Virginia’s Forests and Forest Economy Continue to Grow

Virginia set a new record for the volume of timber harvested with slight increases in both hardwood and softwood volume compared to the previous year, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s (VDOF) analysis of the Virginia Forest Products Tax receipts from Fiscal Year 2017.

“The rate of forest harvest is still well below forest growth in Virginia each year,” explained State Forester Rob Farrell.

Farrell-Rob_2018-06-27-17 share1 cropped
State Forester Rob Farrell

Across Virginia in 2015, the ratio of annual forest growth compared to harvest volume was more than 2.2-to-1 for softwood species and 2.4-to-1 for hardwood species.  “This amounts to an annual surplus of 9.4 million tons of softwood and 15.5 million tons of hardwood statewide on commercial timberland,” said Farrell.29339701_10213914607132706_8088509070136311808_n

“Virginia forests provide an overall economic output of more than $21 billion annually, making forestry the third leading industry in the Commonwealth and employing more than 108,000 Virginians in forestry, forest products and related industries,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. Increasing harvest volume demonstrates growing demand for Virginia forest products locally and abroad.

B-Ringofficial portrait
Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry Bettina Ring

“Consumer demand for sustainably-sourced products is great and because forests in Virginia are managed sustainably with an eye to the future, our forest industry benefits from those market expectations,” said Ring.

Much of the increase in overall harvest volume is attributed to the addition of biomass (mixed species wood chips), which was first included in the forest products tax two years ago.  Over the last several years, forest residue harvests have increased significantly.

Along with the record harvest volume last year, there was also a record forest products tax collection of more than $2,578,000, much of which will go back to landowners through the Reforestation of Timberlands cost-share program. The Virginia Forest Products Tax was established in 1970 with support from the forest products industry to provide funding for forest protection and reforestation.

The estimated price paid to Virginia landowners for standing trees, also called stumpage value, increased to more than $339,225,000 last year due to increased demand for hardwood sawtimber.  Stumpage values for other classes of timber declined slightly last year.young forest

Brunswick County continued to display the highest harvest volume followed by Southampton, Halifax, Charlotte, Pittsylvania, Buckingham, Dinwiddie, Mecklenburg, Campbell and Nottoway counties in the top ten.

Brunswick County also had the largest stumpage harvest value followed by Charlotte, Southampton, Louisa, Buckingham, Pittsylvania, Halifax, Nottoway, Dinwiddie and Mecklenburg counties in the top ten.

 

The Virginia Department of Forestry protects and develops healthy, sustainable forest resources for Virginians.  Headquartered in Charlottesville, the Agency has forestry staff members assigned to every county to provide citizen service and public safety protection across the Commonwealth, which it’s been doing now for more than 100 years.  VDOF is an equal opportunity provider.

With nearly 16 million acres of forestland and more than 108,000 Virginians employed in forestry, forest products and related industries, Virginia forests provide an overall economic output of more than $21 billion annually.

VDOF Employee Earns 2018 National Smokey Bear Award

The 2018 National Smokey Bear Awards were recently announced and Fred Turck (wildfire prevention program manager), along with other prevention specialists from the Mid-Atlantic Forest Fire Compact, were awarded the highest honor, the Gold Smokey. This award program is sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

Since 1957 this prestigious award program has recognized organizations and individuals for outstanding service of at least two years with significant program impact in wildfire prevention at the national level (Gold), multi-stale level (Silver) and statewide level (Bronze). These awards remind us of the hard work done to reduce the threat of unwanted human-caused wildfires.

“Our Virginia Wildfire Prevention Program has been a National Leader for most of Smokey’s 75 years, and I am truly proud to be part of this organization and the overall Smokey program,” stated Fred. “To now be part owner of a Team Gold Smokey makes me even more humble to have been recognized at the Gold level for the second time.” Fred and another VDOF employee, Ed Roger, are only two of three folks who ever received all three awards — Bronze, Silver and Gold. Now Fred is the first individual to have received two Gold Smokey Awards. The Ad Council as an agency received the Gold Award twice but Fred is the first individual to have been so recognized.

VDOF in the Spotlight at Project Plant It! Event

by Suyapa Marquez, Senior Community Affairs Representative for Dominion Energy

VDOF representatives visited Oak Grove Elementary  (Richmond Public Schools) on April 24 to support an interactive Arbor Day event with the third-graders. The students were culminating their study of Project Plant It!, the free environmental education program created by Dominion Energy to teach kids about the importance of trees and how to plant trees.

