Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed

Press Coverage on

Our Forest Treasures of Rappahannock County Protect Our Watershed: How We Sustain, Enjoy, and Benefit

March 18, 2004: RappFlow to Hold Program on Forests in Rappahannock
April 21, 2004: How to Manage Your Forest: An Interview with Lyt Wood
April 21, 2004: Events - RappFLOW Event
April 28, 2004: Overflow Crowd Attends RappFLOW's Forestry Event

Rappahannock News

RappFlow to hold program on forests in Rappahannock

A RappFlow public education event on the role of forests in Rappahannock County and the best ways to manage them will be held on April 24 at 10 a.m. at Mt. Vernon Farm in Sperryville.

The public is invited to the program entitled: "Our Forest Treasures Protect Our Watershed: How we sustain, enjoy and benefit from them."

Forest covers 67 percent of the land in Rappahannock County. The forests protect the quality of water for the streams, ponds and groundwater.

People, animals and plants enjoy many benefits from the forests. How can we manage our forest lands in ways that sustain the forest ecology, the watershed, and other human interests?

In this exciting event at beautiful Mt. Vernon Farm in Sperryville, participants will learn from foresters, land owners, loggers, wood workers, scientists and each other.

Watch a professional horse logger and his Belgian workhorse fell and haul trees with minimal damage to the soil and ecology of the forest. Talk with local woodworkers as they saw and process local wood to produce beautiful products. Join students as they test the stream (Thornton River) for water quality indicators.

Get practical tips on sustainable forest management from arborist Lyt Wood and scientists from agencies such as Agriculture, Forestry, and Soil & Water Conservation. And, have a free lunch provided by the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection.

For more information please contact rappflow@earthlink.net.

©Times Community Newspapers 2004

How to manage your forest: An interview with Lyt Wood
By Beverly Hunter

Lyt Wood, well-known local forester and arborist, will be the featured presenter at the upcoming RappFLOW educational forum on sustainable forestry on April 24 from 10 a.m. through lunch (free) at Cliff Miller's Mount Vernon Farm in Sperryville.
Adding to Wood's expertise at the Saturday forum will be John McCarthy, Rappahannock County administrator, Martin Agee of the Virginia Department of Forestry with his exhibits, Kenner Love, Agricultural and Natural Resources Extension Agent in Little Washington, Joe Thompson, District Conservationist for Rappahannock and Culpeper counties, USDA, Julie May, Rappahannock Watershed Field Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Danny Dolinger of Virginia Forest Watch.

Lyt Wood brings to this forum 25 years of experience as a resident, arborist and forester working with landowners in Rappahannock County. In a recent interview, Wood provided important questions that landowners and those involved in forest operations should address for their individual benefit as well as protecting the watershed and enhancing the local economy.

Q. How does logging affect the watershed and water quality?

This is a central question of the RappFLOW forum and Wood has some surprising answers, such as the idea that "clearcutting," done correctly, can be beneficial to the quality of the forest and not damage the watershed.

The RappFLOW event will feature a demonstration of horse logging, by professional horse logger Chad Vogel. Vogel is a biological woodsman trained by the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation after obtaining his forestry degree from Paul Smith College.

Vogel will show RappFLOW participants how he selects trees for cutting. By removing nearby damaged or diseased trees, healthy, high-grade specimens are allowed to reproduce and maximize their growth potential. Then, using his team of Suffolk Punch draft horses, Vogel demonstrates how horses can pull logs without disturbing the remaining trees. This is far less damaging to the soil and tree roots than the continuous track created by track or wheel-driven machinery.

Wood will help RappFLOW participants understand how such practices protect the watershed and address the question, "In what situations is horse logging an appropriate, economically feasible, practical method of forestry operations? Does it have a place in our local economy?"

