Forestry Update

Published 3:50 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2011

CUMBERLAND – The Board of Supervisors received a little perspective on the state of the Cumberland State Forest and an overall update on what the Virginia Department of Forestry has been doing within the county from Gwynn Tyler, forestry specialist with the Department of Forestry, during this month's meeting on September 12.

Tyler has been assisting Cumberland in the forester's job for approximately six months now but introduced Nathan Rutherford to the Board; he will be filling the forester position in Cumberland and Powhatan Counties.

“A bit of interesting news that I found is from the latest published information relating to stumpage values for timber,” noted Tyler about where Cumberland ranks. “This is the commercial value of standing timber that is sold. The July 2009 to June 2010 report shows that Cumberland ranked 18 out of 107 localities in the state where data was collected. The stumpage value for Cumberland was approximately $4 million. These numbers reinforce the fact that the timber industry is very important for the economy of Cumberland.”

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There were 17 pine-planting projects on private forestland for 683 acres, Tyler told the Board, and there have been a number of pine and hardwood thinnings this year-this work covered approximately 1,400 acres.

“These are timber harvests where a logger removes the less desirable trees to make room for the better quality trees to grow,” explained Tyler to the Board. “We have completed timber stand improvement work through the use of hardwood brush control on seven tracts for a little over 300 acres. Additional acres have been planted and managed on forest industry land.”

While the number of harvest acres decreased within the last year, Tyler noted, the latest forest survey indicates that the cutting volume for the Southern Piedmont, which includes Cumberland, “is over slightly,” added Tyler.

“However, the data shows that we are still growing more volume of hardwood timber than we are cutting,” he added. “There are several reasons for the over cutting of the pine resource. These include but are not limited to market situations, changes in land ownership, changes in land use, and the economy in general, where landowners need to sell their timber to pay their bills.

“While this is not a major concern at this time, it is something to be aware of,” Tyler offered to the Supervisors. “The continuation of this trend will depend on land use and ownership patterns in the future. The development of alternative markers may also play a role in the demand for timber.”

Protecting the forest from wildfire still and will always be the department's main goal, advised Tyler.

“As part of this goal we provide financial resources to rural fire departments to help with the acquisition of small equipment and personal protective gear,” offered Tyler.

The second goal, he said, is protecting the water quality of forested land.

“We continue to inspect each logging job for water quality issues and take appropriate action where necessary if we find any concerns. These concerns are primarily related to sediment or debris that might get into streams or other waterways located on or near logging jobs. Overall we have found that the loggers are doing a very good job of following the best management practices that pertain to water quality,” noted Tyler.

Related to sustainability and alternative markets, Tyler explained to the Supervisors that the Department of Forestry has seen an increase in the interest “in the use of woody biomass for energy use.”

“We now have several logging companies with wood chippers. They are able to better utilize non-merchantable logging debris for fuel chips. This reduces the need for site preparation work for tree planting and makes the logging job more aesthetically pleasing. It also reduces the potential fire hazard,” he said.

Concerning fires in Cumberland, so far this year the Department of Forestry has responded to eight fires in the county.

“These fires have burned approximately 10 acres of woodland and about one acre of open land,” said Tyler. “A total of five homes were protected from these fires. The fires started primarily from debris burning. Other causes include equipment use and lightning.

“Cumberland was fortunate last February when so many other localities had large fires and lost several homes. I think this can be attributed to several factors, the citizens of Cumberland being careful and aware of the fire danger, quick response from the fire departments, and assistance from Department of Forestry personnel,” continued Tyler.

The fall fire season officially begins on October 15, he added, and extends through November 30.

“We would like to remind everyone that fire conditions can change quickly this time of year, especially when the leaves begin to fall,” he said.

Related to the beetle activity in the area, Tyler said, “There has been some minor activity from pine back beetles this year and we have not received any reports to Gypsy Moths. Hopefully that trend will continue for the near future.”

Board Chairman Van Petty, District Three, expressed his curiosity about the decline in the Gypsy Moth population throughout this area.

“I know several years ago it looked like they were coming this way,” he offered. “It looks like they have slowed down.”

“There are several factors,” answered Tyler. “Several of them have to do with weather conditions and the amount of rainfall in the early lifecycle of the insect…The more rainfall we get…it will infiltrate the body of the caterpillar and it helps take care of that and it just hasn't seemed to be too many of them in this area the last couple of years or so.”

And what about those purple insect traps hanging all along the roadways?

Tyler explained to the Supervisors that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is trying to monitor the spread of an insect called the Emerald Ash Borer.

“This is an insect that attacks ash trees,” he said. “It has been a pretty devastating insect for ash trees across the upper Midwest and parts of New England. So far, in Virginia, it has only been found in the northern part of the state.”

About those purple traps, Supervisor Elbert Womack, District Four, asked, “Does the insect fly into those traps?”

“Yes, the insects fly into those traps,” responded Tyler and touched on them being the color of purple. “I'm not sure what the color has to do with it but there is an insect attractor in it that attracts the insects to it.”

Supervisor Bill Osl, District One, expressed after the forestry report, “That was an excellent report. Thank you for that. Excellent Report.”

“Cumberland is doing a lot of good work and it shows in the data we are able to collect,” Tyler concluded.