Dr. Jeffrey Kirwan, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech and resident of Blacksburg, has been awarded the Virginia Department of Forestry’s highest civilian honor – the Crown Award. The award was presented by VDOF’s Lisa Deaton at a meeting of the faculty of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources.
VDOF established the Crown Award to recognize an individual or entity that has not only gone beyond the call of duty but has set a standard of excellence others can only admire. It is the highest honor the State Forester of Virginia can bestow, and Kirwan is only the fourth recipient of this award.
State Forester Carl Garrison said, “Jeff is no stranger to high praise for significant achievement. He has a sustained and long-term track record of success, and I’m proud to add to his legacy of excellence and unparalleled achievement.”
Kirwan pioneered the use of information technology to involve citizens of all ages in the care and appreciation of trees. He led a natural resources and environmental education program that reached more than 360,000 young people during a 12-year period. And he incorporated service learning into Virginia Tech courses long before the practice became commonplace.
“In addition to being an excellent teacher, Jeff served the public with distinction as a 4-H agent in Loudoun and Albemarle counties,” Garrison said. “We are proud to be able to recognize and thank Jeff for all he has done in service to the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
VDOF, DCR and TNC Partner to Conserve Forestland and Protect Water Resource
Isle of Wight County has created a conservation easement on 2,348 acres of forestland that fronts the Blackwater River. This will conserve a large block of forestland, protect a vital source of drinking water for residents in South Hampton Roads and enhance the public’s recreational activities in the county.
The Virginia Department of Forestry, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and The Nature Conservancy worked together to make this conservation easement a reality. Funds to secure the easement were provided by the USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy Program and by TNC through a grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Fund.
The easement will be jointly held by VDOF and DCR. Approximately 1/3 of the property will become the Blackwater Sandhills Natural Area Preserve – DCR’s 61st such preserve in Virginia – and will include 500 acres of Tupelo-Gum-Baldcypress bottomland that helps protect more than five miles of the Blackwater River. This river is an important source of drinking water for residents of Norfolk. The other 2/3 of the forested property will be the responsibility of the VDOF, which will oversee the management of the resource for timber, wildlife and recreational use. The entire tract will remain the property of Isle of Wight County.
“Isle of Wight County is honored and very pleased to have other agencies join us in our efforts to preserve and maintain such unique natural resources,” said Al Casteen, chairman of the IOW Board of Supervisors. “We in a rural county are particularly aware that we in the present have an obligation to those in the future to be responsible stewards of our natural beauty and bounty. We greatly appreciate the work and help from all concerned to make that goal a reality for this particular property.”
State Forester of Virginia Carl Garrison said, “This easement will forever protect from development a key forested property that fronts a critical source of clean water while increasing recreational opportunities and enhancing wildlife habitat in the area. It’s a big win for residents of Isle of Wight County and all the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
Michael Lipford, executive director for The Nature Conservancy in Virginia, said, “The property’s old-growth cypress forest offers a rare and inspiring glimpse of the majestic forests that once graced Virginia’s coastal region. Thanks to the state and Isle of Wight County, this treasured link to our past will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and will contribute to conservation of the Blackwater River’s water quality, flood storage and wildlife values.”
DCR Director David A. Johnson said, “DCR is proud that a portion of this property will be dedicated as the state’s 61st natural area preserve. With the addition of Blackwater Sandhills, the state’s natural area preserve system now totals 51,394 acres. In addition to protecting old-growth forest, we are preserving sandhills habitat that is suitable for re-establishment of native longleaf pine.”
Including this conservation easement, VDOF’s total easement holdings stand at 22,972 acres conserved – more than half of which (13,660 acres) have been protected during the McDonnell administration.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has expanded the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Quarantine to include the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. This action became necessary after the recent detection of EAB in the counties of Buchanan, Caroline, Giles, Hanover, Lee, Prince Edward, Stafford and Warren. The quarantine previously included Arlington, Charlotte, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Halifax, Loudoun, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Danville, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester.
Under this statewide quarantine, the regulated articles, which include ash trees, green (non-heat treated) ash lumber and ash wood products, as well as hardwood firewood, are no longer subject to localized movement restrictions and may now move freely within the state.
For additional information about the Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine call VDACS at 804.786.3515.
The emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis, is a non-native, invasive, wood-boring beetle from Asia that was first detected in Detroit in 2002 and has now spread to 15 states, including Virginia. First found in Fairfax County in 2003, it has been recently confirmed in the counties of Pittsylvania, Halifax, Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Lee, Buchanan, Hanover, Warren, Caroline, Prince Edward, Giles, Loudoun and Stafford. Previous finds include the counties of Arlington, Prince William and Frederick.
VDOF Forest Health Specialist Dr. Chris Asaro said, “EAB is capable of killing all 187 million native ash trees in Virginia, regardless of their initial health and condition. In addition to the ecological problems this will cause, it will have a significant economic impact on the Commonwealth.”
For the last four years, the Department of Forestry has partnered with several other Virginia state agencies, private businesses and the federal government to slow the spread of the EAB through a “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign. Unfortunately – and in spite of state-mandated quarantines in several counties – citizens and visitors to the Commonwealth continue to carry firewood from infested areas to non-infested areas thereby delivering the shiny green and highly destructive beetles to new stands of ash trees, which they can kill in just three years.
Dr. Asaro said, “Despite our collective best efforts to slow down the emerald ash borer, the evidence is quite clear that people are inadvertently moving EAB tens or hundreds of miles in one shot via untreated firewood (which may include ash) and other ash wood products. We know this because, on average, adult borers fly no more than a mile or two, if that, on their own each year.”
While reluctant to make any predictions, the VDOF entomologist said, “My guess for the next decade is that EAB will permeate much of the eastern United States from Maine to Minnesota to Texas and Florida. And based on what little I have seen so far, it’s easy for me to imagine emerald ash borer rendering ash trees in Virginia ecologically and economically extinct within a few decades from now. This would put EAB on par with chestnut blight in terms of the speed and efficiency with which American chestnut was effectively eliminated from the Virginia landscape.”
According to the U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plot data, ash in Virginia represents approximately 1.8 percent of total forested volume statewide – that’s 187 million trees. The vast majority of this volume is made up of two species – white ash (Fraxinus americana) and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) – with several other minor species in the mix (Carolina ash, F. caroliniana; pumpkin ash, F. profunda; black ash, F. nigra). Northern and western Virginia have a slightly higher abundance of ash on average (2 percent to 2.5 percent) compared to the southern piedmont and coastal plain (1 percent to 1.5 percent). These are regional averages, and local variation in ash abundance can be considerable.
Ash abundance can also vary considerably in urban forests. Recent inventory data for many major and minor municipalities across Virginia indicate ash represents between 1 percent and 5 percent of street trees, with most cities averaging between 2 percent and 3 percent ash among street trees.
Dr. Asaro said, “Depending on several factors, such as location and size, removing a dead ash tree in an urban area could easily cost a city or town more than $1,000 per tree. Multiply that by tens of thousands of ash trees and you can easily see the tremendous financial impact EAB will have on Virginia’s local governments.”
EAB is extremely difficult to detect early due to its cryptic nature – it spends most of its life cycle as a grub, or larva, feeding under the bark. Once discovered, it is often determined to have been present in an area for many years. That’s because it can take several years for these relatively small beetles, which have a one-year life cycle, to build up their numbers and overcome a tree by girdling. Often, trees must be infested and re-infested for several years before they begin to show characteristic symptoms, such as branch dieback, epicormic sprouting and D-shaped emergence holes on the bark.
The release of insect biological control agents against emerald ash borer is underway. Biological control, unfortunately, has shown more failures than successes in attempts to deal with other insect populations.
State Forester Garrison said, “On a small scale, there are several systemic chemical control options on the market that are targeted, environmentally safe, and highly effective at protecting trees. This is practical only on a very limited basis, however. Unless individual ash trees are of great size and of significant value – for example those found at Mount Vernon, in the City of Abingdon or at the University of Virginia, the cost and practicality of performing chemical applications on individual trees, let alone 187 million of them, every two to three years is prohibitive.”
A 12-year-veteran of the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has been chosen to lead the agency’s operational efforts. Rob Farrell is responsible for overseeing the agency’s three operational regions, as well as the forest resource management, state lands, forestland conservation and resource protection programs.
Farrell, who has served as assistant director for forestland conservation for the past five years, joined VDOF in 2000 as an area forester in Gloucester County. Farrell replaces John Carroll, who retired as VDOF’s Deputy State Forester in May after 34 years of service.
“It is an honor to serve the VDOF in this role,” said Farrell. “These are challenging and exciting times for the agency and for the forest resource in Virginia.”
