Monday, December 13, 2010

Virginia Timber Sales Post Slight Increase

After two straight years of significant declines (a drop of 40 percent since 2006) in the value of timber harvested on their properties, forest landowners in the Commonwealth saw the value increase six-tenths of one percent last year, according to officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

“While it’s not anywhere near where we want it to be, we did see a turnaround in 2009,” said Carl Garrison, state forester of Virginia. “Landowners received more than $208 million last year – about $1.4 million more than in the year 2008. While it’s a far cry from the $347 million they received in 2006, we’re hopeful that the increases will continue.”

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore said, “Governor McDonnell has tasked me with the job of sustaining and growing Virginia’s forest industry as part of his focus on economic development. While it is good news that Virginia’s private forest landowners are starting to see an increase in the market value of their products, we must continue to do all we can to support our highly valued, existing industry, which employs 144,000 Virginians. We must also work to attract new forest industry jobs to the Commonwealth, so that forestry continues to be a $27.5 billion economic engine for rural Virginia.”

Charles Becker, VDOF’s utilization and marketing manager, said, “Based on forest products tax receipts, the volume of both hardwoods and pines harvested in 2009 was the lowest in 34 years. There were 406 million board feet of pine and 529 million board feet of hardwood harvested last year. We haven’t seen totals like that since 1975. But it’s a good news/bad news thing. On the one hand, while pine harvests were down 17 percent from 2008 and hardwood harvests were down 19.5 percent during the same period, the total value landowners received for the timber harvested in 2009 actually increased six-tenths of one percent over the year before. So, Virginia’s forest landowners are seeing some better prices for their timber.”

Becker said an unfavorable economy; lower demand for wood products, and the closing of several mills in Virginia have contributed to the decline in the volume of timber harvested during the past couple of years.

Randy Bush, president of the Virginia Forest Products Association, noted that the majority of his association’s members report the current economic situation has been the most severe in their memories. “Normally, with most economic cycles, our industry is the ‘first one in’ and the ‘first one out’ of a recession,” he said. “This cycle has not been typical, however, and we have yet to see a significant movement out of the downturn, although some areas are showing a small improvement.”

Note: Attached is a spreadsheet that details by county and/or city the volumes harvested and the value of that harvest for 2009. The list is ordered by total harvest value – highest to lowest. MBF means thousand board feet. CDS means number of cords of wood. V is value in dollars.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fall Fire Season Ends

Several large fires spiked the amount of burned forestland this season, according to officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF).
From Oct. 15, 2010 through Nov. 30, 2010, a total of 63 wildland fires burned 2,586 acres of forestland in Virginia.  Fifty-seven homes and 34 other structures were protected during fire suppression efforts.  No homes were damaged during the fall fire season but three other structures were damaged.
“This year, sporadic wet weather did help keep the overall number of fires down,” said John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection. “Of the fires we did have, four were more than 100 acres in size and two were greater than 300 acres. These are big fires, and it’s worth noting that 57 homes were directly protected from wildfire damage as a result of our efforts. VDOF is very fortunate to have skilled personnel with great expertise along with the unwavering cooperation of Virginia's volunteer and structural fire services.”
Regular rainfall was typical of the 2009 fall fire season, when the Commonwealth experienced 25 fires that burned 638 acres.
Miller reminds everyone that just because the “official” fall fire season has ended, it doesn’t mean that wildland fires can’t still occur – they can. So continue to take great care anytime you use fire in or near Virginia’s woodlands. And pay special attention to the ashes from your fireplace and/or woodstove as they can retain enough heat to ignite a fire several days later. Put the ashes in a metal can, slowly stir in water, and keep them in the metal can for at least three days before dumping them out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Garrison Reappointed as State Forester

Governor Bob McDonnell has reappointed Carl E. Garrison as State Forester of Virginia. Garrison began his leadership of the 265-employee Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) in 2004.

