Virginia Forest Facts

The value of Virginia's forests is many things to many people. To some, the value lies in the beauty of the forests. Landowners and the forest products industry consider the utilization of the resource as the most valuable asset. Whatever the "value," we must recognize that Virginia's forests provide a renewable natural resource that extends from harvesting timber to natural beauty. Whether it's a walk in the urban forest or a hunter in a rural woodland, all Virginians can enjoy this resource as it continues to provide a necessary framework for our daily lives. The importance of forests in cleansing the air, purifying our water, providing products, and fostering recreation opportunities must be embraced as we advance into the 21st century. Our Virginia standard of living depends on the abundance and stability of the forest resource. Virginia's forests are our "common wealth," providing both environmental and economic benefits as follows:

  • Virginia has 15.72 million acres of forestland.
    This is a decline of 130,584 acres since 2001. In 1940, Virginia's forest land base was only 14.8 million acres.
  • Sixty-two percent of Virginia is forested.
    In 1940, only 58% of Virginia was forested.
  • Urbanization and development is the single biggest factor in loss of forestland acreage. Since 2001, 484,965 acres of forested land has been lost to land use changes; 64% of this acreage were cleared for urban development; 30% to agricultural uses; and the balance to other land uses.

    Partially offsetting this loss were reversions & afforestation efforts that returned 354,381 non-forest acres to the forest land base.
  • Hardwood forests make up 79% of all Virginia timberland; softwood forests make up 21%.
    In 1940, 43% of Virginia forestland was classified as pine type and 57% was in hardwood. At that time, Virginia had 8.1 million acres in hardwood types; currently, Virginia has 12.5 million acres of hardwood.
    In 1940, Virginia had 6.2 million acres in softwood types; currently, Virginia has 3.2 million acres in softwood.
  • Private individuals own more than 66% of Virginia's timberland.
Land Ownership Timberland Acreage (2007)
Private individuals 66%
Corporate (non-forestry)
(e.g. Dominion (landowners who do not own a primary wood processing facility), and TIMOs.)
13%
Forest industry
(e.g. MeadWestvaco)
4%
Public (Federal, State and Local) 17%
  • Net annual growth of hardwood timber volume is 2.8 % per year and annual removals average about 2.2% of total volume. VA's total hardwood volume has increased by 94% since 1940.
  • Net annual growth of softwood timber volume is 5.4 % per year and annual removals average about 4.7% of total volume. VA's total softwood volume has increased by 20% since 1940.
  • Virginia's forests are growing more timber than is being harvested. This is true in both hardwood and softwood forest types. The growth/removals ratio is 1.26 for hardwood and 1.16 for softwood in the 8th Survey of Virginia's forests.
  • Planted stands now make up about 15% of Virginia's timberland and 59% of all softwood acreage.

Sources

Draft 7th Survey Results for VA,USDA, FS, SRS-FIA
Virginia's Forests, 1992 USDA, FS Resource Bulletin SE-151
Virginia's Forests USDA-FS AFES release # 11, 1942