Field Notes: VDOF Supports Dominion Energy’s Project Plant It!

by Sara Hunt, Project Plant It!

Page Hutchinson, the VDOF’s forest education specialist, shared her knowledge of trees with students who were enrolled in Dominion Energy’s Project Plant It! program. During the month of April, she visited Meriwether Lewis Elementary in Albemarle County and Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Louisa County.

Her interactive presentations helped the students understand more about the products that come from trees and also about the important role that trees play in the ecosystem. Students especially enjoyed voting thumbs up or thumbs down on whether an item came from a tree or not. Also, they loved the “Tree Factory” activity where they acted out all the different parts of a tree to learn how complex trees really are. As you can tell from the photos, Page generated a lot of energy and excitement about trees for these lucky students.

The media team for Albemarle County Public Schools created a cool video featuring Page:

Project Plant It! was developed in 2007 by Dominion Energy to educate children about the benefits of trees and to improve the environment by planting trees. Each participating student received a redbud tree seedling to plant for Arbor Day. Dominion Energy partners with the Virginia Department of Forestry to enhance learning through these fun forester presentations to selected schools. For more information, visit

Page Hutchinson at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.
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Page Hutchinson at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School

Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? May 15, 2019

Brush Piles and ‘Possums and Other Little Surprises

By Area Forester Lisa Deaton

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As I was walking through a clearcut to help a landowner consider reforestation options, I saw an opossum cross a nearby dirt road. I thought to myself, “Surely I can outrun a ‘possum and take some photos.”

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However, I had to hop over logging debris and briars, while the opossum followed its well-worn path through the vines and vegetation to a large pile of branches and tree tops. Opossums are nocturnal, so I kept a distance in case it was rabid.  Once the opossum was safe inside this pile of tree limbs, it stayed put.

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The opossum’s entrance hole to the brush pile is circled in the photo above.

As I walked around the pile, I discovered a number of entrance/exit holes. Another hole and path are marked in the photo below.

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Brush piles are, in fact, one of the wildlife habitat structures that our agency promotes.


Building a brush pile can be a good alternative to burning branches and other unwanted yard debris. Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects can use brush piles for shelter from predators and weather, resting, feeding, and for nesting or den sites.

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For example, in one week’s time, a mouse built the nest above in a fresh pile of firewood.


This little fawn was found in a brush pile by Joe Lehnen, forest utilization and marketing specialist.

Our agency’s brochure, Brush Piles for Wildlife, provides instructions for building a pile that is stable while also providing spaces for shelter and movement through the interior.