest Landowners’ Retreat.  This event will be held April 25-27 at Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center near Appomattox.  Natural resource professionals will cover topics such as forest management options for hardwoods and pines, wildlife, forest health issues, timber sale planning and more.

A tour showcasing sound forest management practices is an important part of the program.  Ellen Powell of the Virginia Department of Forestry said, “We use the Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest as an interactive ‘classroom,’ where people can see how a well-managed forest looks and functions.” 

The cost for the retreat, which covers meals, lodging and materials, is $65 a person or $95 a couple. A commuter option is available for $35 a person or $50 a couple, for participants who wish to make their own lodging arrangements. 

To register online or download a brochure, visit www.forestupdate.frec.vt.edu. The deadline to register is April 11.  For more information, contact Jennifer Gagnon at 540.231.6391 or jgagnon@vt.edu

Fence Removal Project Improves Access

Pickup truck loaded with barbed wire removed from the new Kent Education Center.Over the years, the site of VDOF’s New Kent Forestry Center has been used as a dairy farm, a game farm to raise quail and turkey; and as a seedling nursery. Miles of rusty, barbed wire fence supported these earlier uses. The remaining fences, eight-feet high with 20 strands of barbed wire, had deteriorated and were heavily covered in greenbrier, honeysuckle and poison ivy.

Removal of the fencing has been an ongoing service project led by Dave Lauthers. As the Colonial Virginia Council (CVC) Outdoor Ethics Advocate for the Boy Scouts of America, Lauthers led Eagle Projects with two scouts from Boy Scout Troop 28 in Poquoson.  The CVC Order of the Arrow held multiple work days. Three U.S. Navy personnel from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln removed fence as part of a Navy Community Relations Project and a Virginia Master Naturalist also participated.

These efforts yielded 4,380 pounds of old metal fence. All of the metal has been recycled, and the proceeds will be used to fund future Eagle Scout projects at the center.

Acting State Forester Rob Farrell said, “We extend a huge thank you to Dave Lauthers, the scouts and all of the volunteers who have labored hard to improve the property at New Kent.  Your efforts have greatly enhanced the New Kent Forestry Center!” 

Tree seedlings selling fast; order yours before they’re gone

Each year, the VDOF grows and sells more than 24 million tree seedlings. And every year, many of the more than 40 species sell out before the harvest season ends April 30. If you are looking to plant tree seedlings or reforest your land this year, you still have a few weeks remaining to order your seedlings. But don’t wait too much longer as several species, including Black  Cherry, Alleghany Chinkapin, Gray Dogwood, Red Mulberry, Wild Plum, Yellow Poplar, Redbud and Loblolly Pine (all varieties), have already sold out. Online orders are accepted until April 23.

Seedlings are available in quantities as low as 10 or 25; these small quantities can be beneficial to landowners of modest-size forested tracts. Order yours today by visiting BuyVirginiaTrees.com; calling the Augusta Forestry Center at 540.363.7000, or contacting your local VDOF office.

Charlottesville man wins wins wins in Money Money Money game

A Charlottesville man is the first to win the top prize for the “Money Money Money” Virginia Lottery Scratcher ticket.

Money Money Money is one of dozens of Scratcher games available from the Virginia Lottery. It features prizes from $5 up to the $150,000 top prize. This is the first top prize claimed in this game, which means four $150,000 tickets are unclaimed.

One unique aspect of this game is that each Money Money Money ticket features a salute to Virginia’s Department of Forestry, for 100 years of protecting life and property, conserving resources and shaping Virginia’s forests.

The lottery player plans to use his winnings to buy a house.

Forest Health Review Now Available

The latest edition of the Forest Health Review – VDOF’s periodic publication from the Applied Forest Research Program – has just been published. Topics covered in this issue include:

  • Fall Cankerworm Outbreak
  • 17-year (Periodical) Cicada, Brood II
  • Southern Pine Beetle
  • Gypsy Moth
  • Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)
  • Anthracnose Diseases and Fire Blight
  • Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
  • Oak Decline
  • Wavy Leaf Basket Grass
  • Yellow Poplar Decline and the Poplar
  • Weevil in Southwest Virginia

You can download the review from our website at http://dof.virginia.gov/health/resources/health-review-2014-02.pdf.

And remember that the previous issues of the Forest Health Review as well as all publications from the VDOF Forest Health Program can be found at http://dof.virginia.gov/health/publications.htm.