Virginia’s Capitol Tree Lighting, 2019

On the evening of December 5, State Forester Rob Farrell and Raina DeFonza (public information specialist) attended the Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony in Richmond, Virginia with Helen Braunworth, Cindy Crickenberger and Wayne Crickenberger – donors of the Capitol tree. (Read for more details about the selection and harvest of this year’s Capitol tree.)

The weather was clear and cool for the evening event, and students from the orchestra at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School provided the musical backdrop. The roughly 20-foot Colorado blue spruce stood tall between pillars in the portico at the Capitol Square and had been trimmed with multi-colored lights.

 

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Student orchestra from Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School provided music for the ceremony.
First Lady Pamela Northam gave the opening remarks, followed by Secretary Bettina Ring and Governor Ralph Northam, who both acknowledged the Braunworth/Crickenberger family for the donated tree.
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Left to right: Wayne Crickenberger, Helen Braunworth, Secretary Bettina Ring, Cindy Crickenberger, and State Forester Rob Farrell, standing in front of the Executive Mansion tree.
The tree lights turned on smoothly to the applause of attendees, and much of the crowd headed to the adjacent Executive Mansion to greet the Governor, observe the interior holiday decor and hear the student orchestra continue to play.

First Mountain State Forest Dedication

On the afternoon of October 7, a crowd of more than 70 people gathered in Rockingham County for the dedication of Virginia’s newest state forest, First Mountain. First Mountain is the 25th state forest in Virginia and contributes more than 570 beautiful acres of forestland, open fields, and stream frontage to the state lands system.

Gary Heiser, State Forests Manager, selected an idyllic location on the property as a ceremony site. Near the heart of the property, the ceremony took place amid the fields of pine tree saplings, looking out to expansive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Photo 1_FM Ceremony Site

Speakers during the ceremony were state forester Rob Farrell, secretary of agriculture and forestry Bettina Ring, delegate Tony Wilt, and Governor Ralph Northam. Todd Dofflemyer, grandson of Alfred and Virginia Dofflemyer, spoke as a representative of the family from whom the property was purchased.

Attendees included family members, property neighbors, Department of Forestry personnel, and state representatives. Following the series of speakers, photo ops, and interviews, attendees enjoyed refreshments and delicious green-tinted cupcakes.


First Mountain History

Originally part of Boone’s Run Farm, the property had been in the Dofflemyer family for multiple generations spanning more than 100 years. Alfred and Virginia Dofflemyer of Albemarle County were the most recent owners of the property and managed the property as a working tree farm until 2007.

During the ceremony, Todd Dofflemyer recalled memories of his grandparents and time spent on “the farm,” as the family simply called it. Todd shared a funny story about his grandfather Alfred’s attempt to begin specifically farming Christmas trees, only to have his efforts thwarted by his brother who mistakenly mowed down all of the newly planted trees in a bid to be helpful around the farm.

Vintage Tree Farm Sign at FM

Todd became emotional during the ceremony and indicated how pleased his grandparents would be to know that the land would be conserved and well-used in perpetuity.

After the ceremony, Alfred and Virginia’s daughter Martha Dofflemyer Baugh Clarke and niece Naomi Meadows discussed the family legacy of the land; in their memory, stewardship of the land extended as far back as their Uncle Dewey, who owned the land for decades before Alfred purchased the property from his brother. It’s possible the land was in the family even longer.

Martha said that the transfer of the property to the Department of Forestry’s care was important to her because it fulfills her father’s dream for the property. Naomi reminisced about summers on the farm as a child, when the family cut hay and she was allowed to ride her cousins’ horses around the property. She, too, is pleased that Boone’s Run is now First Mountain State Forest, because, “there is just too much cement asphalt in this world … and this is too beautiful to have that happen to it.”

 First Mountain as a State Forest

First Mountain lies on the southeast slopes of First Mountain (for which it was named) in the southern portion of the Massanutten range, and encompasses 573 acres of hardwood and pine stands, as well as open fields and more than 21,700 feet of stream frontage.

The property is also adjacent to 583 contiguous acres of the George Washington National Forest, meaning that the conservation of this land contributes to the overall conservation of large-scale, contiguous forest habitat in Virginia.

As a state forest, First Mountain will be protected from future development and will be open to multiple uses for Virginia residents and visitors. The property will continue on, in part, as a tree farm, but will also be open to hiking and mountain biking, and will be selectively opened to timber harvest and hunting in the future.

State Forests in Virginia

In addition to dedicating the newest state forest, the event served as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the state forest system in Virginia.

Secretary Ring mused on the importance that forestland has played in her life, from childhood memories with her father through her career as a forester. Secretary Ring was pleased that the dedication of First Mountain State Forest was serving as our opportunity to celebrate the anniversary, because First Mountain has “a great name and a great story.”  “There’s no better way to celebrate the 100th anniversary than the dedication of a new one.”

During his remarks, Governor Northam called on the well-known children’s book, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, to serve as an example for mindful stewardship of our forestland. Following the ceremony, Governor Northam further explained how the State Forest system contributes to his vision for conservation in Virginia.

In addition to protecting forestland, state forests like First Mountain play an important role in improving water quality from the mountains to the Chesapeake Bay. State Forester Rob Farrell previously said of First Mountain, “Water is what makes this place special. With more than 21,000 feet of stream frontage and 43,422 feet of vegetated buffers, First Mountain plays an important role in improving water quality, recreation and tourism opportunities and ultimately the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

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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.

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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.

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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.