Barbara White at Oak Grove

The rainy day didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the students as they gathered indoors to learn interesting facts about trees from Barbara White, VDOF’s urban forestry coordinator. She shared her expertise about how trees grow and how to take care of them properly.

At the conclusion of her remarks she presented Hunter Woods, a Dominion Energy forester, with a Tree Line USA banner from the Arbor Day Foundation. The Tree Line USA program recognizes companies that engage in best practices in public and private utility arboriculture, demonstrating how trees and utilities can co-exist for the benefit of communities and citizens. Woods accepted the award on behalf of Dominion Energy.

Barbara White & Hunter Woods

The students then sang a special song called “Things That Grow,” which was followed by planting six redbud trees on the school grounds. Cynthia Scheuermann, urban & community forestry specialist with the VDOF, assisted with the tree plantings.

DOF Reps at Oak Grove

“It was so much fun to watch the students connect with nature in a fun and meaningful way,” said Barbara White. “When they visit the school in years to come, they’ll always remember planting the redbuds to celebrate Arbor Day.”

VDOF Headquarters Named

Virginia Department of Forestry Dedicates Building to Former State Forester Jim Garner

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) dedicated and named its headquarters office the James W. Garner Building. Jim Garner served VDOF for more than four decades. He was appointed Virginia State Forester in 1984 and held that position for 21 years.

During Garner’s tenure with VDOF, the agency enjoyed significant success and under his leadership, Forestry grew from a state division to a state agency. “Jim’s vision, wisdom and guidance directly influenced VDOF’s current position as a leader within the forestry sector, and a vital partner among other natural resource agencies and organizations,” said State Forester Rob Farrell.

The James W. Garner Building houses not only the VDOF headquarters office, but also the agency’s Central Region offices, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia State Police. The building also hosts office space for the American Chestnut Foundation, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia ABC, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.  In addition, the Virginia Interagency Coordination Center, comprised of Federal agencies involved in fire response, has been reestablished there.

VDOF’s history is rooted in Charlottesville. The first office was on the University of Virginia campus. The land upon which today’s headquarters stands was originally a VDOF nursery. The site was cleared for construction in 1992 and the building was completed in the spring of 1994. The 32-acre campus also includes an educational nature trail and borders a section of the Rivanna Trail.

“Great thought and planning went into the creation of this building,” said Farrell, “and the benefits extend beyond those who work here. Many state agencies and organizations hold meetings and trainings in the building and the reopening of Aroma’s restaurant on the premises is a great draw for people throughout the Charlottesville area. It really is a wonderful place for partners to work together to care for and promote Virginia’s natural resources.”

GanerFamily
Garner and his family at the dedication ceremony

Garner, a native of Amherst County,  says he is honored and “a little embarrassed” by the dedication in his name. “It is a tremendous honor, but there are so many people who were instrumental in making this building a reality besides me,” he said. “Without the dedicated VDOF employees I worked with over the years and the support of my family, the story would be very different. I am grateful to all of them and very pleased with the good work VDOF continues to do across Virginia.”

Petersburg Third-Graders Boost Science Skills With Project Plant It!

by Suyapa Marquez, Senior Community Affairs Representative for Dominion Energy

Page Hutchinson, VDOF’s forest education specialist, gave a special forestry presentation to all third-graders in Petersburg public schools on March 19. Students from the area’s four elementary schools came in two shifts to Walnut Hill Elementary School for an educational field trip that will help boost their science skills when the SOL testing period begins.

The field trip is part of a collaboration between the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and Dominion Energy’s Project Plant It! program, which helps students learn about the important role of trees in the ecosystem

During her fun and interactive presentation, Page led the students in a brain-building exercise where they looked at photos of commonly used items and voted thumbs up or thumbs down on whether the item came from a tree or not. Also, she engaged them in a high-energy “Tree Factory” exercise where the students acted out the different parts of a tree to better understand how complex trees really are.

Petersburg students voting (1)

As part of their involvement with Project Plant It!, the students will get a redbud tree seedling to plant at home for Arbor Day. Page shared a number of resources with the teachers and they also can download free lesson plans and instructional tools about trees from projectplantit.com.

