Take Action! May is Wildfire Awareness Month

May 1, 2021 is Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and the entire month of May is considered National Wildfire Awareness Month. The Virginia Department of Forestry is joining in to dedicate May to prevention and preparedness. 

Prevention and suppression of wildfires is a key part of the Virginia Department of Forestry’s (VDOF) mission; the agency achieves this through education, as well as responding to and suppressing wildfires. 

VDOF responders suppress more than 700 wildfires each year, protecting lives, forests and property. Fire can be an important component of healthy landscapes. But unplanned, unwanted wildfires especially in developed landscapes, fire can also be devastating, causing loss and harm to people and property. Managing fire in the landscape is critical to maintain healthy forestland and safe communities.

Smokey Bear says, “Repeat after me, ‘Only you … ” (1977). Special Collections, USDA National Agricultural Library.

Protecting the people and forests of Virginia is a concerted effort; VDOF works alongside many local paid and volunteer fire departments, state agencies such as the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, and national organizations like the National Interagency Fire Center and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Together, these partners work with and for the hundreds of thousands of citizens of the Commonwealth living in what is referred to as the Wildland Urban Interface or WUI – the zone where structures meet with woods or wildlands, which requires special consideration for wildfire protection and mitigation.

The responsibility to be aware and alert about the dangers of wildfire belongs to all of us every day – not just a few days in May. By May spring wildfire season is winding down in Virginia, so this is a good time us all to focus on wildfire prevention. There are steps all of us can take to both prevent wildfires from starting in the first place and to minimize the risk to our homes should a wildfire occur. 

Join our commitment to wildfire preparedness by agreeing to take on one project or task each week in May to help prevent a wildfire from starting or to help protect our homes and communities from the threat of wildfires.

Week One
Remember what Smokey Bear taught us: ONLY YOU can prevent wildfires.
Review Smokey’s rules.

Week Two
Debris burns are a common cause of wildfires in Virginia. Take time to learn about safe debris burning.
Safe Debris Burning
Brush Piles for Wildlife

Week Three
Take steps to protect your home and property from wildfire.
VDOF Home Wildfire Safety Checklist
Smokey Bear: How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfire

Week Four
Wildfire prevention goes beyond your backyard. Get your whole community involved in wildfire prevention.
Protect Your Home

Week Five
Share wildfire information with your friends and family! Start by sharing this short video about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day from NFPA.

Fourth Edition of the Virginia Tree Steward Manual Now Available

The Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Tech, and Trees Virginia are excited to announce the release of the newest edition of the Virginia Tree Steward Manual! The manual is available to view and download on the Trees Virginia website: https://treesvirginia.org/outreach/tree-stewards

This manual serves as the main resource for Tree Steward groups working across the state. It was last updated in 2009, and a lot of the materials were outdated. The group needed a new, updated resource for training volunteers to care for their community forests. Updates includes high-quality images and graphics, additional sections, and featured stories from Tree Stewards across the state.

Lara Johnson has been looking forward to an updated manual since she first took her position as VDOF’s urban & community forestry program manager two years ago. She is especially excited to share this new resource to support the volunteers who perform critical community forestry work throughout Virginia.

Funding for the revision was provided by Trees Virginia, Virginia Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program.

Photo: Arlington/Alexandra Tree Stewards

Bridges for Water Quality

By Chris Thomsen, VDOF Western Regional Forester

Loggers in the Lower Cowpasture River Watershed now have two sets of portable bridges available for their use, thanks to the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and funding provided by a U. S. Forest Service Joint Chiefs Grant. This federal grant funds the Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project and covers 117,500 acres of public and private lands in Alleghany, Bath, and Rockbridge Counties. The project area is located in the heart of the Ridge and Valley province of the Central Appalachians and the Upper James River drainage basin of the Chesapeake Bay.