State Forester Carl Garrison said, “We’re very fortunate to have Rob lead our operations across the agency. He’s a knowledgeable forester who brings strong leadership skills and a dedicated work ethic. He is committed to protecting and serving the citizens of Virginia.”
Farrell is an ISA Certified Arborist and urban forester and serves on the Albemarle County Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) committee. A Virginia native, he received two degrees from Virginia Tech - - a B.S. in Forestry and Wildlife and an M.S. in Forestry and Forest Products. He and his family enjoy downhill skiing and other outdoor activities, including camping and canoeing. A resident of Albemarle County, he is married and has two sons.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has expanded the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) quarantine to include the counties of Charlotte, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and Pittsylvania and the city of Danville. This action occurred because the EAB was detected in or near these localities. Localities that were previously quarantined include Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester.
The quarantine restricts the movement of regulated articles from quarantined areas to non-quarantined areas. The regulated articles, which include ash trees, green (non-heat treated) ash lumber and ash wood products, as well as hardwood firewood, pose a significant risk of transporting EAB. Regulated articles may move freely within quarantined areas.
EAB is a highly destructive, invasive beetle that has already killed millions of ash trees in the U.S. and Canada. The adult emerald ash borer is metallic green in color and about one-half inch long and one-eighth inch wide. The adult female deposits eggs on the bark of ash trees. The EAB eggs hatch into larvae which chew their way into the soft layer of wood beneath the bark, disrupting the trees’ vascular system and cutting off the flow of water and nutrients. EAB in the larval stage are difficult to detect as they feed under the tree bark which enables EAB to hitch a ride to new areas when people transport firewood or other infested wood products.
For additional information about the Emerald Ash Borer and actions taken to combat its spread, call VDACS Office of Plant Industry Services at 804.786.3515.
The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) recorded the agency’s first forestland conservation easement in Gloucester County when Dr. Gaylord Ray and his wife, Cindy Ray, developed a conservation easement on 100 acres of Mrs. Ray’s family land known as Rose Hill Farm.
When landowners are contemplating a conservation easement and the perpetual protection it offers from future development, it is most often a family matter because land can often be a family’s most valuable and meaningful heirloom.
Mrs. Ray’s grandmother purchased the property in the early 1960s and lovingly restored the house and landscape over the next two decades. Cindy and Gaylord Ray bought the property in 2000. Because of the many family memories, their attachment to the property, and the desire to keep it undeveloped, the process to develop a conservation easement was begun last year.
“We are proud to have preserved the property in an area that has seen significant development, particularly on Cow Creek Mill Pond,” said Mrs. Ray.
The VDOF has been serving Virginia’s forest landowners for nearly 100 years and, over time, has developed a high level of confidence and trust with local landowners. Dr. Ray said, “Because about 85 percent of the property is wooded, VDOF was a logical choice for us to partner with.”
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or land trust that permanently limits development of the land subsequently protecting such conservation values as forestry, agriculture, open space and wildlife habitat. No change to ownership of the property occurs. Landowners continue to own, use and control their land, and can sell it or pass it on to heirs. The terms of the easement are perpetual and apply to all future landowners. Easement agreements do not require landowners to provide public access. The terms of the easement are developed between the landowner and the organization that will hold the easement – in this case, the Virginia Department of Forestry.
VDOF Forestland Conservation Specialist Rob Suydam said, “The Department of Forestry was very excited when the Rays contacted us about helping them develop a conservation easement on their family’s land. This beautiful piece of forestland protects the conservation values of forest, farm and open space. In addition, because this property is adjacent to Cow Creek Mill Pond, there are significant watershed protection values attributed to this now-protected land.”
Virginia State Sen. Thomas Norment said, “I commend Dr. and Mrs. Ray for their commitment to preserving this significant property by partnering with the Virginia Department of Forestry. Establishment of this easement will ensure that generations of Virginians will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of Rose Hill Farm."
Virginia loses an average of 16,000 acres of forestland each year. Often, forest converted to other uses, such as residential development, is the result of choices made by individual landowners, who own nearly 80 percent of the forestland in Virginia. VDOF is committed to slowing the loss of valuable forestland to conversion by working with landowners to help them keep their land in forest. For landowners who feel that permanent protection is the right thing for them, their family and their land, VDOF offers its services to help them develop a conservation easement.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has established itself as a leader in land conservation by providing transferable state income tax credits as incentives for landowners interested in protecting their land from development. Because this state tax credit is transferable, many landowners often sell their credits and convert them to cash.