Forester with tree cookie (1)

Johna Vazquez, an educator with Petersburg City Public Schools, thanked Page for sharing her expertise with the students. “Through the thought-provoking sessions, I believe our students grew in their depth of knowledge about the influence that trees have on our environment,” she said.

Project Plant It! is a free environmental education program developed by Dominion Energy to educate students and plant trees. The program began in Spring 2007, making Spring 2018 the 12th observance of this award-winning program. From 2007-2018, Dominion Energy has distributed about 500,000 free tree seedlings to students enrolled in the program in areas served by Dominion Energy. To learn more, visit projectplantit.com.

VDOF Sends Help to TX and OK

A very long siege of wildfire activity, which shows no signs of coming to an end, is taking its toll on firefighting resources in Texas and Oklahoma. Hundreds of thousands of acres have burned, homes have been lost and there have been several injuries and fatalities over the last several weeks.

Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) Chief of Operations Ed Zimmer said, “Our friends in the Southwest are on their second month of ongoing, significant fire activity and need some help.” He and the VDOF Chief of Emergency Response John Miller agreed that Virginia could do just that.

John Miller said, “The recent rains could not have come at a better time as this will allow us to help our neighbors to the Southwest.”  The Virginia Department of Forestry realizes that their number-one responsibility is protecting Virginia citizens and resources; but agreements are also in place that allow for sharing state resources for incident management and wildfire control

Nine highly trained and qualified agency personnel were dispatched to Texas and Oklahoma Sunday.  Their expertise includes incident management, heavy equipment operation and direct wildland firefighting experience. Today the agency is sending an additional two brush trucks with four experienced personnel.  Finally, a fourteenth VDOF employee is assisting with a fire investigation in Oklahoma. Agency personnel are typically deployed for 14 days, and all of the related agency expenses will be reimbursed by the receiving state.

VDOF Responds to Hundreds of Wind-Related Fires

Spring wildfire season, which began February 15, is in full swing and the high winds that raged across Virginia since Thursday only made conditions more dangerous. Governor Northam declared a State of Emergency Friday afternoon as a result of extreme weather conditions which resulted in hundreds of wildfires throughout the Commonwealth.

Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) firefighters have responded to fires in the counties of Albemarle, Amherst, Amelia, Appomattox, Bedford, Botetourt, Buckingham, Campbell, Caroline, Charles City, Charlotte, Chesterfield, Clark, Culpeper, Cumberland, Essex, Fauquier, Floyd, Fluvanna, Frederick, Gloucester, Greene, Greensville, Halifax, Hanover, Henry, James City, King & Queen, King William, Louisa, Lunenburg, Madison, Mecklenburg, Nelson, New Kent, Nottoway, Orange, Rappahannock, Rockingham, Pittsylvania, Powhatan, Pulaski, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford,  Warren, Westmorland and Wythe.

Backfire
Wildfire in Henry County. Photo courtesy of Kevin Keith

 

Since Friday, the VDOF has responded to 127 fires covering approximately 690 acres across the state. The largest fire covered more than 302 acres. VDOF firefighters have protected at least 78 homes with an estimated total value of more than $12 million dollars.

“This high-risk season is made even more serious by the extreme weather conditions we’ve seen these past few days,” said John Miller, VDOF director of fire and emergency response. “It’s important for people to be more aware of this elevated fire risk and to take more precautions than they otherwise might.”

Most wildfires in Virginia are the result of debris burning. So it is extremely important for people to abide by the 4 p.m. burning law which went into effect Feb. 15. The law prohibits open burning between the hours of midnight and 4 p.m. each day.  Burning is permitted between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight, but officials at the VDOF urge people to avoid burning outdoors altogether while these extreme conditions persist

.

Tree on powerline
A tree on a power line in Henry Co. Photo courtesy of Kevin Keith

 

“Wildfires are very dangerous,” said Fred Turck, VDOF fire prevention manager. “Under such windy conditions, a wildfire can grow very quickly and be unpredictable.  Even a small wildfire can destroy natural resources, homes and other buildings, and wildfires put Virginians and their firefighters in danger.  If you are careful with anything that could start a wildfire, you are doing your part to prevent a wildfire.”

A Fire Weather Warning, issued by the National Weather Service, remains in effect for most of Central and Eastern Virginia today. If you spot a fire, please call 911.