Both bridge sets consist of three 4’ x 30’ panels and were purchased by VDOF from Long Island Lumber in Campbell County. The bridges will be stored at the WestRock Mill in Covington. They will be loaned out at no cost to loggers working in the targeted watershed area. Loggers wishing to use these bridges will need to obtain a pre-harvest plan recommending bridge use from VDOF and not have any unresolved water quality issues. Contact for obtaining a pre-harvest plan and / or bridge set is Senior Area Forester Patti Nylander at 434-962—8172 or Water Quality Specialist Andrew Vinson at 540-810-0153. VDOF will maintain a check-out list and communicate pick-up with WestRock in Covington.

Timber bridge in place on a harvest site

Use of these bridges by area loggers will help protect the waters of the Commonwealth from excessive sedimentation. It is hoped that loggers unfamiliar with portable bridge use will see the value in using them and consider purchasing a set for their operation. Cost share may be available to assist loggers with the purchase of portable bridges. Additional information is available at http://www.dof.virginia.gov or by contacting your local VDOF representative.

Fired Up about Camp

Did you know there’s a camp where teens get to fight fire? Not a scary western wildfire, but a well-behaved one that actually improves the environment?

Last summer, a group of teenagers at Camp Woods & Wildlife learned firsthand how to manage a prescribed fire. These intrepid campers donned fire-retardant gear and set about preparing for a small understory burn.

First, they raked a fire line down to bare soil to keep the fire contained. Then, under the watchful eyes of Virginia Department of Forestry personnel, they used a drip torch to light the forest duff. The June humidity kept the fire low, but campers were prepared with backpack tanks in case of any flare-ups.

CWW_2019-06-19-112

The campers learned that managed fire cuts down the amount of dry “fuel” on the forest floor, thus reducing the chances of an uncontrolled wildfire later. Many mature trees are tolerant of low-intensity prescribed fire, and they benefit from reduced competition when the fire kills smaller woody vegetation. Fire can even improve wildlife habitat by creating growing conditions for plants that provide food and cover.

Teens who want to experience real-world environmental practices like prescribed fire are invited to attend this year’s Camp Woods & Wildlife, scheduled for June 22-27, 2020 at Holiday Lake 4-H Center. The camp is open to any Virginia resident aged 13-16 with an interest in natural resources who has not attended before. Any non-related adult can nominate a camper.

Check out www.dof.virginia.gov/forestry/camp for more Information.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

National Invasive Species Awareness Week kicked off this week.  A series of events and webinars offered throughout the week aim to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species issues at local, state, tribal, regional, international and national scales.

Invasive species are plants, insects, pathogens or other animals intentionally or accidentally introduced into a region where they did not evolve. Their introduction causes, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health.

A fair number of invasive species are found in Virginia, many of which negatively affect the health of our forests. These pests often do not have natural controls in place to regulate their population, so eradication or containment can be challenging and very expensive. Invasive insects like the emerald ash borer continue to cause tree mortality throughout the state, and invasive plants often out-compete native flora and reduce diversity.

The Virginia Department of Forestry’s Forest Health Program detects, monitors and evaluates invasive species on state and private land. Knowing which species are present in an area and understanding their potential impact will enable landowners to make decisions regarding treatment and management. There are simple things we can all do to reduce the risk of future invasive species introductions.

Here are seven ways you can help:

  1. Learn about invasive species, especially those found in your region. Virginia Department of Forestry staff can help.
  2. Clean hiking boots, waders, boats and trailers, off-road vehicles and other gear to stop invasive species from hitching a ride to a new location. Learn more.
  3. Avoid dumping aquariums or live bait into waterways. Learn more.
  4. Don’t move firewood – instead, buy it where you’ll burn it, or gather on site when permitted. Learn more.
  5. Plant only non-invasive plants in your garden, and remove any known invaders.
  6. Use forage, hay, mulch and soil that are certified as “weed free.”
  7. Volunteer to help remove invasive species from public lands and natural areas.

