Department of Forestry to receive new program funding

A new project through the Virginia Department of Forestry is seeking to further protect one of Virginia’s largest natural and economic resources.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has announced that the department of forestry will be awarded more than $1.3 million for its forest conservation efforts through a new USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service effort called Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

The forestry department was awarded the money for a proposal on a project called “Forests — Fundamental for Conservation in Virginia” and was one of 115 projects selected to receive funding for 2014.

According to John Campbell, director of public information for the department, forest management director Dean Cumbia met with the conservation partnership program in Richmond on Wednesday to discuss the details surrounding the awarded funds.

“Basically, it is a financial assistance program,” he said, “The landowner will have to do a project on his or her property and that money will help pay for part of that.”

Campbell noted that the department will fund part of the efforts by landowners, with the rest coming from the Natural Resource Conservation Service program funds.

“This is going to be forest management activities like planting a riparian buffer around a stream and … doing other things like soil stabilization,” Campbell said.

According to Campbell, the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to figure out timelines, exact funding availability and how many landowners will be eligible to receive assistance.

“They are looking at different practices. Some of them can take place in the spring, some need to happen in the summer and some for the fall,” he said.

One of the goals of this proposed project is to reintroduce certain species of trees to the forest for diversity.

Campbell explained that a lot of the plan is related to the Chesapeake Bay and “making sure we are putting in buffers to prevent nutrients and sediment from getting access to the waters of the Commonwealth.”

Other goals that the Department of Forestry will be looking at include efforts to “bring back some of the diminished [tree] species like long-leaf pine.”

Campbell said reintroducing such species will not only provide more diversity for the forest, but will also help preserve the forest against threats such as the emerald ash borer.

In the case of the ash borer, Campbell said, “Every ash tree’s going to be attacked by it, so you want a diversity of species out there so that not every tree in the forest is going to die.”

Campbell said the money awarded will help boost Virginia’s economy.

“The money is going to turn, not just from us to the landowner, but also from the landowner to a contractor that employs workers,” he said.

Campbell said the department of forestry has not received the money yet and will “be looking to reach out to landowners shortly.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com