Among Virginia’s Forest Trends and Conditions, three important changes for the foreseeable future were identified: population growth and demographic changes such as an aging population and increased ethnic diversity; the continued loss of forestland throughout the Commonwealth; and changes in forest ownership, particularly from one generation to the next. Eight current and potential threats were also identified: the expansion of the wildland-urban interface and the associated dangers of wildland fire; the sustainability of the forest, especially in the area of new markets and products; potential impacts associated with climate change; a decline in reforestation of our lands; the loss of a viable forest industry; the decline of certain species of trees; a diminishing focus on tree improvement efforts; and insufficient funding for natural resource programs and conservation education.
Some issues affect both Virginia and our neighboring states: the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay – an American treasure that is impacted by six states and the District of Columbia; forest health, which includes threats posed by Southern Pine Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer among others; the restoration of diminished species, such as longleaf pine, shortleaf pine and American chestnut; the conservation of land in the New River Valley, and the restoration of the Appalachian forest.
Conserve the forestland base; promote a larger, connected forest landscape, and ensure the sustainable use of woody biomass
The protection of lives, property and resources from wildfire is paramount and continues to be a foundational issue for Virginia. Virginia’s leading cause of wildfire continues to be careless debris burning, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all wildfire causes. Numbers of woodland communities and homes have increased substantially in recent years, with a corresponding increase in the number of homes threatened or destroyed by fire. The state’s increasing population, increasing home development in rural areas, and increasing push by Virginia’s citizens to enjoy the forests, all combine to make wildfire a threat. The Virginia Department of Forestry is utilizing the results of the GIS‐based Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment (SWRA) project to prioritize those areas where information, planning and community interaction or treatments would be the most effective to reduce fuels and the overall risk from wildland fire.
Protect woodland home communities from fire; protect forests from invasive species, and conserve and restore diminished species
Perhaps one of the most important contributions of Virginia’s forests is cleaning and storing water. Virginia's guidelines demonstrate commitment to maintaining water quality during timber harvesting operations as well as participating in the establishment of new forested buffers." In Virginia, 60 percent of the watersheds drain to the Chesapeake Bay. Increasing population; changes in land use, and more intensive use of the land are decreasing the forest cover within watershed drainages and adversely affecting the ability of forests to filter, slow and store water. The need for high‐quality water and forests to protect these waters is universal across the Commonwealth. Despite this ubiquitous need, there are ways to make water quality efforts more effective.
Enhance water quality and quantity; promote ecosystem services; improve urban and community forests, and facilitate certification opportunities for landowners
Virginia’s forests generate $27.5 billion of revenue from forest products and related benefits. However, the conversion of forestland to other uses continues to be one of the most significant threats to our forest resources, and impacts the quality of life for all Virginians. Slowing the loss of forestland due to conversion will involve influencing the land‐use decisions of individual landowners as well as the land‐use policies of the Commonwealth and its localities. The VDOF has embarked on a concerted effort to develop a forestland conservation program for the Commonwealth. A new Forestland Conservation Division has been established; efforts focus on accepting donated land conservation easements from willing landowners, providing input on forest benefits and conservation tools to localities, and utilizing the federal Forest Legacy program and state funding when available to conserve land through easements and acquisitions.