Forestland Transfer Workshops Help Sustain Virginia’s Woodlands

Virginia’s forestland is a valuable asset to society, providing clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities and renewable wood resources for all Virginians.  Because almost two-thirds of Virginia’s woods are owned by private individuals, the decisions they make for their land can have far reaching impacts on the sustainability of Virginia’s forests.

One of the biggest challenges that Virginia’s landowners face is how to pass the family forest on to the next generation.  Landowners often want to preserve their family lands but don’t know how to get started, what their options are, or how to engage the future owners in ownership and management activities.  If these issues concern you, an upcoming workshop may be able to answer some of your questions.

“Focusing on Forest Land Transfer to Generation ‘NEXT’” is being offered at six locations throughout Virginia in July and August. Two 2-day workshops in Abingdon and Lynchburg and four half-day mini-workshops in Alberta, Halifax, Farmville and Surry are planned.  The workshops focus on intergenerational land transfer and will educate landowners on their options for keeping land intact, in forest and in the family. Speakers include legal and financial experts in estate planning, natural resource professionals and experienced landowners.  Attendees will learn about the estate planning process, effective planning tools and family communication strategies, and will be provided resources to help minimize tax burdens and ensure continued management of their land.

The upcoming programs are co-sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Department of Forestry.  Registration information and contact information for the programs can be found at: https://ext.vt.edu/natural-resources/legacy-planning/training.html

—- Calendar Listings —-

Two-Day Family Forestland Shortcourse:  Focusing on Land Transfer to Generation “NEXT.” July 19th from 12:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. and July 20th from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Abingdon, VA (SW Virginia Higher Education Center)

Registration:  $50.00/individual or for 2 people from the same family; $25 for each additional family member. Contact: Jennifer Gagnon; 540-231-6391 or jgagnon@vt.edu

Two-Day Family Forestland Shortcourse:  Focusing on Land Transfer to Generation “NEXT.” July 27th from 5:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. and July 28th from 8:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M.

Lynchburg, VA (Liberty University Mountain Conference Center)

Registration:  $70.00/individual or for 2 people from the same family; $35 for each additional family member. Contact: Jason Fisher; 434-476-2147 x3389 or jasonf@vt.edu

Half-Day Family Forestland Mini-workshop:  Generation NEXT – Focusing on Families and their Woods, July 24th from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.  Alberta, VA (Southside VA Community College)

Registration:  $10.00/individual; $5 for each additional family member. Contact: Jennifer Gagnon; 540-231-6391 or jgagnon@vt.edu

Half- Day Family Forestland Mini-workshop:  Generation NEXT – Focusing on Families and their Woods, August 2nd from 2:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.  Halifax, VA (Wedgwood Golf Course)

Registration:  $10.00/individual; $5 for each additional family member. Contact: Jennifer Gagnon; 540-231-6391 or jgagnon@vt.edu

Half- Day Family Forestland Mini-workshop:  Generation NEXT – Focusing on Families and their Woods, August 9th from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.  Farmville, VA (Prince Edward Co. Extension Office)

Registration:  $10.00/individual; $5 for each additional family member. Contact: Jennifer Gagnon; 540-231-6391 or jgagnon@vt.edu

Half-Day Family Forestland Mini-workshop:  Generation NEXT – Focusing on Families and their Woods, August 21st from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. Surry, VA (Surry Co. Extension Office)

Registration:  $10.00/individual; $5 for each additional family member. Contact: Jennifer Gagnon; 540-231-6391 or jgagnon@vt.edu

 

Virginia Department of Forestry Warns of Increased Fire Danger

In response to weather forecasts for Thursday, April 12, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) urges people to help prevent wildfires by postponing open-air fires until conditions improve. The combination of strong winds, increased temperatures and low humidity will create extremely dangerous fire weather conditions Thursday.

