Virginia's bountiful and beautiful forests provide a source of great enjoyment for locals and tourists from other states. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, enjoying the views from the Blue Ridge Parkway, floating the James River, or hunting the rural woodlands of Southside are all popular pastimes.
While some of these experiences take place on public lands, private woodlands make up about two-thirds of the commonwealth’s forestland. In addition to their scenic value, these forests provide an annual economic benefit of $23.4 billion and ecosystem services worth $8 billion annually in Virginia alone.
Privately owned woodlands will be the focus of a series of workshops and conferences for their owners in 2013 that will address selling timber, timber theft, wildlife, and property boundaries. Virginia Cooperative Extension collaborates with departments in the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, state agencies, forest industries, and professional associations and organizations to organize these educational programs.
The slow economy has many landowners planning to sell their timber to pay bills or send a child to college. However, the sale of timber is not as simple a process as it may seem. Forest landowners also need to protect their timber resources from theft (both intentional and unintentional). Owners can minimize losses by clearly marking boundary lines and frequently walking the property.
Although individual landowners own 64 percent of Virginia’s 15.6 million acres of forests, they are often not aware of how to manage their wooded acreage in a sustainable way that will benefit both owner and resource. Selling timber the smart way to promote tree health, enhance wildlife habitat, discourage pests, and promote species diversity while realizing an economic gain requires both planning and commitment.
“Many of Virginia’s more than 373,000 landowners are new to forest management and have questions about what they should do and what assistance is available to them,” said Jennifer Gagnon, coordinator of the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program in the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment. “Working with a professional forester helps landowners make sure they get a fair amount for their timber and that they are happy with how their forest looks after the harvest‑and that you have planned for the next forest.
”VFLEP, in collaboration with Virginia Cooperative Extension, is offering a day-long course that will highlight the right way, both economically and environmentally, to earn income from forested properties. Selling Your Timber will take place in three locations across the state:
- Randolph Farm at Virginia State University in Petersburg on Feb. 19
- Patrick Henry Community College in Stuart on Feb. 27
- Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center in Abingdon on Feb. 28
Pre-registration is required on a first-come, first-served basis, as space is limited. Registration is $25 per person, which covers materials, lunch and refreshments. For more information, email Jennifer Gagnon or call 540-231-6391.
Tenth Woods and Wildlife Conference Feb. 23
This year’s Woods and Wildlife Conference for owners of forests and wood lots take place on Feb. 23. The daylong event, co-sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Department of Forestry, will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Daniel Technology Center at Germanna Community College in Culpeper, Va. The conference features expert speakers on topics relating to wildlife habitat improvement, threats to forestland, forest management techniques, and maximizing their property’s potential. The cost is $45 per person or $80 per couple, which includes lunch and materials.
To register online or to download a brochure, visit the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program website. The deadline to register is Feb. 13. For more information, contact Adam Downing, Extension forestry and natural resources agent, at 540-948-6881.
Forest Health Conference
The Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals will host its 21st annual conference on Feb. 4 and 5 at the Inn at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. The conference is Virginia’s largest forum on forest health management issues, including forest ecology and emerging pests and diseases.
“This is the best locally relevant technical continuing education program I’ve participated in,” said Downing, who is a member of the conference planning committee. “There is something here for everyone, from urban and suburban tree care specialists, to rural field foresters and everyone in between.” Speakers include faculty members from Virginia Tech and representatives from state and federal agencies.
Register for the conference and find conference details online.
Annual Landowner Weekend Retreats
The Virginia Department of Forestry and Virginia Cooperative Extension host Virginia’s popular Annual Landowner Weekend Retreats each spring and fall. Geared towards landowners who are new to forest management, the retreats provide information on both hardwood and pine forest management. Other topics include estate planning, management planning and certification, plus hands-on experience with tree identification, forestry equipment, and more. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with natural resource professionals from various agencies in Virginia, as well as with other landowners.
The two retreats in 2013 are as follows:
- The Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center, Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest in Appomattox on April 26-28. Cost is $60 per person, $90 per couple for those who lodge on site and $30 per person, $45 per couple for those who lodge elsewhere. Meals are included. Online Registration begins in February.
- The Airfield 4-H Center in Wakefield Sept. 6-8. Registration will begin in July. Fees will be the same. Meals are also included.
In addition, numerous online classes are available for forest and woodlot owners. The 2013 Online Woodland Options for Landowners class runs from March 4 to May 26 and will cover topics such as setting management goals and objectives; marking boundary lines; locating, reading, and understanding your deed; using maps, photos, Google Earth, and soil surveys; forest ecology; and management and sources of assistance.
Upon completion of the program, students can have a draft forest management plan. Natural resource professionals serve as mentors. Registration is now open. Cost is $45 per family.
Virginia's Links to Education about Forests (LEAF) Learning Modules are also available online.
The Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program (VFLEP) has an online list of additional forestry education events that can help forest owners wishing to learn more about their resource.