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August 1, 2014

VDOF firefighters combat wildfires in central Oregon

As wildfire activity increases in the Western United States, firefighters from the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) assisted with suppression efforts in Oregon.  25 VDOF full- and part-time employees worked as either part of a wildfire hand crew or as incident managers.

Large, complex wildfires require more personnel than most states possess to successfully protect the lives and property of Americans through suppression efforts.  Mutual aid is a vital component in the realm of firefighting.  During the last nine years, Virginia wildland firefighters have helped with suppression efforts across the country, including Florida, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Montana, Washington and California. In 2012, firefighters from 23 states were in Virginia battling seven large wildfires that occurred during Easter week.

New maps honor agency centennial

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) collaborated with the VDOF and the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) to develop the 2014-2016 map's theme and content. The new map features the centennial of the state's forestry agency, established for the primary purpose of reforestation and the prevention of forest fires.

VDOF has evolved over the last century to encompass additional preservation and conservation responsibilities that include Virginia's state lands and nurseries, waters and landowner incentive programs. “We're honored to welcome people to Virginia's State Forests and showcase 100 years of protecting these living resources during our centennial anniversary,” said State Forester of Virginia Bettina Ring.

This year, 2 million maps were printed and are available at Virginia's state welcome centers and by request at safety rest areas.

Forest trek goes high tech

Visitors to the Conway Robinson State Forest can add a “high tech” dimension to their outdoor experience. Informational signs on the forest have been updated to include QR codes. These postage stamp-sized barcodes, composed of black-and-white square dots, can guide visitors to information about forest management activities, including promoting wildlife, combating invasive plants and deer control. This project is designed to grant visitors an inside look at management on both the state forest and the adjacent National Park Service’s (NPS) Manassas National Battlefield Park.

“Although the forest and the battlefield may appear to be untouched outdoor spaces, they’re actually carefully planned and maintained by natural resource professionals,” said Blake Jordan, area forester for the VDOF. “Not only are these wonderful sites for recreation, but they can teach the public about caring for our natural world.” The QR codes allow access to more detailed and descriptive information beyond what can be included on the signs. Visitors simply use their smartphone’s QR reader application to scan the codes to access to the content.

For those who want to learn about the trail from home, the Manassas LEAF (Link to Education About Forests) website (http://manaleaf.weebly.com) also provides an in-depth explanation of each topic, along with information about the LEAF partnership.

The Manassas LEAF partnership is a joint effort of the NPS’ Manassas National Battlefield Park, the VDOF’s Conway Robinson State Forest, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Northern District Natural Resources Program.

Urban tree workshop

The 19th annual Waynesboro Plant Health Care for Urban Trees Workshop will take place September 12th.  The all-day workshop, called “Trees Don’t Grow on Money Either,” will be held at the Best Western Inn and Conference Center in Waynesboro from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Participants will choose one of two tracks offered during the day-long event: 1. ArborMaster training for practicing arborists who want to add to or sharpen their skills, or 2. Trees Don’t Grow on Money Either for people who are interested in caring for urban and suburban trees.

Topics for the Trees Don’t Grow on Money Either workshop include: The Truth About Containers, Baskets, Burlap and Twine, Oh My!; Root Growth & Management in Urban Landscapes; Articulture: A Look at Formal Pruning Systems, and New York City’s Million Trees Initiative.

General registration is $85 per person.  Municipal and nonprofit registration is $75 per person.  Registration for students, tree stewards, master gardeners or master naturalists is $55 per person.  All registrations include lunch.  Visit www.treesvirginia.org to register. 

Forest Landowners Retreat to the Woods 

Eastern Virginia landowners can learn more about actively managing their forestlands during the 2nd annual Forest Landowners’ Retreat, to be held September 5-7 at Airfield Conference Center in Wakefield.  Topics will include forest stewardship planning, pine silviculture, timber sales, wildlife management, land conservation options and more.  A tour of local forests will showcase management in action.

The cost for the retreat, which covers meals, lodging and materials, is $65 per person or $130 per couple lodging dorm-style, or $170 per couple lodging hotel-style. A commuter option with no lodging is available for $45 per person or $85 per couple. 

Sponsoring partners for the retreat are Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program.

To register online or download a brochure, visit www.forestupdate.frec.vt.edu. The deadline to register is August 15. 

InFOREST

The online calculator for ecosystem services known as InFOREST received a major facelift. In addition to an updated user interface, new calculators for services have been added. InFOREST is available for free to anyone with a computer and Internet access who is interested in learning about the effects of changing land use on a particular tract of forest or farm land in Virginia.

Taking information entered into the program by an individual, InFOREST uses a complex set of models to provide an estimate of ecosystem services associated with a proposed change of land use.   Planners, landowners and citizens will be able to better determine how to mitigate any negative impacts that would result if the land use were changed.

To learn more about InFOREST or to use the program, go to http://inforest.frec.vt.edu/

Businesses join effort to thin forests

A new fundraising project on New Mexico’s Cibola National Forest to thin overgrown forests, restore streams and rehabilitate areas that flood after wildfires is an effort to prevent damage to the area’s water supply. Wildfires result in ash and freed sediments that end up in the water.

Heavy rain following a fire in 2011 turned the Rio Grande black with sediment, forcing the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe to stop water withdrawals. The Rio Grande Water Fund hopes to finance a 20-year plan to restore 1.7 million acres of overgrown forests around the Rio Grande River and its tributaries that are at high risk for wildfires.

The thinning project will take place in a section of the forest near Sandia Park. The fundraiser was initiated by The Nature Conservancy along with PNM, Avalon Trust, Wells Fargo and Dekker/Perich/Sabatini.

DOF personnel news

Chris Wiedamann, forester in the Clinch Work Area, Western Region, left VDOF to be a forester  with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.