Fire Weather Watches have already been posted by the National Weather Service (NWS) covering northern and western Virginia for Thursday afternoon. Temperatures are expected to rise to the mid to upper 70s during the afternoon hours. A low pressure system bringing gusty winds of 30 to 40 mph with higher gusts, relative humidity values of 20 to 30 percent and low fuel moistures will combine to create an environment conducive to the rapid spread of wildfires. Any fires that develop could quickly burn out of control.

“Firefighter and citizen safety is our most important consideration and we base all recommendations and actions with that in mind,” says John Miller, VDOF director of fire and emergency response. “The VDOF has elevated its ability to respond as needed and reached out to other cooperators to make sure all wildfire emergency responders are aware of the increased dangers and will plan accordingly.”

Forestry officials urge everyone to delay all outdoor burning scheduled for Thursday, as wildfire dangers remain critical. This recommendation will be reevaluated for Friday and Saturday based on conditions forecasted for that period.

“We urge all citizens to postpone any burning until conditions improve,” stresses Fred Turck, VDOF wildfire prevention program manager. “Virginia’s 4 p.m. law is still in effect, making it illegal to have an open-air fire before 4 p.m. within 300 feet of the woods or dry grass leading to the woods.”

Virginia Fall Foliage Report: UPDATE (Weekend of Nov. 11)

Each week during the fall foliage season VDOF shares information about leaf color around the state. Tree color is influenced by precipitation and temperature, so there could be big differences in color and peaks from one region to another and from year to year. Below is our report for the weekend of Nov. 11 More information is available here.

Although winter is fast approaching the higher mountains, most areas below 3000 feet are still sporting a subdued autumn color palette, interspersed with the evergreen of pines.  If you want to see the best fall foliage in Virginia this week, plan a trip to the Piedmont or Coastal Plain.  Across central and eastern Virginia, all the shades of yellow predominate.  Oaks, which have been slow to change this year, still vary from mostly green to fully colored in deep red or rust.  Maples, sumacs, and dogwoods are eye-catching in red, and hickories in clear gold.  An eastern species to notice now is the sweetgum, with each tree wearing a patchwork coat of yellow, red, orange, purple and green star-shaped leaves.

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You Can Help Ensure Virginia has More Hardwoods!

The Virginia Department of Forestry needs your help to continue producing quality seedlings for Virginia landowners. Virginia-grown seed generally produces trees that will grow well in our state. Every year, homeowners from all over the state donate acorns and other seed to help us produce the next season’s crop. Seed collection is a great activity for children and adults. It’s also a wonderful way to learn more about Virginia trees. Every year, homeowners spend countless hours raking up acorns and wonder what to do with them. We have the answer… donate your acorns to the Virginia Department of Forestry! VDOF needs seeds and acorns from the following trees:

  • Black Oak
  • Black Walnut
  • Chinese Chestnut
  • Chestnut Oak
  • Live Oak
  • Northern Red Oak
  • Pin Oak
  • Sawtooth Oak
  • Southern Red Oak
  • Swamp Chestnut Oak
  • Swamp White Oak
  • White Oak
  • Willow Oak

It is easy to pick up a lot of these seeds during the months of September and October in many yards and parking lots.  When collecting the seeds, please follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Make sure the tree is correctly identified.
  2. Try to keep as much trash out as possible (sticks, leaves, gravel, etc.).
  3. It doesn’t matter if acorns still have the caps on them or not.
  4. Place the seed in a breathable sack or bag (No plastic bags please!).
  5. One type of seed should not be mixed with another (For example: white oak acorns should be in one bag and red oak acorns should be in another).
  6. Make sure the bag of seed is labeled and dated correctly.
  7. Once the seed is collected, place in a cool area (Seed will spoil if it is over heated).
  8. Bring the seed into the the nearest VDOF office no later than October 16.

Find out more and get info to help ID acorns. If you need help identifying a tree, have questions about the process or need directions please contact Joshua at 540-363-7000.