Restoring Canopy at Camp Kum-Ba-Yah

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) helped Camp Kum-Ba-Yah give some much-needed care to their campground’s forest. The wooded property in Lynchburg, Virginia is owned and operated by the Lynchburg Covenant Fellowship. Camp Kum-Ba-Yah was founded in 1950 by Reverend Bev Cosby. Along with the camp, the property houses the Church of the Covenant, The Lodge of the Fishermen, Common Grounds Café, and Chrysalis Interfaith Retreat Center.

Ash trees on the campground had been impacted by an invasive pest, the emerald ash borer (EAB). The sick trees needed to be removed to restore the health of the camp’s forest canopy. However, the trees will soon be replaced by native tree plantings. Camp Kum-Ba-Yah received funding assistance from VDOF to remove and replace the infested ash trees through the EAB cost-share program.

On January 30, VDOF area forester Bill Perry and crew members from several local tree companies visited the campgrounds. The crews cut down eight ash trees that had been infested with EAB. 

VDOF area forester Bill Perry fells an ash tree at Camp Kum-Ba-Yah in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Though they’re sad to see their forest of ash diminished, the camp’s operations manager Amy Bonnette said they’re “making lemons into lemonade”; removed ash trees have been milled for use in future projects around the campgrounds.

Milled wood from trees removed from the Camp property.

Camp Kum-Ba-Yah has some historical significance in the Lynchburg area, dating back to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1961, when city pools were closed to the public rather than desegregated, the camp’s founder opened their integrated pools to Black families in the area. 

The Lodge of the Fisherman on the campgrounds .

The following year, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his way to speak at E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, he ate at The Lodge of the Fisherman on the campgrounds – one of only two non-segregated dining options in the city. Reverend King would go on to give his well-known “American Dream” speech at E.C. Glass. Listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “American Dream” speech, or read the transcript.

The restaurant in the lodge, now called Common Grounds Café, is still in operation and stands as a small piece of American history. Read more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to The Lodge of the Fisherman.

A Christmas Present for Stony Creek

The walking track in Sussex County’s Stony Creek Park is a well-used community resource. Citizens use it for exercise, and for years, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has used it for firefighter pack tests.

Walking the open track in the summer heat gave Zach Dowling, Senior Area Forester for VDOF’s Waverly work area, an idea. Last summer, Zach mentioned to town council member Mike Moody that shade trees would be a great addition to the park. In addition, planting trees in the park would be the first step in establishing a riparian buffer along Stony Creek, which flows into the Nottoway River.

The town didn’t have the money for trees, but VDOF’s Urban & Community Forestry (U&CF) program offered Water Quality Impact Assessment (WQIA) funds to support the planting project. Zach presented the idea at a town council meeting in August, and the members unanimously approved it.

Lara Johnson, VDOF Urban & Community Forestry Program Manager, came up with a plan for spacing trees through the park surrounding the track. Species were chosen for site suitability, shade potential, and seasonal color. They included willow oak, baldcypress, downy serviceberry, Eastern redbud, sweetbay magnolia, river birch, eastern hophornbeam, and black gum. The grant not only paid for the trees, mulch, stakes, and cages, but also allowed for a contractor to pre-dig the planting holes.

VDOF planters at work

On December 2, a team of local VDOF staff planted 25 balled and burlapped trees purchased from a Richmond nursery. The planting crew consisted of Zach Dowling, Travis Tindell and Austin Babb (Area Foresters), Jim Blackwell and Jay Bassett (Forest Technicians), Lara Johnson, Molly O’Liddy (U&CF Partnership Coordinator), Brian Lacy (Pine Resource Specialist), Jim Schroering (Southern Pine Beetle/Longleaf Pine Coordinator), and Bryant Bays (Eastern Regional Forester).

A cage helps protect a newly planted tree from deer and mowers.

The group planted, mulched, staked, and caged all 25 trees in three hours, creating an early Christmas gift for residents of Stony Creek to appreciate for years to come. Future VDOF pack testers will also breathe a little easier in their shade!

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

Abigail the Green Ash in Alexandria

On July 22, VDOF’s urban & community forestry (U&CF) manager Lara Johnson traveled to Alexandria, Virginia to visit a well-known green ash tree. This ash, located in a courtyard between two apartment buildings, is likely hundreds of years old and is one of largest ash trees in the nation.

