Thursday, February 21, 2013

VDOF, Partners Conserve More Than 4,000 Acres in Southeastern Virginia During 2012

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), working cooperatively with the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, partnered with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), The Nature Conservancy, Isle of Wight County, a private investment company and a paper company to conserve 4,119 acres of land in Southeastern Virginia during 2012. The Forest Legacy funding, applied for by The Nature Conservancy, enabled the purchase of two conservation easements and the creation of a new State Natural Area Preserve to ensure conservation of valuable working forestland and ecologically significant forest habitat in the Nottoway River and Blackwater River watersheds.

A total of 216 acres was conserved along the Nottoway River in Southampton County through the purchase of a conservation easement on property owned by Goodwood Virginia LLC, a subsidiary of Conservation Forestry LLC, a forestland holding company based out of New Hampshire. The property is comprised of floodplain forest that will be protected through the easement and upland pine plantation that will be actively managed by Goodwood Virginia for its forest and wildlife resources. Conservation Forestry, an investment organization that aligns private equity with conservation capital for the purpose of acquiring and managing large forest landscapes, has land holdings throughout southeastern Virginia and 11 other states.

Along the Blackwater River, VDOF and DCR worked with Isle of Wight County to secure an easement on 2,348 acres of diverse timberland owned by the County. The property has more than five miles of river frontage and one of the state’s largest stands of old-growth cypress trees. The County plans to utilize the property for public recreation for its citizens and Tidewater area residents as well as for income-producing timber management. This transaction created the 815-acre Blackwater Sandhills Natural Area Preserve, managed under DCR’s Natural Heritage Program, protecting important floodplain habitat along the Blackwater River.

The third and largest acquisition project added 2,855 acres to the South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve, located along three miles of the Blackwater River in the City of Suffolk. Forest Legacy funding contributed to the protection of more than 1,500 acres of the property, which was purchased from International Paper Co. The property, located five miles south of the City of Franklin, contains the largest remaining Longleaf Pine seed trees in the state. One of the South’s prized timber trees, Longleaf Pine is a species that VDOF is actively re-establishing across its former 1-million acre range in southeastern VA. The property will protect 23 rare plant species and three rare animal species, including the orange-bellied tiger beetle that depends on the deep sand soils for survival. The site also provides critical lowland habitat along the Blackwater River for the rare Atlantic White Cedar, a tree species found only sporadically in southeast Virginia.

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “The Forest Legacy Program provides Federal grants to state agencies and other entities to conserve critical forested landscapes. The program’s purpose is to protect environmentally-important forestlands that are threatened with non-forest conversion. In the acquisition of these properties, VDOF and DCR have worked cooperatively with county governments and private entities to make these protected forests a reality, to benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth in perpetuity.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

EQIP Program Provides Funding for Forest Landowners

Are you interested in improving the health and productivity of your forest land but don’t know where to start? The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can offer expert advice and financial assistance to help you better manage your property.

NRCS now has more than $800,000 in funding available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for forestland planning and conservation. A Forestry Conservation Activity Plan (CAP #106) is usually the first step in this process. The CAP #106 is personalized to the landowner’s property, goals and objectives, and includes a list of natural resource specialists who can offer assistance and advice. VDOF foresters can serve as another resource for landowners who want to manage their land for specific purposes such as recreation or wildlife habitat.

The CAP outlines recommended conservation practices and step-by-step instructions to reach the landowner’s goals. Eligible forestry practices for implementation include establishing or reestablishing forestland; stabilizing logging roads, trails and landings, and improving existing privately-owned, non-commercial forestland. Efforts to restore longleaf pine in its historic Eastern Virginia range are receiving special emphasis.

CAP #106 preparation expenses and associated conservation practices are eligible for incentive payments under EQIP. NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at specific times. Interested landowners are encouraged to apply before the next cutoff (Feb. 15, 2013) for application review to be eligible for funding.

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance to help landowners solve natural resource problems on their crop, pasture, and forestland. To learn more about the program and eligibility requirements, interested farmers and forest landowners should contact their local VDOF Senior Area Forester or the NRCS Service Center.