Monday, September 15, 2014

Gov. McAuliffe: No fracking in George Washington National Forest

Citing assurances from federal officials, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said fracking for natural gas will not be allowed in the George Washington National Forest.

"I won't allow it as long as I'm governor," McAuliffe told the inaugural meeting of a climate change panel he created this summer. "We made it clear to everyone we will not allow fracking in our national forest. I'm not going to allow it."

The Forest Service initially proposed a ban on fracking in the forest, but it was met with opposition by the energy industry. Opponents fear the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will bow to the industry pressure. The decision rests with the USDA, which oversees the Forest Service.

Environmental and conservation groups have rallied against any fracking in the forest, which lies primarily in Virginia but also includes a sliver of West Virginia. They fear polluting the headwaters of a primary water source for the region and the industrial footprint drilling would bring.

The science on the impact of fracking has not been conclusive.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tree Nurseries Seek Acorns and Seeds

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, we ask for your help in locating and collecting acorns and other seed from all over the state. Your donations help us produce the next season’s crop. Seed collection is a great activity for children and adults! It also allows individuals to learn more about Virginia trees.

See what we're looking for this year (pretty much the same as last year) http://www.dof.virginia.gov/trees/acorn-collect.htm

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Emerald Ash Borer found in more Virginia counties

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announced the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has been detected in four additional Virginia counties. The newly infested counties include Alleghany, Bath, Fauquier and Page.

EAB has now been detected in 21 Virginia counties and seven cities since its initial appearance in Fairfax County in 2003. The entire Commonwealth of Virginia is under a federal EAB quarantine. The federal quarantine prohibits the interstate movement of regulated articles such as ash logs, ash nursery stock and firewood since these articles have the potential to move the Emerald Ash Borer to areas that are not infested.

EAB is a highly destructive, invasive beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in the US and Canada. Ash trees comprise approximately 1.7% of Virginia’s forests by volume, which amounts to roughly 187 million ash trees, all susceptible to EAB. The EAB larva chews into the soft layer of wood beneath the bark, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients. Trees infected with EAB eventually die. EAB in the larval stage are difficult to detect as they feed under the tree bark enabling them to hitch a ride undetected to uninfested areas when people transport firewood or other infested wood products.

Dr. Chris Asaro, forest health specialist with the Virginia Department of Forestry said, “Options for protecting individual ash trees from EAB are available.  People with very large, valuable ash trees would be advised to contact a certified arborist who can treat these individual trees with an effective insecticide every two to three years.  Treating these valuable trees is far less expensive than removing a very large, dead tree.  Unfortunately, there are no practical management options for EAB in a forested setting.”  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture website shows a map of quarantined states and areas, and more information on EAB and other invasive pests is available at http://www.hungrypests.com/.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Oak Galls on White Oak Trees in Northern Virginia Counties

Homeowners in six Northern Virginia counties have expressed concern about defoliated white oak trees.  Forestry officials have conducted aerial and ground surveys and determined that, while this occurrence is fairly widespread, it is concentrated in and around the hills of western Fauquier County and adjacent Loudoun County.  Portions of Prince William, Culpeper, Orange and Rappahannock counties are also affected.

The culprit appears to be a very tiny insect known as a gall wasp. There are many species of gall wasps, particularly those that affect oak trees. This type of insect injects eggs into plant tissue, which forms a swelling or ‘gall’ around the injection site. Inside a hollow space within the gall, the developing egg hatches into a larva, and ultimately emerges from the gall as an adult wasp, repeating the cycle one or more times each year depending on the species. Each species of gall wasp specializes on a particular host and plant part, and each species produces a unique gall. Thus, there are a wide variety of plant galls that differ in shape, size, color, texture and the part of the plant affected (leaves, twigs, buds, flowers, etc).  

While gall wasps are a normal component of every forest ecosystem, they are generally kept under control by other insects and are not typically abundant enough to cause serious damage to trees and shrubs. However, in rare instances they can become so abundant that their galls can cause noticeable damage.