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Abigail’s trunks (right and left) each had a circumference of 12’ 9” and 11’ 6” respectively. The tree’s base measured 21’.

Abigail (so named by property managers Mike and Olivia) is the current Virginia State Champion and was once the National Big Tree Champion in the ash category (dethroned only because of qualification adjustments for multi-stemmed trees).

During this visit, Lara was able to remeasure the tree with the assistance of Andrew Benjamin, an arborist with the City of Alexandria. Abigail’s trunks (right and left, as in the photo) each had a circumference of 12’ 9” and 11’ 6” respectively. The tree’s base measured 21’. Lara will report these measurements, along with the tree’s height (78’ 6”) and crown spread, to the Big Tree program.

Protecting Ash
But remeasuring Abigail was not the primary reason for the visit. Lara was there to support the tree’s on-going treatment against emerald ash borer (EAB) – an invasive pest threatening ash trees across the state and beyond. Insecticidal treatment can protect individual trees from the damage and eventual death caused by EAB.

The City of Alexandria had been providing treatment for the tree, but in recent years VDOF was able to offer financial support toward trunk injection treatment of this tree through a grant program developed to protect ash. Using this funding, Lara and Fairfax County staff first treated the Champion tree in 2018. But such funding is limited, and the chemicals and labor required to perform treatment can be costly for landowners, particularly for large trees like this ash.

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Abigail the green ash tree & the 2018 EAB treatment team.

Fortunately, plant health company Arborjet offered to take over treatment of this historic ash tree. Through their “Saving America’s Iconic Trees” program, Arborjet donates treatment against pests and disease for high-profile, iconic trees, like this ash, across the country. Community leaders and homeowners can nominate iconic trees for potential inclusion in the program. These treatments with an Arborjet technician serve as educational opportunities and are open for other professionals to observe.

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A panoramic view of Abigail. To the right in the photo is local arborist Mike Cochran, on-site to observe the application of the injection system and chemical for potential use in his own operation.

Arborjet’s Eastern Technical Manager and International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist Trent Dicks was on-site to perform the treatment with Lara’s support. Treatment began early in the morning to increase effectiveness. Both Lara and Trent agreed that the high temperatures that Virginia has recently experienced could make treatment challenging because it relies on transpiration – the tree drawing up water (and the chemicals) through the roots into the phloem.

Trent first measured the tree to determine how much chemical was needed for treatment. Then, a series of 34 holes were drilled into the tree’s base as close to the root flare as possible. This presented a challenge, as the tree is below grade and surrounded by a small retaining wall and has very thick “alligator bark” which can be difficult to penetrate.

A plug was placed in each hole, into which a needle would be inserted and pressurized tubes pump insecticide into the tree. The plugs remain in place and a healthy tree readily heals over them.

The duo finished the work quickly as temperatures rose. After less than two hours, treatment and measurements were complete and the small crowd that had formed to observe had dispersed.


Historic Trees
While almost any ash tree in the landscape has potential to be a good candidate, it is the large, historic and rare ash specimens that are often prioritized for on-going treatment because costs can be high.

Did you know?: Green ash trees are a riparian species, and this historic tree is indicative of the relic wetland landscape that once covered northern Virginia.

Abigail is a beloved tree on a “charming, historic property” says property manager Olivia. In the 1940s, the buildings were essentially built around the tree, which serves as a centerpiece in the courtyard and provides shade for residents enjoying time on the patio. “It’s remarkable that this tree survived construction of the buildings. Normally that activity would damage a tree’s root system, but this tree was obviously well-established and the roots were able to recover,” says Lara.

Olivia and Mike explained that they frequently have to clean out the gutters because Abigail’s canopy extends over the roof, and although a bit “high maintenance”, the ash tree is well worth the effort.

Abigail receives other care (such as pruning) from arborists during the year, and although there were historically some signs of EAB impacts (i.e. dead wood), the tree has healed nicely since the 2018 treatment. Thanks to treatment and continued care from certified arborists, there’s hope this tree will stand tall in the neighborhood for many years to come!

NASF Centennial Challenge

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The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) is excited to participate in the Centennial Challenge put forth by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) in 2020. Below is the campaign announcement from NASF:

“The National Association of State Foresters is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020 with a Centennial Challenge campaign, honoring both the work of the association in providing a unified voice for state and private forestry in the United States since 1920, as well as the tremendous social, environmental, and economic contributions state forestry agencies have made nationwide for over a century’s time.

