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April 15, 2014

Ring Named State Forester of Virginia

Bettina Ring has been appointed the seventh State Forester of Virginia by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Bettina Ring has been appointed State Forester by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Ring most recently served as Senior Vice President of Family Forests at the American Forest Foundation where she was responsible for overseeing the American Tree Farm System®, the largest and oldest sustainable woodland program  in America, supporting more than 80,000 family forest owners collectively managing 27 million acres of certified woodlands.

Ms. Ring has a long history in the conservation and forestry sectors, having spent 14 years at the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), departing the agency in 2001 as Deputy State  Forester.  In her role, Ms. Ring was responsible for operations, and helped to develop and implement a new mission, vision and strategic plan for the department. In the years following her VDOF service, Ms. Ring held various leadership positions within nonprofit organizations focusing on natural resources management and conservation, including the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, The Wilderness Land Trust and the Bay Area Open Space Council. Ring holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry and wildlife from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in business administration from James Madison University.

VADOC Offenders to Again Partner with the Virginia Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service to Prevent, Control Wildfires

Approximately 160 Virginia Department of Corrections offenders are training and working with Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) firefighters in the western part of Virginia as part of the suppression force for the 2014 fire season. The partnership utilizes low-risk, non-violent offenders to fight wildfires and participate in fire-prevention activities.

The partnership began in 1996 with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) at Cold Springs Correctional Unit and Work Center in Greenville, Virginia. Since then, the training has expanded with assistance from the VDOF to include offenders from Patrick Henry Correctional Unit in Ridgeway, Virginia; Wise Correctional Unit in Coeburn, Virginia, and Appalachian Men’s Detention Center in Honaker, Virginia.

Each facility trains offenders in a variety of wildfire applications. After training, offenders are considered to be entry-level certified wildland firefighters and must be recertified annually. Their general duties may include digging fire lines, back burning, monitoring for hot spots and mop-up (basic clean up after the fire has been controlled).

In addition to the firefighting skills learned, the program also helps each offender learn communication skills, responsibility, self-esteem and honesty.

VDOF’s Assistant Director of Resource Protection Steve Counts said, “We’re fortunate to have the offender crews. They are a valuable resource that we can count on to be there when we need them.” 

Cankerworms Expected to Make Return Visit to Richmond Area

As spring finally arrives in the Richmond region, fall cankerworms are expected to return this month with a vengeance, according to officials with the VDOF. During the past couple of years, cankerworm activity has spanned more than 2 million acres in eastern Virginia.

In areas where infestations are heavy, people can even hear them eating the leaves off their trees (the sound is actually due to the worms’ frass [bug poop] falling from the trees).

“While cankerworms aren’t harmful to people, they can be a great nuisance or cause distress to those who have a particular aversion to insects,” said Dr. Chris Asaro, VDOF’s forest health specialist.  “The real problem is the defoliation they can cause. Typically, one year of heavy defoliation will not greatly harm an otherwise healthy tree, but with two or three straight years of heavy defoliation, tree death becomes much more common.”

Homeowners who wish to protect the trees on their property from fall cankerworms are urged to take action now.  The focus for protection should be high-value landscape trees, particularly oaks, which are a preferred food source for cankerworms. Contact a professional arborist to perform the spraying operation.

Dr. Asaro said, “In ecological terms, cankerworms and other defoliators can have a beneficial effect on the forest by providing a food source for birds and other wildlife.  In addition, all that frass falling to the ground restores nutrients to the soil, which trees can recover through their root systems.  Most trees will re-foliate quickly and fully recover from defoliation.  The general public should not be too concerned about environmental impacts from this pest.”

Progressive Tree Planting for Farms and Open-Land

Area landowners wanting to know more about promoting better land management and healthier forests are invited to a May 9th workshop called Progressive Tree Planting for Farms and Open-Land.

“Workshop participants will explore how tree planting can help with land management; how to find sources of assistance for planting, and learn about the possible economic results,” said Dr. Judy Okay of the VDOF. The workshop will also feature a field demonstration that will focus on proper tree planting techniques to ensure adequate survival of a landowner’s investment.

The workshop will be held from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 9th, 2014, at the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative Building, 13252 Cedar Run Church Road in Culpeper, Virginia.

A $10 per person ($18 for two) registration fee includes dinner.  Deadline to register for the workshop is May 5th, 2014.  Log-on to http://forestupdate.frec.vt.edu/landownerprograms/registration/index.html to register.

For more information, please contact Adam Downing at 540.948.6883 or Lara Nichols at 434.220.9185.

56 Virginia Communities Earn Tree City USA Status

Ceremonies celebrating Arbor Day will take place in towns, cities and military installations across Virginia. 56 of these communities will receive an award from the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) recognizing that they have earned the status of Tree City USA.  The awards are presented by the Virginia Department of Forestry in conjunction with the National Association of State Foresters.

“Trees are a necessity not just a nicety,” said Barbara White, urban and community forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). “They’re vital to our quality of life and the environment. They help clean the air we breathe and the water we drink. And, when properly placed beside a home, trees can even help us conserve energy.”

Utility companies and universities can become certified under their respective programs, Tree Line USA and Tree Campus USA. Two utility companies and two universities received recertification awards this year.

To learn how your community can become a Tree City USA, visit the Arbor Day Foundation at http://www.arborday.org/index.cfm. To see a complete list of the recertified communities, visit our website. The 2014 designees are listed at http://dof.virginia.gov/press/releases/2014/04-10-tree-city-awards.htm.

Urban and Community Forestry Grants Available

Local units of government, approved non-profit organizations, educational institutions and citizen groups interested in creating and supporting long-term and sustained urban and community forestry projects and programs at the local level can apply for grants from the VDOF, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service.

The “Urban and Community Forestry Grant Assistance Program” awards funding to develop sustainable urban forestry programs at the local level; protect and improve air and water quality; conserve energy; reduce the impacts of land-use change and urbanization through management of urban forest ecosystem; improve community health and well-being; improve understanding of the benefits of conserving and growing tree cover; provide educational programs and technical assistance to state and local agencies; enhance the technical skills of individuals involved in the planning, development and maintenance of urban and community forestry programs, and promote volunteerism and involvement of non-profit organizations in implementing urban forestry programs.

The grant application deadline is May 22, 2014. To learn more about the Urban and Community Forestry Grant Assistance Program grant program, visit the VDOF website at http://dof.virginia.gov/financing/grants.htm

DOF Personnel News

Greg Estoll is the new Senior Area Forester (SAF) in the Headwaters Work Area, Western Region. He was previously a forester in that work area. He joined VDOF in 2006.

John Hisghman is the new SAF in the Dan River Work Area, Central Region. He was previously a forest technician in the Shenandoah Work Area. John has been with VDOF for 25 years.

Lauren Whitlow is our new Database Analyst. Lauren has her master’s in information technology, and was previously an intern in our Information Systems Division at Headquarters.

L. E. Rhodes, forest technician in the Jefferson Work Area, Central Region, is retiring after 25 years of service.