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October 16, 2014

Shrub and vine book now available

Common Native Shrubs and Woody Vines is the latest identification guide from the Virginia Department of Forestry.Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) opened their online store Oct. 14. In addition to offering tree seedlings, the store is offering a new identification guide. “Common Native Shrubs and Woody Vines” is a companion guidebook to “Common Native Trees of Virginia.”

This book features descriptions, line drawings and identification keys to 66 of the most common native Virginia shrubs and woody vines. It also contains hints for effective plant identification, as well as places to study plants, invasive species threats, additional resources and other helpful information.

To learn more about these books or to place an order, visit

Fall wildfire season underway

Sure, summer has officially ended, but more importantly, fall wildfire season is here!  And officials with the VDOF want to keep you and your family safe from the ravages of wildfire.

“While Virginia’s most active wildfire season is typically in spring, fall can be just as busy,” said John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection.  “We didn’t have a lot of rain this summer, and the dead leaves are starting to drop from the trees.  This ‘leaf litter’ is an abundant source of fuel for wildfires, which can spread rapidly during dry and windy days.”

With more than 62 percent of Virginia’s land base (15.8 million acres) being forested, there are almost 360,000 homes and more than 1 million Virginians living in areas defined as woodland communities.  “That’s a lot of lives and property at risk due to wildfire,” Miller said.

State Forester Bettina Ring said, “Preventing a wildfire from ever starting is critical to the safety and security of our citizens.  And, since most wildfires (96 percent) in Virginia are caused by human activity, if people are careful and pay attention to weather conditions, they can keep themselves and their property safe by not letting a wildfire start.”

Precautions include: clearing the burn spot and surrounding area down to mineral soil; keeping the burn pile small; having tools like a shovel or a rake on hand; ensuring a charged water hose or other water source is at the ready; having a working cell phone with you so that you can call 911 as soon as the fire escapes your control, and remaining with the fire until it’s completely out. You must also check the weather conditions in your area before you start to burn.  If it’s been several days since it’s rained, humidity levels are low and the winds are higher than 10 miles per hour, wait until conditions improve; otherwise, it’s quite likely your fire will become a wildfire.

Fall wildfire season runs from Oct. 15 through Nov. 30 each year.

Ledford receives conservation award

Brian Ledford received the Friend of Conservation Award from the Evergreen Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). As the forestry representative for the SWCD and other organizations, Ledford meets with the agencies’ clients, makes recommendations and also writes forestry stewardship plans. He is typically the first contact for Smyth County forestry clients and he handles their concerns in a friendly, professional and prompt manner. Brian was chosen for his dedication to promoting conservation through his position as area forester with the VDOF.

Forest research network reveals effects of climate change

Climate change is affecting forests more rapidly than expected by chance alone, and shifts in species composition have been associated with environmental change. The Smithsonian-led Center for Tropical Forest Science-Forest Global Earth Observatory, CTFS-ForestGEO, released a report revealing how forests are changing worldwide. Learn more about it at

NASA to map Earth's forests in 3D

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is developing a laser-based probe for the International Space Station that will study Earth's forests in 3D. The data captured will show how much carbon is being stored in the forest biomass and help fill in the missing information about the role the forests play in the carbon cycle. See the full story at

About pine nuts

Pine nuts are a tasty ingredient for pesto and other dishes. You can learn more about them, courtesy National Public Radio’s (NPR) blog, The Salt.

DOF personnel news

Amanda Martens is our new Director of Human Resources. She was previously employed at the Virginia Department of Health as the division director of HR Policy, Systems Improvement and Classification.