NASF will be spotlighting state forestry agencies and their work to complete 100-themed challenges regularly throughout the year-long campaign. Keep an eye out for your state’s Centennial Challenge celebration on social media with the hashtags #CentennialChallenge and #NASF100​ or by following the handle @stateforesters on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Come January 2020, you’ll start to see the nation’s 59 state and territorial forestry agencies’ challenges appearing on a Centennial Challenge interactive map online. In the meantime, for more information about state foresters and their work to conserve, protect, and enhance America’s forests, visit www.stateforesters.org.​”

For the challenge, VDOF has committed to treating 100 ash trees to protect them against emerald ash borer (EAB) — an invasive wood-boring beetle that’s pushing most native species of ash (Fraxinus) trees in Virginia to the brink of extinction. Learn more about EAB in these Storymaps.

VDOF’s EAB coordinator Meredith Bean says, “Treating ash trees to protect them from EAB is not always easy, particularly because they tend to grow naturally in wet environments. Our preferred method of chemical treatment is trunk injection of a systemic insecticide product with emamectin benzoate as the active ingredient. Direct injections into the trunk avoids effects on non-target species, unlike bark spray or soil drench treatments with neonicotinoid products. We will continue to treat high-value ash on an individual-tree basis and support landowners and organizations treating on private property through our cost-share program, with the goal to sustain the environmental, economic, and social benefits these trees provide.”

In 2020, we’ll share updates (on social media and here on the blog) about our progress toward our goal of treating 100 ash trees, and we’ll highlight several ash tree stories from across the state. Be sure to follow @stateforesters and @ForestryVA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and check out #CentennialChallenge and #NASF100​ throughout the year to see how other agencies are responding to the challenge!

 

Restoring Urban Canopy at the James W. Garner Building

On the morning of November 4, a crew of volunteers from Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards (CATS) and a University of Virginia chapter of Alpha Phi Omega (APO) worked with several Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) staff members to plant 16 trees on the VDOF campus front lawn.

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The driveway and the lawn are the first places that visitors see when arriving to the VDOF James W. Garner building in Charlottesville; these native trees welcome visitors to our building, so their care and maintenance are especially important.

Earlier this season, several unhealthy trees were removed from the front lawn; CATS helped source appropriate trees to restore the urban canopy on this part of the campus. Trees planted included one bitternut hickory (which was especially difficult to source), three sweetbay magnolia, two cucumber magnolia, two Kentucky coffeetree, two catalpa, two osage-orange and three redbuds.

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CATS has helped with tree plantings and care on the VDOF campus for many years, including assistance with two major plantings on campus during the past five years. One of the future goals for CATS is to help the VDOF campus gain a Level I arboretum designation, which will entail an inventory of the species on the VDOF property, labeling 25 woody plant species and developing a master plan to reach the minimum requirements for arboretum designation. VDOF staff will develop the plan, label the trees and provide the CATS crew with the necessary tools and information to conduct an inventory in the coming year.

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Some of the trees planted on campus (including some planted along the VDOF campus nature trail) already have QR codes that visitors can scan to get more information about the species.

Lara Johnson is appreciative of all the dedication and support from CATs –  from their assistance with tree planting, pruning and general care to their management of the new small-scale tree nursery at the VDOF headquarters. At this location, CATS grows seedlings sourced from the VDOF nurseries and later sells them at seasonal native plant sales.

VDOF staff look forward to watching the newly planted trees grow big and strong in the coming years. It is with the support of volunteer naturalist groups like CATS that VDOF can perform these special projects.

CATS offers trainings for new members each fall. They also host tree- and forest-related events throughout the year. Learn more about getting involved with CATS:

www. charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org/

 

Field Notes: Nepal: A Pioneer Country in Community Forestry Management

by Area Forester Manij Upadhyay

About a year ago, I transitioned from working in the Department of Forests in Nepal as a forest officer to the Virginia Department of Forestry. Here, I want to share some information about the community forest management system of Nepal, which is the most common practice.

Nepal is a beautiful landlocked country with a total population of 28.98 million people.  The country covers a total of 56,827 sq. miles of land, which is approximately 40.4 percent forested.

