Virginia's forests contribute $30.5 billion annually to the commonwealth's economy while enhancing the health and well-being of its citizens. The forest resource provides raw materials for numerous forest products. The estimated value at risk for the state's 13,458,000 acres of productive forest land is $2,044 per acre; the total risk is over $27 billion
The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) is responsible for managing the forest resource on 17 state forest properties located throughout Virginia. Approximately 48,495 acres of publicly owned forest land are under the State Forest system in tracts ranging from 148 acres in Fauquier County to 19,808 acres in Appomattox and Buckingham Counties. For each of these properties, Ten-Year Forest Management Plans allow scheduled operations such as timber harvests, preparing the site for tree planting, tree planting, timber stand improvement, and intermediate cuttings to occur at the proper time. Forest inventories are made to determine growing conditions in each timber stand and wood volumes are recorded. Mature forest stands are sold in sealed bid timber sales made to private vendors. After a timber harvest, sustainable growth is maintained through reforestation of harvested lands.
In addition to supporting vendors such as tree planting contractors, forest industry, loggers and recreational users, Virginia State Forests pay 25% of the gross annual revenue to the county in lieu of taxes on the land. Counties in which state forests are located have received $1,814,083 from Virginia's State Forest system over the past decade.
State Forests are also used for forest research purposes, which includes studying biodiversity, forest management techniques and forest tree genetics. Research, when applied, results in better management of the resource, thereby increasing its value to the commonwealth. American Chestnut Research is also conducted on the Lesesne State Forest. Colleges and universities utilize State Forests to gather all sorts of biological, geological and archeological data. Virginia Tech's College of Forestry utilizes the state forests for a curriculum course study each year. Environmental education occurs on state forests through field trips for elementary and secondary schools statewide.
The public has access to the forests for outdoor recreation. In cooperation with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, more than 95% of the state forest area is open to hunting and fishing during regular seasons. The land is actively managed for upland game species and also includes numerous managed lakes. Hiking, wildlife watching, boating, canoeing and sporting clay and archery opportunities are offered on all state forest properties.
The VDOF is mandated by Law, Titles 10.1 - 1121-10.1 - 1123 of the Code of Virginia, to administer the program in cooperation with the Division of Engineering and Buildings and the Bureau of Real Property Management. Two agencies, the Division of Parks and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, manage their own properties but often in cooperation with the VDOF. Special fund agencies and institutions such as colleges and universities retain income from timber sales but are eligible for funds to carry out forest resource management projects.
The VDOF prepared forest resource management plans on 17,000 acres of forest land owned by other state agencies. Income from timber sales made on general fund properties is placed into a mandated account that is used to provide funds for carrying out additional forest resource management work on these properties.
As part of the management of these public properties, the VDOF prepares management plans, plants trees, protects the forests from insects and forest tree diseases and provides protection from forest fires. The management plans may include forest management recommendations for timber harvest, thinning, planting or other practices to maintain a healthy forest consistent with the facilities objectives. Numerous properties have been managed for and are open to the public for recreation and educational uses.
In addition, the products produced by management activities provide raw materials and work for local wood-using industries. The implementation of recommended forest cultural practices are performed by private vendors, providing jobs for the local economy. All of the actual work is carried out by private contractors with VDOF coordinating various projects and checking for compliance.
State Lands include 450 acres of seed orchards which produce genetically improved seed for pine seedlings that are suited for Virginia's soils and climate. These orchards are managed to insure the production of 30 million loblolly pine seedlings and 4.5 million white pine seedlings annually.
The VDOF State Forest Management Program is required by provision of the Deeds, turning the land over to the commonwealth to maintain the land for forests as a source of lumber, research and public use. If the intended use is abandoned, the properties revert back to the Federal government or donor in most cases.
The VDOF State Land Management Program is mandated by Titles 10.1-1121-10.1-1123 of the Code. The VDOF is required to manage forested state lands so as to conserve and improve the resource and produce income for the Commonwealth.