As state forester, Carl is responsible for protecting citizens and their property from the damages of wildfires as well as ensuring the health and productivity of almost 16 million acres – 62 percent of the state's land mass – of forestland in Virginia. He also oversees two nurseries that plant, grow and sell more than 25 million tree seedlings annually as well as 21 state forests. During the course of his 30 years as a professional forester, Garrison has worked for VDOF for 23 years and owned and operated Garrison Forestry Services Inc. in Virginia, Georgia and Texas for seven years. A graduate of Virginia Tech, Garrison is both a Registered Forester and a Certified Forester. He serves as chairman of the Southern Group of State Foresters, has a leadership role in the National Association of State Foresters, and has been very active within the Society of American Foresters throughout his career. Garrison and his wife, Sheila, live in Louisa County and have one son who is a senior at Old Dominion University.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New State Forest in Rockbridge County

The Commonwealth of Virginia now has 20 State Forests with the addition of the 2,353-acre Moore’s Creek State Forest in southwestern Rockbridge County. Purchased from the City of Lexington, the tract features mountain vistas, scenic trails and abundant wildlife, including black bear, wild turkey and a host of migratory songbirds.

Funding for the purchase, which totaled $2 million, was provided to the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) through the General Assembly’s 2008 conservation bond fund.

“With the exception of Lexington’s 40-acre reservoir in the center of the property, this tract is completely wooded and is surrounded on three sides by the George Washington National Forest,” said Carl Garrison, state forester of Virginia. “Large tracts of unbroken forested acres, which provide numerous environmental benefits for all Virginians, are becoming increasingly rare in the Commonwealth. We are very grateful to the City of Lexington for allowing us to become the stewards of this forest.”

Because of the steep terrain and limited access, timber harvesting is not part of the nascent management plan at this time. But for those people who are willing to hike the moderate-to-difficult 2 1/4 –mile trail, they will be rewarded with some excellent brook trout fishing. And, since the City of Lexington has retained ownership of the reservoir and associated dam, anglers will pay $1 for a daily fishing pass instead of having to purchase an annual State Forest Use Permit – required for fishing on other State Forests – for $16 per year. People wanting to hunt, trap or mountain bike on the tract, however, must have the State Forest Use Permit, which can be purchased through the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries website or at local retail outlets authorized by DGIF to sell hunting and trapping licenses.

“Area residents can be assured that we have no plans to conduct a timber harvest on this land during the foreseeable future,” Garrison said. “While timber harvesting is an important forest management tool that we recommend, the condition of the timber and the limited access on this site simply don’t lend themselves to harvesting at this time. What you see there now is what you’ll see for a while.”

Rob Farrell, VDOF’s assistant director for land conservation, said this acquisition was a win-win situation for the City of Lexington and the citizens of the Commonwealth. “Through the concerted efforts of area conservationists, such as Daphne Raz and Faye Cooper, and the City of Lexington’s Manager Jon Ellestad and Attorney Larry Mann, a significant forest has been forever protected. Virginians for generations to come will reap the benefits of this good work.”

Access to the trailhead is via US Forest Service road off State Route 612 in southwestern Rockbridge County. (GPS coordinates: Latitude 37 44 44, Longitude 79 38 53) As with most of the State Forests, visitors should carry their own supplies, such as drinking water, and be advised that there are no facilities at the Moore’s Creek State Forest.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hot and Dry in Virginia

It's been two weeks since Governor McDonnell warned Virginians about the dangers of fire during our hot, dry summer. The threat continues to be a real one.

The eastern portion of Virginia shows KBDI above 600, and central Virginia is above 500. The dry conditions and lack of forecast rain have prompted many localities to enact burn bans to reduce wildfire risk.

Open burning isn't our only potential cause of wildfire. Machinery operating in brown grass or dry fields can produce a spark that will ignite that material. Pay attention when welding; using farm equipment; towing trailers or vehicles or doing any activity that can cause sparks. The Charlottesville Newsplex reported today that "a farmer was driving his tractor, collecting what hay he could for himself and the landowner" when a 75-acre fire resulted from that activity. The fire occured in Fluvanna County.

Do what you can to reduce wildfires - check to see if there's a burn ban for your area. Always notify your local law enforcement or fire department when you burn. Stay with your fire at all times. Have a fully-charged hose, a rake, wet towels and a bucket of water with you when burning.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spring Fire Season Ends with Number of Wildfires Down Nearly 30 Percent

A mix of snow and rain events combined with Virginia’s 4 p.m. Burn Law led to a 29 percent decrease in wildfires during the state’s spring fire season, which runs from Feb. 15th through April 30th each year, compared to the same period in 2009. There were 400 wildfires during the 75-day spring fire season this year compared to 563 wildfires last spring.

