Presentation To The Joint Subcommittee
Studying Satellite Chip Mills (HJ 730)

July 13, 1999, Critz, VA

Introduction

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee. As the Deputy State Forester for the Virginia Department of Forestry, an agency within the Cabinet Secretary of Commerce and Trade, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you regarding the "State of the Forest in Virginia" and the Department's role in sustaining Virginia's forest resources.

Mission Statement - We Protect and Develop Healthy, Sustainable Forest Resources for Virginians.

Our focus is concentrated on forest resources - ALL of them.

Forests provide:

  • renewable raw materials to meet our daily needs, watershed and stream.
  • protection, wildlife habitat, improved air quality, recreational opportunities, an appealing tourist attraction and an enhanced quality of life - Virginia's forests are truly our Common WEALTH.
  • The challenge of sustainable forest management in Virginia is to integrate and provide both economic and environmental benefits from our forests for the current generation without impairing the ability of future generations to derive similar benefits.

Studies

We have completed several studies within the DOF and are in the process of conducting additional assessments of the "State of the Forest in Virginia" - both present and future.

  1. VA Landowner Survey - published in 1992. The survey looked at who VA's landowners were, who they would be in the future and what their values and attitudes were regarding management of their forest land. (Results of the Virginia study were confirmed by a nationwide study, which was completed in 1994).
  2. Forest Resource Assessment Project - a proactive approach to looking at VA 's forests - changes and challenges - on a continual basis. Phase I - looked at population, its distribution and impact on VA's forest land (we know we are losing over 20,000 acres of forest land/year to other land uses). We are very concerned about both the economic and environmental impacts of forest fragmentation ( Fire protection in these interface areas, watershed protection, conflicting values, etc).
  3. Phase II (Economic Study completed with the assistance of VT). We are in the process of completing Phase III of the Resource Assessment Project: provides a detailed assessment of the current state of forest resources at a local level with a pilot project.
    • in Louisa County. We are working closely with the local planning department, Board of Supervisors and local industry to determine what types of resource information are needed for decision makers to make more informed land use decisions, (developing a detailed mapping and spatial analysis of forest fragmentation, surveying land ownership patterns and values and trying to determine the quantity of forest land that is necessary for Louisa to sustain its rural character while providing economic and ecological benefits locally).
  4. Forestry Inventory Analysis - began in 1997: The last forest inventory was completed in 1991 by USFS crews (a process that has occurred for the past 60 years but we wanted more current data and the inventories were only being completed every 10 years). Working in cooperation with the USFS, we established state crews and are conducting an annual system of forest inventory to determine the status of growth and removals; acres of forest land, the quality and quantity of timber, and overall conditions. We have doubled the number of state crews to shorten the time to complete the inventory and have measured 32% of the plots. We should have an accurate picture in 12-18 months.

An Overview Of The Ownership of Virginia's Forest Resources

61% of the land in Virginia Is Forested - We have approximately 15.4 million acres of commercial forest land. Non-industrial private forest landowners own 77% of this forest.

More than 300,000 citizen landowners (10% forest products industry, 13% federal, state and local gov't). (65% of the total acreage of commercial forest land is in hardwood forest, 24% is softwood and I 1% is a mixed forest).

Private landowners are very important to the Commonwealth. For every $1 received by landowners for their timber, approximately $49 of economic activity (value-added) is generated. A financial incentive is necessary to help landowners keep their land in forests. Without the reasonable expectation of an economic return, many landowners would have limited incentive to create the forest as we know it today.

The forest products industry was the first industry in the nation, beginning at Jamestown when logs were shipped to England. The forest products industry contributes 9.8 billion to VA's economy each year. An additional 1.5 billion each year is contributed by forestry related businesses such as hunting, fishing, recreation, tourism, etc. Timber has been consistently ranked first, as the most valuable cash crop in Virginia. As a group, the forest products industry is #1 in manufacturing jobs - over 228,000 employees, #2 in salaries and wages and 9-4 in total value-added through manufacturing.

The State of The Forest In Virginia

We are moving forward with our forest inventory and expect the first interim report in the year 2000. Data from previous inventories, provided good documentation on the changes that have occurred to VA's forest resources for 52 years. These 1991 data indicate that the growing stock volume more than doubled from 1940 to 1992.

