Forestry News electronic newsletter masthead

May 20, 2014

Arson Suspected As Cause Of Wildfire in Bedford County; Up To $2,000 Reward Offered

Forest wardens from the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and investigators from the Bedford County Sheriff’s office suspect one or more arsonists ignited a fire that occurred on Taylor Mountain off Murray Hollow Road in Thaxton on April 10, 2014.

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 Bedford County Sheriff’s Office at 540.586.7827.  Or, call the Virginia Department of Forestry office at 540.586.3109 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.

VDOF Awards Nearly $200,000 to Local Fire Departments

Through its Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program, the VDOF awarded more than $199,000 in grants to 140 volunteer fire departments (VFDs) across the Commonwealth. The grants – ranging in size from $315 to $2,435 – will be used by the VFDs for such purchases as personal protective equipment, communications gear, water tanks for brush trucks, wildland fire specialty tools and training materials.

Volunteer fire departments provide VDOF with receipts for their equipment purchases. Under the terms of the grant, VDOF reimburses the volunteer fire departments up to the amount approved for their eligible purchases.

A total of 171 fire departments applied for grants this year, and 140 were approved. The requests for support totaled more than $1.1 million – far more than the $199,942.89 VDOF had available. Since the VFA program began in 1975, the VDOF has awarded more than $3.4 million to volunteer fire departments throughout the Commonwealth. Funding for the grant program is provided by the U.S Forest Service.

A list of VFDs and the amounts of their grants (alphabetically by county) is on our website.

VDOF Seedling Unlocks The Largest Genetic Code Ever Sequenced

Using a VDOF tree seedling, a team of scientists from across the nation has decoded the genome of a loblolly pine tree.  With 22 Billion base pairs, this is the largest genome ever sequenced (in comparison, the human genome has 3 Billion base pairs).

Led by Dr. David Neale, professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, the scientific team – using the tissue from a single VDOF pine seedling – broke down the tree’s DNA into smaller, more manageable data pieces and analyzed them with a super-computer.  The team then re-assembled the pieces, figured out which genes were present, where they are on the genome, and what they do.  This new approach, developed at the University of Maryland, enabled researchers to perform such a large and complex genome sequencing.

“It’s a huge genome,” said Dr. Neale.  “But the challenge isn’t just collecting all the sequence data.  The problem is assembling that sequence into order.  The contribution of loblolly pine tree selection 20-1010 from the Virginia Department of Forestry was critically important not only for the genome sequencing, but more so for all those who follow and will now have completely open access to data and germplasm resources.  Researchers worldwide should be very grateful to the Virginia Department of Forestry.”

The Loblolly pine, grown in the orchard at VDOF’s New Kent Forestry Center, was selected for sequencing because of its broad distribution, economic value and long history of genetic research.

The results of this research will help scientists breed improved varieties of Loblolly pines, some of which will be more resistant to pathogens, such as fusiform rust – the most damaging disease of southern pines.

Thousand Cankers Disease Survey Guidelines Released by USDA Forest Service

Thousand Cankers Disease Survey Guidelines for 2014 have been released by United States Department of Agriculture: Forest Service (FS) and Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ). These guidelines offer standardized techniques for USDA-FS- and PPQ-supported surveys to detect thousand cankers disease (TCD) on symptomatic walnut or butternut trees.

TCD results from the combined activity of a fungus, Geosmithia morbida, and the walnut twig beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis.

Black walnuts are a significant economic, social and environmental resource with little to no resistance to the TCD pathogen and its vector. TCD has caused dieback and mortality across various climatic zones and among several walnut species; butternut also appears to be susceptible to TCD. The distribution of this insect/disease association across the country is unknown. 

The survey guidelines can be found online at

To learn more about TCD in Virginia, visit

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Lyme disease is a serious infectious disease transmitted to people and pets through a tick bite. The risk of contracting tick-borne infections rises as ticks become more active in warmer weather.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 1,110 cases of Lyme disease in all regions of Virginia in 2012, up 9% from 2011. Lyme disease is frequently unreported or misdiagnosed. Learn about Lyme disease symptoms, proper tick removal, and prevention methods online at

New App For Wood Energy

The U.S. Forest Service released a Wood Energy Financial App for use by community and business leaders seeking to replace fossil fuel with wood energy.

The app allows users to do a simple and quick analysis to see if wood energy is a viable alternative for their community or small business. The App, which can be accessed from the Web or an eBook, is available at

U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities releases 2013 annual report

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities’ 2013 successes are featured in its annual report and include: planting the first American chestnut genetically modified to be disease and blight resistant; embarking on the next frontier for the forest industry and green products - nanotechnology; seeking new ways to help minority landowners enhance stewardship of their forests; hosting the second Canada/U.S. Forest Health Summit to enhance strategic collaboration for the citizens and forests of both countries, and; joining the Southern Loggers Cooperative to invest in diesel depots to improve timber harvester’s economic viability.

DOF Personnel News

Joe Cotner is our new forest technician in the Blue Ridge Work Area, Western Region. He received an Associate’s degree in Forest Technology from Dabney Lancaster Community College and a Bachelor’s degree in Forest Resource Management from West Virginia University.

Eric Roper is our new forester in the Blackwater Work Area, Eastern Region. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Forest Resource Management from the University of Montana and has worked in Wisconsin, Alaska, South Dakota and Alabama.

Tim Minich, forest technician in the Shenandoah Work Area, Central Region, left VDOF.