Workshop will focus on encouraging backyard forestry

Virginia Cooperative Extension will be hosting a workshop for homeowners on woodland stewardship in Winchester on Friday.

Adam Downing, a forestry and natural resources agent for Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Northern District, has led “Creating & Tending Backyard Woods” as a co-author of “The Woods in Your Backyard,” the workshop’s reference book. He held this year’s first workshop in Warrenton on May 6 and said he was met with energetic response.

“A lot of landowners are interested in pruning the land that they have for various wildlife habitat interests, so there were a lot of questions about that,” he said.

Besides wanting to attract or repel certain animals like quail, turkey or deer, he said participants usually have a vested interest in conservation, too. Downing said the session can teach people about invasive species, how to improve wildlife habitats and encourage natural succession by planting more trees on their land.

After completing a workbook, he said participants usually draw up a written plan for their property and are able to keep in touch with resource professionals from agencies like the Virginia Department of Forestry, Game & Inland Fisheries and the Forests for the Bay Program.

Downing said he and his co-authors said that although they wanted to reach out to educate landowners with smaller properties, they knew it would be virtually impossible to give personal training.

“We decided to take the self-assist model and wrote this book with the workbook in it,” he said. “With a bit of a basis to understand how things work, the tools and the processes are not that difficult.”

Registration for the Friday afternoon event at the Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center includes a lunch and a copy of “The Woods in our Backyard.”

Mark Sutphin, an agriculture and natural resources extension agent based in Frederick County, said he’d be helping out with the workshop but also learning a few things himself.

“I know some of the aspects that we’re going to have presented are on conversion of some unused fallow grass areas of lawns, converting that back into forest habitat … managing the forest area for the wildlife, even some aspects for timber value,” he said.

While large landowners may already keep lines of contact with the Virginia Department of Forestry, Sutphin said these workshops are aimed at small landowners of two to 10 acres.

“As we see our acreage develop and as our communities urbanize, our rural properties are being divided up into smaller and smaller pieces,” he said. “When you aggregate them as a whole, they still constitute a significant portion of land and make up a large forest.”


• When: 12 to 5 p.m. Friday.

• Where: Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 595 Laurel Grove Road, Winchester.

• Cost: Pre-registration is required, and the cost is $30 per individual and $45 per couple.

• Information: Learn more about the workshop at http://tinyurl.com/hevdcdp and register by calling the Northern District Natural Resources Extension Program at 540-948-8881.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com