In addition to the Virginia state tax credit, VDOF has just-introduced a special program in Gloucester County called Tomorrow Woods. The land conservation aspect of the Tomorrow Woods program provides funding to assist landowners with the up-front costs normally associated with developing conservation easement. These costs include fees for attorneys, appraisal, forest management plans and title insurance.
For more information about VDOF’s land conservation program and the Tomorrow Woods program, please contact Rob Suydam at 804.328.3031.
A new tool is available for free to anyone with a computer and Internet access who is interested in learning about the effects of changing land use on a particular tract of forest or farm land in Virginia.
The free software program, called InFOREST, was developed by the Virginia Department of Forestry in partnership with Virginia Tech and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries with funding from Dominion Virginia Power and a U.S. Forest Service grant.
“InFOREST will enable city and county planners, landowners or anyone interested in understanding how land-cover changes impact nutrient and sediment loading to our streams and rivers,” said Buck Kline, director of forestland conservation at the Virginia Department of Forestry. “Until now, this kind of information has been available primarily to individuals who are savvy enough to run models. InFOREST is a user-friendly software tool that enables many users to access and run the various models that estimate ecosystem services.”
Program users can do basic mapping and view various layers with InFOREST. These layers include: aerial imagery; topography; streets and roads; watershed boundaries, and a forest conservation value layer. In addition to mapping, users can estimate various ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration from forests and nutrient and sediment runoff from various land covers.
Taking information entered into the program by an individual, InFOREST uses a complex set of models to provide an estimate of ecosystem services associated with a proposed change of land use. Planners, landowners and citizens will be able to better determine how to mitigate any negative impacts that would result if the land use were changed.
Prof. Randolph Wynne at Virginia Tech said, “Using the MEASURES suite of ecosystem services tools developed by Virginia Tech for InFOREST, landowners, managers and diverse stakeholders can estimate the carbon sequestered and the sediment and nutrients delivered to receiving streams using scientifically vetted, best-of-breed models for a wide variety of land use and management scenarios.”
VDOF’s area forester in Spotsylvania County, Tom Snoddy, said, “I recently had an opportunity to look at InFOREST, and I think it will work well for landowners as well as consulting foresters and loggers. As with any new program, there is a learning curve, but I found the features of this program to be very user friendly.”
Karen Firehock, director of the Green Infrastructure Center Inc., said, "InFOREST is an easy-to-use, practical tool that anyone can apply to model different land-use scenarios to reduce pollution impacts. We've used the nutrient and sediment runoff calculator to show developers how to reduce their pollutant loadings by 50 percent and to show counties how to use the tool to help landowners to minimize impacts to drinking water reservoirs."
Lowell Ballard, director of geospatial solutions for Timmons Group, said, “Timmons has been a proud partner in this important project. We believe InFOREST will be of great value to landowners, planners and developers as they work through difficult decisions regarding land use.”
The trees of our residential areas, schoolyards, parks, and along downtown streets are more than just pretty niceties; they are necessities. They increase property values, cool buildings, take in carbon dioxide, and mitigate air pollution – all valuable economic and ecological benefits.
Now, in a survey of five Virginia communities, Virginia Tech Associate Professor Eric Wiseman is using a tool developed by the U.S. Forest Service to provide scientific evidence of the value of the services that urban trees provide. It is the first time such a detailed study assigning value to urban trees has been undertaken in the state.
Wiseman’s crew of students spent the summers of 2010 and 2011 collecting field data on the trees and vegetation in plots in Abingdon, Charlottesville, Falls Church, Roanoke, and Winchester.
Using analysis software called i-Tree Eco, they input data on the trees growing in each municipality – its urban forest – and arrived at an estimate of the forest’s functional benefits and economic value. These benefits include such contributions as air pollution reduction, carbon dioxide capture, and building energy conservation.
The analyses show that there are more than 3.4 million trees in these five communities alone and that these urban forests provide nearly $7 million in annual benefits (see summary table of key findings for more detail).
“The survey also gives us good information on tree species diversity in each municipality’s urban forest and the potential impacts of invasive pests such as the gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, and Asian longhorned beetle,” Wiseman said. “So far, we’re finding good species diversity in the municipalities assessed, which is a positive indicator of urban forest resiliency to invasive pests.”
