National Forests Receive Aid in Virginia

Several strategic partners are pooling efforts under a cooperative agreement to work 16 unique projects in the George Washington and Jefferson national forests. The projects are incorporated into the comprehensive Wallace Marshall Stewardship Project. 

Partners include the USDA Forest Service, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Ruffed Grouse Society and the NWTF Virginia State Chapter. The work is funded with receipts from timber harvests, partner contributions and retained receipts from previous stewardship projects. Goals include improving forest health, enhancing wildlife habitat and reducing nonnative invasive species, such as autumn olive.

According to Cully McCurdy, NWTF regional biologist for Virginia and West Virginia, the plan is to systematically convert existing autumn olive cover to native species cover. 

“To meet these goals, we have to remove a portion of the autumn olive in stages. The first treatment occurred in fall 2015 with mulching and mechanical removal of about half of the mature autumn olive, McCurdy said. “We followed that by establishing a significant hedgerow that included planting more than 85,000 square feet of native species, such as hawthorn, dogwood, blackhaw, elderberry, buttonbush and alder. After completing the mechanical treatment, we followed up by spot-spraying herbicide.” 

The next step is to allow time for the new hedgerows to grow to a point where they provide adequate wildlife cover. Then, a second mechanical treatment will be applied to the other half of the old fields to remove remaining autumn olive. In addition to mechanical and herbicide treatments, McCurdy says they’re also using prescribed fire. The newly established hedgerows are protected from the fire by disking the adjacent land, creating fire breaks. 

McCurdy credits the success of these projects to the cooperative working relationship and funding between the NWTF and its partners. “This work will provide adequate cover for a variety of native wildlife species, especially the American woodcock, ruffed grouse and native songbirds. Amazing things can happen when we roll up our sleeves and work together,” McCurdy said. 

Here’s a breakdown of the funding and services:

  • Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries — $15,000 for mowing/grinding 
  • USDA Forest Service — $30,000 for grinding/mowing and herbicide treatment
  • The Ruffed Grouse Society — $10,000 from the Virginia Drummer Fund to pay for the entire hedgerow establishment including plants, planting and tube shelters 
  • NWTF Virginia State Chapter — $2,700 from the Virginia Super Fund to establish fire breaks to protect hedgerows during controlled burns
  • Conservation Services, Inc. — contractor that completed hedgerow establishment planting and provided valuable technical advice related to species, spacing and survivability. 
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