I have included several tables and graphs in your packet for future reference.

The growth and removal rates from 1940 to 1992 are also in your handouts. Growth has exceeded removal in every inventory. The only exception was in 1966 when softwood drain exceeded growth. Active reforestation efforts and the establishment of the Reforestation of Timberlands Act - a cost-share program funded by a severance tax from industry- corrected this imbalance by 1977. In the 1992 inventory, growth exceeded removal by 25% for softwood and 53% for hardwood.

Receipts from the severance tax assessed by the Reforestation of Timberlands Act, can be used to estimate annual wood product removals from VA's forests. These receipts indicate that by species, growth is higher than removal and this also includes post survey estimates (after the last survey 1992-1998). This tax information also reflects an 18% increase in harvesting since our last inventory. We will have a more accurate picture of current growth and removal once the interim report of the inventory is completed.

The six surveys offer very detailed data that can be provided for more intense review. We would be happy to cover these inventories in greater detail, if the chairman desires.

VDOF Accomplishes Our Mission

according to federal and state mandates - the Code of Virginia through professional foresters and forestry technicians that work daily with the private landowners offering technical assistance and on the ground services to help these owners make more informed management decisions.

  • our employees live in their local communities - near the customers they serve
  • in addition we have specialists such as a Forest Hydrologist and other staff foresters that provide assistance statewide
  • we also accomplish our mission by working with and through others: we have an extensive network of cooperators, strong partnerships with the private sector (such as consulting foresters) and the non-profit sector as well as other public agencies, and an active volunteer program
  • our forest resource recommendations are based on the best science available, technology transfer is provided by universities and other public agencies

Our Role In Protecting And Developing Virginia's Forestry Sources

  • Protect private forest land from fire, insects and disease and degradation
  • Provide technical assistance to private landowners - prepare forest stewardship plans, coordinate reforestation projects, etc.
  • Grow tree seedlings for reforestation and conservation purposes and maintain a well-established genetic tree improvement program that has been in existence for over 40 yrs.
  • Administer cost-share assistance (state and federal) programs

Work with local government and land trusts on conserving the forest land base and comprehensive land use planning.

  • Serve as the lead agency for implementation of Governor Gilmore's Riparian Buffer Plan Manage a Water Resources Program:
    • The program was established in 1988, as a non-regulatory approach that focused on increasing awareness and providing on the ground assistance and education and training to loggers, the forest products industry and landowners.
  • DOF inspects all harvesting operations that we are aware of, to ensure compliance with the Silvicultural Water Quality Law - with a goal of keeping sediment out of the stream.
  • The Program is coordinated by a Water Resources Team - which includes a Water Resources Manager and Compliance Engineers that provide regional coverage but have statewide responsibilities for water quality protection.
  • We have continued research efforts on stream geometry and makeup and improving methods for determining water quality and monitoring changes.

Conclusion

DOF's vision for VA's forest resources is to maintain the long term health of the forest. We are involved with assessing forest health conditions. However, Forest Health is difficult to define. It is an abstract concept that has no definition that applies universally. Forest health usually refers to the biological and environmental functions of forests relative to human wants and needs.

Perspectives vary but ideas of diversity and sustainability are common to most definitions.

The DOF was the second state forestry agency in the nation to begin a state forest health monitoring program. Permanently established plots are visited annually - sampling tree leaves and growing conditions, documenting changes in vegetation on the forest floor and taking soil samples to detect any subtle changes in forest conditions. We also map insect and disease outbreaks and natural disasters and provide monitoring through our local personnel.

In maintaining a healthy forest for Virginia:

The DOF wants to ensure an appropriate balance of growth and removals.

  • We want to increase the number of landowners receiving advise from a professional forester on how to manage their forest land to meet their objectives.
  • We want to maintain adequate incentives for landowners to retain their land in forest (e.g. Tax policies, private property rights, cost-share assistance, etc.).
  • We want to provide unbiased resource information to ensure more informed land use decisions are made throughout the Commonwealth.
  • And we want to integrate economic and environmental goals for the forests so that the benefits we enjoy today can be sustained to meet the needs of future generations.

In a state such as ours - with a growing population - ensuring the sustainability of VA's forest resources, will require a focused, collaborative effort to conserve the forest land base and reduce the fragmentation of our forests.