The structural and functional values of an urban forest tend to increase with an increase in the number and size of healthy trees. However, inappropriate species selection, improper tree placement and tree neglect can diminish both structural and functional values.
The project is supported by the Virginia Department of Forestry with funds from the U.S. Forest Service. Municipalities provided geographical information system (GIS) data and parcel information used by Wiseman to select field plots for data collection. In Charlottesville, the field crews were assisted by volunteers of the Rivanna Master Naturalist chapter, volunteers in a Virginia Cooperative Extension program based in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.
“The i-Tree analysis that Dr. Wiseman facilitated is very important to the Virginia Department of Forestry,” said Barbara White, the agency’s urban and community forestry partnership coordinator. “It’s a tool to highlight, on a statewide basis, the value of the services our urban forests provide to the citizens of the commonwealth.”
After contacting landowners and securing permissions, the field teams measured trees, evaluated their condition, identified their species, and noted the ground cover and other characteristics of the assigned plots. A summary report of each locality’s urban forest assessment is posted online (http://urbanforestry.frec.vt.edu/eco.html).
The cities and towns surveyed will decide how to act on the information they receive. Wiseman and White are urging localities to use these analyses of tree abundance and composition, along with canopy cover, as they plan their urban forests and green spaces.
“You can’t manage your forest resources until you understand their character and function,” Wiseman said. “As Virginia becomes increasingly urbanized, managing the state’s urban forests will be increasingly important for conserving natural resources and sustaining communities.”
Kevin Sigmon, Abingdon town arborist, is pleased to know the value of the town’s trees. “This report gives us not only the overall replacement or structural value of the urban forest, but we now have a value for how the forest is working for us in areas of carbon storage and sequestration, air pollution mitigation and energy savings,” he said. “Before the report, we could only guess at such things, but now we have specific numbers and a reliable data collection method to support the numbers.”
Ben Thompson, City of Falls Church arborist, said, “The results of this study will help staff better plan and manage the city’s trees and forest, creating a safe, healthy, and pleasant landscape for our citizens and visitors.”
The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) recorded the agency’s first forestland conservation easement in Northumberland County when former US Sen. Paul Trible developed a conservation easement on 508 acres of his family land, Gascony Farm.
When landowners are contemplating a conservation easement and the perpetual protection it offers from future development, it is most often a family matter.
“My family and I have owned Gascony for almost 100 years and love the rich natural beauty and history of the property. We want future generations to be able to know and love and experience this property as we do,” Senator Trible said.
The Trible family has managed the forest on this tract of land for many years with the help of the VDOF Area Forester Rich Steensma. “I admire Paul for his ability and willingness to gather lands back together,” Steensma said. “Several years ago, when others were eager to subdivide and maximize profit through parcelization, Paul was following in his father’s footsteps of stewardship by continually working to bring subdivided parcels of land back together, into one whole working landscape of forest and farmland.”
The VDOF has been serving Virginia’s forest landowners for nearly 100 years, and over time has developed a high level of confidence and trust with local landowners.
Senator Trible said, “My father and I have worked with the Department of Forestry for many years and have great respect for the outstanding public service provided by the department. We are very confident that the Department of Forestry is the right partner for us to protect and preserve these lands that we cherish.”
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or land trust that permanently limits development of the land subsequently protecting such conservation values as forestry, agriculture, open space and wildlife habitat. The terms of the easement are developed between the landowner and the organization that will hold the easement – in this case, the Virginia Department of Forestry. The terms of the easement are perpetual and apply to all future landowners. No change to ownership of the property occurs. Landowners continue to own, use and control their land, and can sell it or pass it on to heirs. Easement agreements do not require landowners to provide public access.
VDOF Forestland Conservation Specialist Rob Suydam said, “The Department of Forestry was very excited when Senator Trible contacted us about helping him develop a conservation easement on his family’s land. This beautiful piece of forestland protects the conservation values of forest, farm and open space. In addition, because this property is so close to the Chesapeake Bay, the watershed and wildlife habitat protection this easement provides is outstanding.”
Virginia loses 16,000 acres of forestland each year. Often, forest converted to other uses, such as residential development, is the result of choices made by individual landowners, who own nearly 80 percent of the forestland in Virginia. VDOF is committed to slowing the loss of valuable forestland to conversion by working with landowners to help them keep their land in forest. For landowners who feel that permanent protection is the right thing for them, their family and their land, VDOF offers its services to help them develop a conservation easement.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has established itself as a leader in land conservation by providing transferable state income tax credits as incentives for landowners interested in protecting their land from development. Because this state tax credit is transferable, many landowners often sell their credits and convert them to cash.