(Photo at top taken in Powhatan County, courtesy of Taylor Goodman, Powhatan County firefighter)

Pretty is as Pretty Does: The Tale of an Emerald Insect Eating its Way Across Virginia

 

“They look so pretty!” That’s what I said the first time I saw an adult emerald ash borer (EAB). But I soon learned from our VDOF Forest Health team that this green insect’s destruction is anything but pretty.

EAB came to the United States from Asia, was first discovered in Northern Virginia in 2008 and is boring its way through ash trees from Michigan to Virginia. “Adult ash borers are metallic green beetles that can be seen flying around the tops of ash trees in late spring and early summer,” VDOF Forest Health Manager Lori Chamberlin said. “These beetles lay eggs on ash bark, and the larvae that hatch tunnel into the tree and feed under the bark. This disrupts the flow of water and nutrients within the tree – effectively choking it to death.”

No ash tree native to Virginia is resistant to EAB, according to Chamberlin. And, unless they are treated before or very early in the infestation, all ash trees that are infested will eventually die.

Hope for Landowners

But there is an arsenal to push these invasive insects back.  “We recommend either a stem injection or a soil drench,” said Chamberlin. “But the time to do this is now, because once an ash tree has lost more than 30 percent of its canopy, it’s too late to save the tree.”

Chamberlin recommends that landowners contact a certified arborist to discuss the treatment options, their costs and the timing of these treatments.

Chemical treatment is effective and most appropriate for high-value landscape trees. Unfortunately, treatment is not normally effective in a forest setting. According to forest survey data, ash makes up approximately two percent of Virginia’s forests. However, it can comprise a significant portion of individual forest stands, especially in riparian and mountainous areas. If you own forestland with a large component of commercially valuable ash, the VDOF recommends discussing your forest management options with a professional forester. Options may range from conducting a silvicultural harvest to doing nothing and leaving the dying/dead trees as wildlife habitat. Check out additional information about professional consulting foresters working in the Commonwealth.

Cutting Edge Push Back

I went out this summer with Lori Chamberlin, VDOF Forest Health Specialist Katlin Mooneyham and University of Virginia Forest Health Intern Kendra Counts  to try out an EAB management method in Cumberland State Forest (check out the video up top).  It was hot; there were mosquitoes and waist-deep poison ivy. But the work this team accomplished will go a long way towards learning how best to fight back against EAB.

As we waved off mosquitoes and navigated the underbrush, Chamberlin and Mooneyham explained that biological control is the most effective effort that we can use in controlling these beetles as they move through forested settings where other control options are not viable. The only other real shot we have at controlling EAB is use of insecticides, but in forests that is difficult because of the amount of ash present and the expense of treatment for that many trees.

“Biological control is a key tool in the integrated pest management toolbox for controlling invasive species,” said Mooneyham. “When we’re faced with a widespread attack, such as we are currently experiencing in Virginia with EAB, we need all the help we can get.”

I like to refer to this summer’s experience as “releasing the hounds,” but we actually released parasitoid wasps. Two releases occurred this summer, one in Whitney State Forest in Warrenton and one in Cumberland State Forest in Cumberland. At Whitney 600 Oobius agrilus (a species that attacks EAB eggs) and 855 Tetrastichus plannipennis (a species that attacks EAB larvae) were released. At Cumberland 400 Oobius agrilus and 403 Tetrastichus plannipennis were released. These wasps pose no threat to humans –– they don’t sting and in fact they are very tiny (really…check them out in the video!).  Tetrastichus plannipennis is only 3-4 mm in size and Oobius agrilus is similarly very small.

And don’t worry; they’re safe (unless you’re an EAB), legal and extensively tested. VDOF received approval to release thIMG_0813ese wasps from USDA APHIS since testing in quarantine showed that they were not a threat to other native insects or animals. This also means that since the wasps are so species-specific for their prey that their population rises and falls along with changes in EAB populations!

 

 

 

 

The VDOF Forest Health staff continues to monitor the establishment of these predators over the next few years at these two sites and hopefully more releases on other state lands will follow. Ultimately, the release of these parasitoids is one of the efforts VDOF is pursuing to protect ash throughout Virginia and gives hope that EAB’s march through our state can be slowed. F

Click here to learn more about EAB or these parasitoids.