The number of acres burned in the Commonwealth declined 42.5 percent (3,240 in 2010 and 5,635 in 2009). Note: All figures are for privately owned and state lands in Virginia – fire activity on federal land is not included in this report.

“These are significant decreases,” said State Forester of Virginia Carl Garrison. “The precipitation we experienced this spring in conjunction with our decades-old 4 p.m. Burn Law really made a difference this year. While we did experience several large fires in Southwest Virginia, overall the threat to our citizens was diminished.”

Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) personnel protected a total of 411 homes and other structures from the ravages of wildfires this spring. One home was damaged.

In the Southwest Virginia counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Henry, Lee, Russell and Scott, VDOF efforts were supplemented by inmate crews from the following detention facilities: Wise Correctional Unit Camp 18; Appalachian Detention Center; Patrick Henry Correctional Unit, and the Regional Jail located in Duffield. Additional support was provided by personnel from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the US Forest Service Ranger District in Wise.

VDOF Regional Forester Ed Stoots said, “The Corrections and Jail crews did some really good work in some of the state’s most difficult terrain. We owe a debt of gratitude to them as well as to VDOT and the USFS folks for helping us fight some serious wildfires.”

Garrison said, “With just 183 VDOF wildland firefighters to protect nearly 16 million acres (24,531 sq. miles) of forestland, we have to rely on the assistance of a cadre of on-call firefighters across the state as well as the inmate crews in Southwest Virginia. All are well-trained in how to fight such fires. And of course, the support we received from VDOT and the US Forest Service is very much appreciated.”

As in years past, the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Virginia is people burning debris. Other major causes include arson, children, cigarettes tossed from vehicles, power lines, camp fires, and mechanical equipment. These “human activities” account for 97 percent of the wildfires in the state; only about 3 percent are caused by lightning.

VDOF Director of Resource Protection John Miller reminds everyone that just because spring fire season has ended, it doesn’t mean that a wildfire can’t still happen. “Just because you can burn before 4 p.m. doesn’t necessarily mean you should burn. Before starting your fire, check the weather conditions (winds under 15 mph, humidity above 30 percent); prepare the burn site properly; have tools (shovel, rake) and a water supply on hand as well as a fully charged cell phone to be able to call 911 as soon as a fire escapes your control.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Governor McDonnell Announces Conservation of 2,500 Acres of Forestland in Isle of Wight County

RICHMOND- Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) are partnering with Isle of Wight County to permanently conserve a forested tract of land that helps protect an important source of drinking water in Hampton Roads. It is considered ideal habitat for the globally rare longleaf pine, and features more than five miles of frontage on the Blackwater River.

Commenting about the partnership, Governor McDonnell noted, “The conservation of these 2500 acres is another step forward towards our goal of conserving 400,000 additional acres of Virginia land by the end of my term. This acquisition was made possible through a partnership by the Department of Forestry, the Virginia Land Conservation Fund and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s this kind of cooperation that will ensure success in our bipartisan efforts to conserve more of Virginia’s environmentally important and sensitive areas. I commend the efforts of all involved, and extend a special thanks to those who have been leading the initiative, in particular Thomas Wright, a member of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors, Paul Burton, interim Isle of Wight county attorney, Mark Popovich, Isle of Wight assistant county attorney, and The Nature Conservancy’s Brian van Eerden.”

Isle of Wight County recently completed the purchase of the 2,507 acres that offer a wide range of public benefits (recreation; forest habitat; protection of old-growth swamp forest; wildlife conservation, and drinking water protection). Isle of Wight County officials, together with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), approached state agencies to secure funding for a permanent conservation easement on the property. The Department of Forestry has secured $850,000 in federal Forest Legacy funds; the Virginia Land Conservation Fund will contribute $566,000; and the US Fish and Wildlife Service will add $75,000 through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act program.