For more information about VDOF’s land conservation program, please contact Rob Suydam at 804.328.3031.
The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) recorded 24 easements for 8,005 acres in 2011. This figure brings the program total to just under 20,000 acres conserved in five years.
In Halifax County, Blue Wing LLC granted VDOF a conservation easement that protects 1,029 acres of working forestland. Located two miles west of Virgilina, the Blue Wing easement is now almost entirely forested. Bisected by Blue Wing Creek, a major tributary of the Hyco River, the property contains more than nine miles of stream frontage. The forested nature of the property helps protect the water quality and aquatic habitat in the watershed, affording flood control, recreational opportunities and drinking water for downstream communities.
The Blue Wing donation was the second VDOF easement recorded in Halifax County in 2011, both of which are greater than 1,000 acres. VDOF now holds four easements covering 3,649 acres in Halifax County.
In Fluvanna County, Robert and Graciela Lum granted VDOF a working forest conservation easement that protects 205 acres of land. The Lum’s conservation easement is the first VDOF easement in the county.
Located south of Palmyra, the property contains 172 acres of loblolly pine stands, hardwood woodlands and riparian forests managed under a Forest Stewardship Management Plan. The Lum easement was the fifth to receive funding under the VDOF’s Forests to Faucets (F2F) Program. First introduced in 2010, the F2F program focuses on protecting water quality within the Rivanna River basin.
The property borders nearly a half-mile of Raccoon Creek and a short stretch of the Rivanna River, and contains 13 acres of forested floodplain. In addition to being a state-designated scenic river, the Rivanna provides a source of drinking water to downstream communities.
In Albemarle County, Benjamin, Terry and Thomas Warthen granted the VDOF a working forest conservation easement that protects 223 acres of land. The Warthens’ conservation easement is the second VDOF easement recorded in Albemarle County in 2011.
Located just southwest of Charlottesville on the upper slopes and summit of Piney Mountain, nearly the entire property is covered with hardwood forests that are actively managed under the guidance of a Forest Stewardship Management Plan. The easement is within the viewshed of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and future Biscuit Run State Park, helping maintain the scenic vistas that support their historic sense of place.
The property contains the headwaters of several large streams that flow into Biscuit Run, which, in turn, is a major tributary of the Rivanna River. The Warthen easement received funding under the F2F Program.
VDOF will continue to offer the F2F program to other interested landowners through August of 2012 or until funding is exhausted.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or a non-profit conservation organization that protects the conservation values of a property. The landowner continues to own, use and control the land. The VDOF conservation easement program is the only one in the state that focuses primarily on protecting working forests. To be considered, a property must be at least 50 acres in size, 75 percent forested, and the landowner must be willing to have a forest stewardship management plan prepared. Landowners who want to ensure that their land will be forever maintained as forest may consider a VDOF easement.
For additional information on the VDOF conservation easement program or the conservation easement portion of the F2F Program, contact Mike Santucci, forest conservation specialist, at (434) 220-9182, or visit the VDOF website at www.dof.virginia.gov.
The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) recently recorded its first working forest conservation easements in Greene County. Three families granted to the VDOF four separate conservation easements protecting 395 acres on Snow and Hightop mountains west of Stanardsville.
Collectively, the properties are 97 percent forested and contribute to the large, unfragmented forested landscape in the area. These tracts not only complement the many acres of woodland already under easement in the area, but also the large blocks of unbroken habitat contained in the nearby Shenandoah National Park, ensuring a continued and sustainable flow of natural benefits from the landscape.
The forested nature of the properties is critical in protecting water quality and mitigating potential downstream flooding. The easements protect several miles of headwater streams that are primary tributaries of Matties Run and Buffalo Creek, both within the Rivanna River watershed, ultimately contributing to drinking water supplies of downstream communities.
Often, when landowners are contemplating a conservation easement, it means carrying on a woodland legacy and love of the land established by previous family members. Jay Mason is a third generation landowner – the grandson of W. Roy Mason, an Episcopal missionary who served at Mission Home and was involved in the construction of the Hightop Episcopal Mission. The elder Mason’s work developed into a keen attachment to the area, and eventually landownership on Hightop Mountain.
