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June 11, 2014

Wildland Fire Academy

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) hosted its annual week-long Wildland Fire Academy at Longwood University in Farmville. Enrollment included 214 firefighters – most of whom are members of volunteer fire departments from across Virginia and four other Eastern states – who participated in the six firefighting courses taught by 22 certified instructors.

As the threat of wildland fire continues to grow in Virginia, preparing people to fight these fires is vital to preventing the loss of lives, homes and other property.

“The Wildland Fire Academy is the most comprehensive training program we offer each year,” said State Forester Bettina Ring. “The more techniques we can teach firefighters the better prepared they will be to safely attack and suppress wildland fires. And that will help reduce the loss of life and property.”

Courses at the Wildland Fire Academy include: basic and advanced firefighter training; firefighting tactics; fire weather and behavior; chain saw operations; safety; incident management, and various other topics. Many of the classes included outdoor exercises.

Funding for the Virginia Wildland Fire Academy is provided by the USFS.

Forest Owners Retreat to the Woods

Virginia landowners can learn more about actively managing their woodlands during the Forest Landowners’ Retreat.  This event will be held June 28-29 at Matthews State Forest near Galax.  Natural resource professionals will cover topics such as forest management options for hardwood and white pine, wildlife, non-timber forest products, timber sale planning and more.

“This program provides a good introduction to forest management concepts, especially for those who are new to forest ownership,” said Jennifer Gagnon of Virginia Tech’s Forest Landowner Education Program. “A tour showcasing sound forest management practices will be an important part of the program.”

The cost for the retreat, which covers meals and lodging in Galax, is $65 a person or $95 a couple. A commuter option (meals only) is available for $35 a person or $50 a couple.

To register online or to download a brochure, visit The deadline to register is June 13.  For more information, contact Jennifer Gagnon at 540-231-6391 or

Fungus may help stop invasive spread of tree-of-heaven

A naturally occurring fungus might help curb the spread of Ailanthus, an invasive tree species that is threatening forests in most of the United States.

Researchers at Penn State University tested the fungus, Verticillium nonalfalfae, by injecting it into plots of Ailanthus, commonly called “tree-of-heaven.” The treatment completely eradicated the tree-of-heaven plants in those forest plots.

The researchers noticed a number of Ambrosia beetles near the infected stands, leading them to theorize that the fungus, often carried through the forests by beetles, was involved in the tree deaths. The effect of the fungus on other plants will be the subject of further research.

Leave the Gypsy Moth Behind

Doing some serious traveling this summer? Planning to move? Don’t let the gypsy moth be a stowaway on your journey.

The gypsy moth can spread from an infested area to an uninfested area when egg masses, attached to vehicles or outdoor items, are transported and introduced. Each egg mass contains up to 1,000 eggs.

Help prevent gypsy moth infestations by following a few simple steps. When camping or traveling in infected areas, inspect your vehicle, trailer or camper. Examine outdoor household items — lawn furniture, grills, outdoor toys, camping equipment, etc. — for gypsy moth egg masses, and remove any that are found. Egg masses can be easily removed with a stiff brush, putty knife or similar hand tool. The unwanted hitchhikers can be disposed of in a plastic bag (seal it and leave it in the sun) or in a bucket of hot, soapy water.

The gypsy moth is known to feed on more than 300 trees and shrubs. Left unchecked, an infestation of gypsy moth can defoliate up to 13 million acres of trees in one season.

Additional information and a checklist—including areas under quarantine—can be found at

Fighting Insects, Diseases That Weaken Forests

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced May 20 that 94 national forest areas in 35 states are receiving an official designation to address insect and disease threats that weaken forests and increase the risk of forest fire. The George Washington (GW) and Jefferson National Forest (JNF) were included in the designation.

The new Farm Bill amends the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 to allow the Forest Service to plan projects for insect and disease treatments within designated areas, in an effort to increase the pace and scale of restoration across the National Forest System.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has requested consideration to address the hemlock wooly adelgid infestation in Virginia. The GW-JNF encompasses approximately 1.7 million acres in the Commonwealth of Virginia within 29 counties.

Wood Sponges Could Soak Up Oil Spills

Swiss wood researchers Empa have developed a chemically modified nanocellulose sponge that could be used to mop up oil spills. Empa reports the new material is light enough so that as it absorbs the oil spill, it remains floating on the surface and can then be recovered.

Nanofibrillated Cellulose (NFC), the basic material for the sponges, can be manufactured in an environmentally-friendly manner from recycled paper, wood or agricultural by-products.

In laboratory tests, the sponges absorbed up to 50 times their own weight of mineral oil or engine oil. They retained their shape and could be removed with pincers from the water. Additional research is needed to refine the sponges so that they can be used in large-scale disasters.

DOF Personnel News

GIS Program Manager Jason Braunstein was recently profiled in the online version of Runner’s World magazine.

Wanda Colvin, accounting manager in the Fiscal Division at Headquarters, left VDOF for a career in the private sector.