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.