Jay’s primary goal, supported by his wife Kathi, was to carry on his grandfather’s love of the mountains. “My wife and I recognize what a unique piece of property we have, and the responsibility we have to protect it for future generations. It is our desire that the property should continue to contribute to the beauty of Virginia in perpetuity, and the Department of Forestry was the logical choice to help us ensure that it will.”
The Mason property is a 163-acre tract in a single tax map parcel that may never be divided. It shares almost 2,000 feet of property line with Shenandoah National Park, contributing to the large, unfragmented forested acreage on Hightop Mountain. In addition, the property contains one of several source springs contributing to Buffalo Creek, which flows into the Roach River and eventually the North Fork of the Rivanna River.
As landowners consider a conservation easement and the perpetual protection it offers from development, it is most often a family decision. Mike Santucci, VDOF forest conservation specialist, said, “Whether or not to protect the family forest in perpetuity is one of the most elemental decisions they can make. That was the case with the Saunier family. Brothers David and Paul wanted to fulfill their father’s desire to perpetually protect the property, and continue the work he started with the Department of Forestry.”
The Saunier easements on Snow Mountain are comprised of two parcels within a half mile of each other and the Mason easement. Totaling 170 acres, the property may never be more than three parcels, whose future development is restricted.
Paul Saunier said, “The property has been in our family since 1967. David and I grew up appreciating its natural resources and learned the importance of being good stewards of the land. The ability to protect and preserve this land through a conservation easement was an easy decision. Through this conservation easement with the Department of Forestry, we are assured that it will remain protected and undeveloped in perpetuity. A place where future generations can enjoy and nature can flourish.”
David Saunier said, “Our family gained a deep appreciation for the mountain, its resources, people and traditions. We see the increased development that is taking place and changing the face of Virginia’s rural landscape. We wished to do our part in preserving something that has meant so much to our family. It seemed only right to preserve it so that others could have the same opportunities as we have had.”
While not the same length of family history as their neighbors, Bill and Brenda Jones nevertheless have similar sentiments about their land, and the family ties are just as strong. Bill said, “The rural nature of Greene County is what caused us to relocate here from northern Virginia in 1989. We found the mountain setting to be just what we were looking for as a beautiful and quiet place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the DC area. Our son and his wife often visit for the same reasons we originally came to this place. Our conservation easement will ensure that the property will remain intact in perpetuity as it passes to our heirs, and that they can get the same enjoyment from the property that we have.”
The Jones property is 62 acres in size and shares property lines with both Saunier easements. The single tax parcel may never be divided in the future, and the size and location of existing and future buildings is limited to protect the working forest conservation values of the property.
One of those existing structures is a century-old log cabin, the history of which the family appreciates. “We frequently have long-time residents of the county stop by to visit ‘the old home place’ and are always interested in what they can tell us about life on the mountain 50 or more years ago. Our property was farmed into the 1950s with horse-drawn plows, but it has reverted to forestland. Retaining the forested land in the mountains and the surrounding agricultural land on the Piedmont is important to maintaining the rural character that makes this area so appealing.”
Santucci said, “It has been a privilege to work with these landowners on their easements. Most of Virginia’s forests are in the hands of family forest landowners, and how those people feel about their woodlands, how they manage them, and the decisions they make to conserve them ultimately determine the sustainability of our forestlands and the many benefits they provide. I cannot express enough my appreciation to them for their donations.”
The four donations were the result of collaborative efforts by the Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy (BRFC), Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and the VDOF, with support from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The BRFC and PEC are both non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to promoting and protecting the rural economy, natural resources, history and beauty of Greene County and the surrounding area.
All four easements were among the first to receive funding under the VDOF’s Forests to Faucets (F2F) Program. The program is designed to maintain and expand forest cover in the watershed through financial incentives to landowners who undertake forest management and conservation practices, including easements.
“The F2F program offers funding to forest landowners within the watershed who are willing to donate an easement that directly protects water quality and or quantity by permanently retaining forest cover on the landscape” Santucci said. “The ultimate payment amount is determined on a sliding scale based on the property’s attributes and selected easement enhancements, but is often enough to offset most, if not all, of the easement preparation costs.” VDOF will continue to offer the F2F program to other interested landowners through August of 2012 or until funding is exhausted.
For additional information on the VDOF conservation easement program, or the conservation easement portion of the F2F Program, contact Mike Santucci, forest conservation specialist, at (434) 220-9182, or visit the VDOF website at www.dof.virginia.gov.