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 or by contacting your local VDOF representative.

Forestry for Water Quality

The results are in, and the 2019 annual Silviculture Best Management Practices (BMP) Implementation Monitoring Report shows that the logging industry and timberland owners continue to excel at protecting Virginia’s water resources. Forests are essential to clean, healthy drinking water and watersheds, and sustainably-managed forests are the most effective land cover for protecting water quality.  Continue reading Forestry for Water Quality

Field Notes: It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s A Drone!

by VDOF Forest Health Specialist Katlin Mooneyham

The Virginia Department of Forestry is taking forest management to new heights! The agency has recently purchased three drones and certified three drone pilots (with three more taking the test soon!) thanks to a U.S.D.A. Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration grant. The use of drones in forestry is a newer field and VDOF is investigating exactly how we can use these tools in forest management. So far, we have successfully used drones for the following purposes: water quality and logging inspections, forest health and fire.

Water Quality and Logging Inspections

For each timber harvest in Virginia, inspections are conducted to ensure water quality buffers are in place and stream crossings are up to code. Using the drone helps in this as it allows foresters to quickly see if things look good or helps to identify potential problem areas. In the picture below, the drone allowed our water quality specialist to see that the buffer meets the required criteria and that the bridge over the stream is correctly placed.

Logging inspection using drone imagery

Forest Health

The main way that drones have been used by the forest health program so far is to assess stand-wide issues from above. This “periscoping” technique is utilized when we suspect a problem within a stand and we want to see the full extent of affected tree crowns. We have gone to look at a stand where there was concern for a bark beetle outbreak and also mapped a study area at one of Virginia’s state forests where goats grazed to remove invasive species.

Forest Health Program Manager Lori Chamberlin all set for takeoff!


Prescribed burns are a key forest management tool and require constant supervision to ensure the fire stays within its boundary. Using a drone with an infrared (IR) camera can make sure that no ember ends up outside the fire line and can tell varying levels of heat within the fire. Using a traditional camera on the drone can also help monitor and show the burned area to any landowners or cooperators that also participate in this management practice.

Prescribed fire as it moves

Burned area once the fire was complete


The Future Use of Drones in Forestry

We are constantly exploring new ways to incorporate drones into forest management. VDOF’s Urban and Community Forestry program as well as our State Forest managers are also looking into how to enhance their work with drones. Technology like this provides the agency a valuable tool to better serve the Commonwealth and help with many aspects of forestry!

Field Notes: Signs of Spring

by Area Forester David H. Terwilliger

The red maple (Acer rubrum) is one of the first native trees to burst with color in February. You may recognize their seeds (samaras) as the little “helicopters” that spin to the ground when mature. The fall foliage is a brilliant red or orange.

These trees are sexually unique. The species is polygamo-dioecious, meaning some trees are entirely male, producing no seeds; some are entirely female; and some are monoecious, bearing both male and female flowers. 20180222_164757

The red maple makes a great landscape shade tree. It is tough and grows on a variety of sites.  One of its biggest contributions in the forested landscape is protecting water quality.  The trees grow quickly, shading the stream channels and stabilizing the banks.

Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? Dec. 27, 2017

by Area Forester Lisa Deaton

Creek Treasures

An important skill for foresters is hopping across creeks without falling in, especially during cold weather.  Last week, I was mapping creeks alongside a cutover to assist a landowner with a Riparian Buffer Tax Credit application.  Wooded buffers along streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay are called riparian forests and help protect our water quality.  Virginia landowners can receive a tax credit for preserving riparian forest buffers along waterways during a timber harvest operation.

Usually, creeks in the Coastal Plain have muddy bottoms, so the gravelly looking area of this creek made me stop to look closer.


The rocky looking objects are all fossils from the Yorktown Formation, which is a layer of bedrock formed during the Pliocene Epoch, 2.5 – 5 million years ago.  There are two fossilized oyster shells in the lower left, and the large scallop shell above them is the Virginia state fossil, Chesapecten jeffersonius.  In the center is a clump of fossilized barnacles.  There are several other familiar shell shapes as you examine the photo more closely.

Creeks and riverbanks in the Coastal Plain can reveal these fossils as water cuts through the exposed outcrops of the Yorktown Formation.  This creek was part of the ocean bed 4 million years ago, but it is 45 miles away from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean today.