Read more about this occurrence on our website at http://dof.virginia.gov/press/releases/2014/08-11-white-oak-galls.htm



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Info Signs on the Conway Robinson State Forest

Visitors to the Conway Robinson State Forest can add a “high tech” dimension to their outdoor experience. Informational signs on the forest have been updated to include QR codes. These postage stamp-sized graphics, composed of black-and-white square dots, can guide visitors to information about forest management activities, including promoting wildlife, combating invasive plants and deer control. Visitors simply use their smartphone’s QR reader application to scan the codes and access to the content.

This project is designed to grant visitors an inside look at management on both the state forest and the adjacent National Park Service’s (NPS) Manassas National Battlefield Park.

 “Although the forest and the battlefield may appear to be untouched outdoor spaces, they’re actually carefully planned and maintained by natural resource professionals,” said Blake Jordan, area forester for the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). “Not only are these wonderful sites for recreation, but they can teach the public about caring for our natural world. The QR codes allow access to more detailed and descriptive information beyond what can be included on the signs.”

For those who want to learn about the trail from home, the Manassas LEAF website also provides an in-depth explanation of each topic, along with information about the LEAF partnership.

The Manassas LEAF (Link to Education About Forests) partnership is a joint effort of the NPS’ Manassas National Battlefield Park, the VDOF’s Conway Robinson State Forest, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Northern District Natural Resources Program.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

PineMap

The Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation and Adaptation Project (PINEMAP) uses research and education to help southern pine landowners manage forests. Through VDOF’s membership in the Forest Productivity Cooperative, one of PINEMAP’s four primary research installations is at Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest.
 
These tests are designed to evaluate the effects of climate change, soils and management approaches on planted pine carbon sequestration rates.  The results could better prepare us to manage pine forests in response to predicted climate change scenarios and help improve our knowledge of how best to apply thinning and fertilizer treatments to mid-rotation stands.

The annual report for PINEMAP contains updates on all aspects of the effort, including the research, outreach and education tools. The project is funded by the largest grant ever awarded to productivity research in southern pine.

To learn more about PINEMAP and to read the report, visit http://www.pinemap.org/.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

VDOF Seedling Unlocks The Largest Genetic Code Ever Sequenced

Using a Virginia Department of Forestry tree seedling, a team of scientists from across the nation has decoded the genome of a loblolly pine tree.  With 22 Billion base pairs, this is the largest genome ever sequenced (in comparison, the human genome has 3 Billion base pairs).

Led by Dr. David Neale, professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, the scientific team – using the tissue from a single VDOF pine seedling – broke down the tree’s DNA into smaller, more manageable data pieces and analyzed them with a super-computer.  The team then re-assembled the pieces, figured out which genes were present, where they are on the genome, and what they do.  This new approach, developed at the University of Maryland, enabled researchers to perform such a large and complex genome sequencing.

“It’s a huge genome,” said Dr. Neale.  “But the challenge isn’t just collecting all the sequence data.  The problem is assembling that sequence into order.  The contribution of loblolly pine tree selection 20-1010 from the Virginia Department of Forestry was critically important not only for the genome sequencing, but more so for all those who follow and will now have completely open access to data and germplasm resources.  Researchers worldwide should be very grateful to the Virginia Department of Forestry.”

The Loblolly pine, grown in the orchard at VDOF’s New Kent Forestry Center, was selected for sequencing because of its broad distribution, economic value and long history of genetic research.

Jerre Creighton, VDOF’s research program coordinator, said, “Loblolly pine is the most common tree species in Virginia and the most commercially important tree in the United States.  It’s the primary source of pulpwood (used to make paper) and sawtimber (lumber).  Today, Loblolly pine is being developed as a potential feedstock for the emerging biofuel industry.”

The results of this research will help scientists breed improved varieties of Loblolly pines, some of which will be more resistant to pathogens, such as fusiform rust – the most damaging disease of southern pines.

“The possibilities are endless now that we know the Loblolly pine genome,” said Creighton.  “And what an honor for the Virginia Department of Forestry to have been selected to provide the tree that unlocked the vast genetic code of this important species!”

In addition to UC Davis and the University of Maryland, the research team was comprised of scientists from Johns Hopkins University, Indiana University – Bloomington, Texas A&M University, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and Washington State University.