RD101 - 2016 State of the Forest
Welcome to the 2016 State of the Forest Report – my third as your State Forester. This report covers events and activities that occurred during the 2016 Fiscal Year (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016). As you will quickly ascertain when perusing the report, this year was another incredibly busy and successful one for the Virginia Department of Forestry. And all of us at the VDOF are very grateful for the many opportunities we experienced this year in our effort to protect and serve the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Virginia truly is a great place to practice forestry, and the landowners as well as the forest industry are major players in the economic, social and environmental health of the state. For example, on the economic front, forestry contributes $17 billion to the Virginia economy each year (making it the third largest sector – behind agriculture and tourism – in the state) and provides employment for more than 103,000 Virginians. With new data from the U.S. Forest Service in hand, I can proudly share with you that 31,400 people have been added to the number of private landowners (who control 10.6 million acres of forestland) in the Commonwealth. For years, the number of private individuals and families who owned forestland stood at 373,600, but the new data shows that number to be 405,000. Contributing to this change are several factors, which include the addition of family partnerships, trusts and estates in the total, to more accurately represent the family forest ownerships that exist.
As you can see from our cover photo, 23 Virginia families were just inducted into the inaugural class of the new Century Forest Program, which Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed into law at a ceremony inside the Executive Mansion in March. This program honors those who have kept their land as working forestland – and in the family – for 100 years or more.
There were several other recognitions and honors that took place this year. In December, the U.S. Forest Service bestowed its Browning Award upon The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk for its partnership with VDOF in the Smokey Bear art exhibition that took place as part of our 100th anniversary celebration a year earlier. In January, I presented the Crown Award to Rex Springston who, for more than 20 years, was the environmental reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. (The Crown Award is the highest honor that the State Forester of Virginia can bestow.) In early February, Governor McAuliffe hosted a reception in the Executive Mansion to honor and thank the agency’s wildland firefighters for the great work they do protecting life and property across the Commonwealth. And we were extremely fortunate to work with First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe to plant several longleaf pine trees – an important diminished species – directly behind the Executive Mansion during a ceremony on Arbor Day in April.
Other agency highlights for the year included: a special discount on the purchase of tree seedlings for veterans in early November; the announcement in April of a forest conservation easement on the 1,200-acre Ellis Mine tract in Culpeper County that helps protect the drinking water supply for the City of Fredericksburg; the Forestry Summit in April; the biennial Sawmill and Logging Expo in May; the 16th Virginia Interagency Wildfire Academy at Longwood University in May; the 70th annual Holiday Lake Forestry Camp for teens in June; numerous workshops, retreats and educational events for Virginia landowners, and several specialty tours for international forestry delegations, national nonprofit organizations and federal agency staff members.
While we had many, many highs last year, we did experience one big loss due to the passing of our dear friend and colleague Paul Revell in March. A 30-year employee of the VDOF, Paul led our urban and community forestry program for more than 12 years, and his efforts touched more people in more communities than probably anyone else in the agency. His work was recognized locally, regionally and nationally with numerous awards and honors, but he never stopped looking for ways to help people and communities succeed. His legacy lives on in the projects that span every corner of the Commonwealth.
It’s my honor to serve as your State Forester and to work with such a dedicated group of people at the VDOF. And it’s a real pleasure to interact with the many forest landowners, partner organizations, stakeholders and industry members with whom we work.
Please continue reading the 2016 State of the Forest Report, and let me know your thoughts about the topics presented. Thanks!
/s/ Bettina K. Ring, State Forester