More than 700,000 residents of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and portions of Chesapeake and Portsmouth receive their drinking water from the Blackwater River and other sources. Having a large portion of the adjacent river’s forestland protected through a conservation easement would help ensure clean water for those people as forests function as filters to keep pollutants from entering the river.

Ownership by the County of Isle of Wight should afford new recreational opportunities on more than five miles of the Blackwater, which was recently designated a State Scenic River. By establishing designated launch sites on the property, canoe and kayak enthusiasts will have additional opportunities for some great flat-water paddling. And the network of forest roads offers ample opportunities for walking, hiking, bird watching and other low-impact recreational activities.

The sandy and sandy-loam soils of the upland portions of the land offer ideal conditions for pine management, particularly for longleaf pine, which occurred on the site until the 1970s. This globally rare ecosystem, which stretches from Virginia’s coastal plain to Texas, is considered one of the most ecologically diverse in the world – with more than 900 endemic plant species. It is also one of the most endangered, having been reduced to just 3 percent of its original range. (Longleaf pine was prized for its straight, strong wood – most ships’ masts were longleaf pines – and for its disease and pest resistance.)

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “This forest has so many public benefits, it just has to be conserved. We are very excited to be partnering with Isle of Wight County and our colleagues at DCR to ensure that a significant portion of this property remains a working forest. And we are grateful to The Nature Conservancy, the US Forest Service’s Forest Legacy program and the US Fish and Wildlife Service for their help in this regard.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Blog Focuses on Recreation

Recreation Forester Erik Filep created a blog to raise awareness about Virginia's State Forests, especially the "recreation" aspects.

Take a look at

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Western Virginia Faces Very High Threat (Class 4 of 5) of Wildfires Today

Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) have raised the wildfire threat level to Class 4 (Very High) for the western 1/3 of the state. Conditions (above-average temperatures, low humidity and elevated winds) were already ripe for wildfires during the past four days – and a number of fires burned several hundred acres over the weekend – but with temperatures expected to approach 90 degrees today, the threat level increased from Class 3 High on Monday to Class 4 Very High today.

Under Class 4 conditions, fires start easily from all causes (including cigarettes tossed out car windows) and spread rapidly and with great intensity. Fires that burn in light fuels, such as grass, pine needles, leaves and twigs, may quickly develop high-intensity characteristics, including long-distance spot fires and fire whirlwinds, normally associated with fires in heavier fuels. Outdoor burning of any kind is not recommended during Class 4 conditions. And the state’s 4 p.m. Burning Law remains in effect.

“The threat to life and property is very high,” said Ed Stoots, regional forester for Western Virginia. “We had several large fires over the weekend and the conditions are even worse now.”

Wildfires are dangerous and should be fought only by trained professionals. Call 911 as soon as a fire is beyond your control. The life you save might be your own.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Healthy Watershed Through a Healthy Forest Initiative

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities has awarded the VDOF a $400,000 grant to introduce a sustainable forestry demonstration project in Central Virginia’s South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir Watershed that will link landowners’ financial interests and their forestland management practices in this area to urban consumers of the municipal water supply to influence landowner behavior in a way that reduces the costs of both urban and rural users of the water resource.

“Expensive, engineered technologies address the pollutant of concern,” said Buck Kline, VDOF’s director of forestland conservation, “but often contribute little to improving other environmental values, such as air quality, biodiversity or carbon sequestration. This project will move beyond basic research to increase forest cover and the ecosystem services forests provide.”

The services of greatest interest are water quality (sediment and nutrient load reduction) and carbon sequestration. Virginia’s Nutrient Credit Trading Program recognizes that establishing new forest cover through afforestation generates a nutrient load reduction (nitrogen and phosphorus) credit larger than any other offset practice.

The three-year project in Albemarle County will educate local governments, businesses, environmental entities and landowners on the value of forests and the ecosystem services they provide. The South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is the principal water source for 82,000 people in the Charlottesville area, and its watershed supplies approximately 96 percent of the surface water supply for the area.

Project partners include: VDOF; Conserv; Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority; Albemarle County Service Authority; Rivanna River Basin Commission; Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District; Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission; City of Charlottesville; County of Albemarle, as well as watershed landowners and businesses. The “Forests to Faucets Advisory Council” will offer technical and policy support to VDOF and Conserv.