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Figure 1: Nepal Map

The country is divided into three major geographic regions: the High Himalayas, the Middle Hills and the Lowland Terai. The elevation ranges from 230 feet above sea level to 29,028 feet.  Two-thirds of the population live in the rural areas of Nepal and depend on agriculture and forestry for their daily livelihood. In these rural communities, firewood is the major source of energy to cook food. Also, rural people have to cut, collect and carry their firewood and livestock’s fodder and bedding materials from nearby forests.

How Community Forests Emerged

After the democratic revolution in 1951, the newly formed parliament of Nepal passed the Private Forest Nationalization Act. The objective of this act was to protect forests from being converted by private landowners into agricultural crops.

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Figure 2: Typical mid hill community from a higher elevation viewpoint @Manij Upadhyay

But, this act brought a negative concept to local forest-dependent communities. Forest owners of larger properties were motivated to cut down their timber and convert it to cultivated land, rather than retain their forests that would be absorbed as National Forest.  Because of this, deforestation and forest degradation were at a high rate, and the government policies intended to protect the forests were not successful.

During the 1970s, the government realized the support of local people was crucial to protect forests in the country.  The Department of Forests in Nepal formed the first Community Forest. Community Forestry is a participatory forest management system, in which government forest resources are controlled, protected and managed by a User Group where forests are an integral part of their farming systems.

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Figure 3: User group members going out to plant trees @ Manij Upadhyay

In Community Forestry, the User Groups are allowed to sell the forest products and to fund a budget for the benefit of the forest and local community. Because of this progressive act, now more than 1.45 million households (about 35 percent of the population of Nepal) are involved in Community Forestry User Groups (CFUGs).  About 20 thousand CFUGs in Nepal cover around 7,000 sq. miles of National Forest (DoF, Nepal Data 2018).

 

Positive Aspect

In three decades of history, Community Forestry has been able to conserve the forestland and biodiversity. Now local users do not have to spend long hours collecting forest products for their household use. Community Forestry practices benefit the social, natural and economic aspects of the rural community in many ways.

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Figure 4: user group collecting litter from the forest for livestock use (piles in the background.  That is me squatting in the front row!

Community forestry helps to increase the supply of forest products and fulfill the daily need of the local farmers. Socially, there is a provision for gender and social inclusion in each Community Forestry User Committee; women, low-income citizens, and other disadvantaged groups must be represented on the committee. Community Forestry also promotes income generation and community development activities for local livelihood improvement.

Limitations 

As mentioned earlier, Community Forestry was designed to meet the subsistence needs of the local community and to protect the local forest simultaneously. Although, it has been able to fulfill its primary objective, there are many issues at the local and national levels that have shown up in the last three decades that need to be addressed.

At the community level, the elected committee members and rural elites of the community direct most of the decision-making and may benefit most from the forests and their funds. Many of the Community Forests are still protection oriented and only a few of them are able to sell forest products to neighboring communities to generate funds from outside of the local area to increase their community fund.  Therefore, Government and Non- Governmental Organizations are still investing a large amount of the money to run Community Forestry successfully.

At the national level, Community Forestry is still not successful in contributing to the gross domestic product of the nation. CFUGs do not have to pay forestland property taxes or internal forest product sales taxes to the government.  It is not doing enough in job creation, timber production and forest based industries development.  A national newspaper mentions that, “a large number of trees die and decay in the forest, while over eighty percent of the country’s timber is imported from other countries” (The Himalayan Times, 2016).  This is obviously not good for a country that is 40 percent forestland.

In 2018, Nepal is endorsing its new constitution based on one federal, seven state and 753 local governmental systems. How will Nepal address Community Forestry regulation in this new governmental landscape? In Nepal’s new political system, local and state government must decide how to capture the benefits of forest products.  The state government believes that they own the state forest and they should collect all taxes and revenue produced by the CFUGs.  Officials at the Federal level of government also feel that they should get some percentage of revenue from these Community Forests.

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Figure 5: Community Forestry User Committee meeting with Federal Forestry staff (I am third from the left flanked by my co-workers)

In a nutshell, timely management of these issues is very important to the continuous success of the world’s most successful community based forest management program. I think government, local forestry users and related stakeholders should have a roundtable discussion for a solid output, which will maintain local forest users’ rights and provide economic benefits at the local and national levels in Nepal.