RD136 - 2015 State of the Forest
Welcome to the second State of the Forest Report during my tenure as your State Forester of Virginia. This edition is packed with the latest news, information and data about the health and vitality of Virginia’s nearly 16 million acres of forestland, most of which is privately owned. I encourage you to take a few minutes at your convenience to read this annual report from cover to cover – I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.
As you review the document, I want you to be aware of just how much of the Agency’s success is due not only to the great employees we have but to the many partners, cooperators and stakeholders who stand shoulder to shoulder right there with us as we work on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth. We simply wouldn’t be able to perform at the highest level and achieve all of the goals without the support of our good friends and partners across the board. And, of course, nothing would be possible without the leadership of Governor McAuliffe, the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and the dedicated members of the Virginia General Assembly.
Fiscal year 2015 was a good year overall. More than 47,000 acres of trees were planted and more than 189,000 acres were impacted by forest management planning. More than 98 percent of timber harvest sites saw no sediment reaching adjacent streams, and 93 percent of timber harvesting operations had properly installed Best Management Practices in place. These are terrific numbers of which we can all be proud. And they directly contribute to our clean air, clean water and healthy environs.
Our wildland firefighting efforts helped us protect 1,361 homes and other structures valued at $138.8 million (meaning that for every $1 we budgeted for wildfire suppression, we saved Virginians $277 in property losses). Our wildfire prevention efforts along with other factors contributed to a significant decline in the number of wildfires we fought (647) and the amount of acres burned (4,941) this year.
In the forest health arena, pests, such as gypsy moth, fall cankerworm and southern pine beetle, were less destructive than in previous years, while yellow-poplar weevil, emerald ash borer and jumping oak gall caused significant damage in several counties. And this year marked the 60th anniversary of our forest research program, which has generated more than 130 reports and 85 study summaries for the benefit of Virginia’s forest landowners.
Forestry remains one of the most valuable economic engines in the Commonwealth with an annual impact of more than $17 billion and an employment base of 103,000 Virginians. The timber harvested generated more than $327 million in payments to landowners – a significant increase from the year before.
Above are just some of the success stories you will read about in this year’s State of the Forest Report – I don’t want to give everything away in my letter! But before I close, I do want to let you know that Board of Forestry Member Frank Myers was selected as the “2015 National Logger Activist of the Year” by the American Loggers Council; Paul Revell, VDOF’s urban and community forestry coordinator, was named the “2015 True Professional of Arboriculture” by the International Society of Arboriculture and the “Urban Forester of the Year” by the Southern Group of State Foresters, and John Campbell, director of public information, was chosen as the 2015 Governor’s Agency Star Award recipient. We are fortunate to have these fine folks on the VDOF team.
/s/ Bettina K. Ring