Q. Who needs a forest management plan and why is it important?

Wood focuses on integrating the environmental, ecological, economic, and social objectives of forest management. Most forest landowners, he says, can benefit from clarifying their multiple objectives as they identify the potential of their forest lands. Economic objectives for timber harvest might prompt an owner's interest in planning, but other goals such as obtaining firewood, conserving and enhancing wildlife habitat, protecting the watershed, enjoying recreation, and aesthetics always enter into the plan objectives.

Wood advocates an "integrated" approach to forest management, which is respectful of ecological processes. Integrated forestry seeks to create diverse, stable ecological communities, not only because of their intrinsic value, but also because they are the most productive kinds of communities.

Q. How large a tract of land do you need in order to prepare a forest management plan?

According to Wood, the area might consist of just a few trees all the way up to hundreds of acres. In some cases, the land might not yet have trees on it at all; many of our forests come from abandoned pasture or cropland. By understanding the history of your land and by working with naturally occurring succession of species, the landowner can help protect the watershed and plan for future economic benefit at the same time.

Q.What characteristics of the land are considered in making the forest management plan?

Wood urges the landowner to be guided by the ecology of the forest - the interrelationships of all organisms in their environment. Topography, aspect, soils, history of land use, geology, water, sunlight all help to define that environment. Assessing the stand of trees includes looking at characteristics such as species composition, density, age composition, growth rate, quality, volume, regeneration, and area.

Q. How do different harvesting strategies affect regeneration of the forest?

In considering alternative approaches to harvesting timber, Wood shows how each method affects the regeneration of the forest. For example, one method is to select all trees within small areas for cutting, to allow sunlight for desired species to regenerate.

Q. Can forests play a larger role in the local economy?

Our forest products can be processed in local sawmills, and used by cabinet makers, furniture makers, and builders. Some species of trees that grow well here, such as poplar, black locust, hickory, black gum, elm, and white pine, may not have a high dollar value in distant markets, but are very useful for construction, fences, barns, and other locally-made wood products, according to Wood.

The RappFLOW forum will include local sawyer Chris Byrd demonstrating his portable sawmill, and local woodworkers such as Bruce Westfall, Peter Kramer, and Steve Marquisee who will explain and demonstrate how they make their beautiful products from our important forest resources.

For more information about RappFLOW and the forum on sustainable forestry on April 24, please go to http://www.piedmontresearch.org/rappflow or see the Upcoming Events column in this newspaper.

What: RappFLOW forum on sustainable forestry

When: Saturday, April 24, 10 a.m. through lunch (free)

Where: Cliff Miller's Mount Vernon Farm in Sperryville.

©Times Community Newspapers 2004

Rappahannock News

Events -- April 21, 2004

RappFlow event

A RappFlow public education event on the role of forests in Rappahannock County and the best ways to manage them will be held on April 24 at 10 a.m. at Mt. Vernon Farm in Sperryville. For more information contact rappflow@earthlink.net.

Overflow crowd attends RappFLOW's forestry event
By Amy Silver and Beverly Hunter

A standing-room-only crowd of over 200 persons gathered in the restored mule team barn at Cliff Miller's Mt. Vernon Farm in Sperryville on Saturday to participate in RappFLOW's workshop on Sustainable Forestry in Rappahannock County.

Facing the Thornton River and surrounded by forests and pastures of grass-fed cattle, it was the perfect setting to learn about the relationships of forests and watershed.
At least 20 organizations and 40 persons contributed to the event with exhibits, demonstrations, expertise, educational materials, speeches and food (for a list of contributors see http://www.piedmontresearch.org/rappflow).

Co-coordinator Janet S. Davis introduced this fourth in a series of workshops sponsored by RappFLOW, a "loose affiliation of people who come together to protect Rappahannock's water resources," supported in part by a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.

The barn rang with laughter during County Administrator John McCarthy's introductory remarks on "The Environmental and Economic Value of Our Forests," when he joked that he views people seeking to move to the county as "viruses." However, once people move here he, "embraces them, treating them the same as those who have been here since before the flood."

McCarthy stressed the environmental and economic importance of forestry and agriculture. Pointing out that the Rappahannock County name itself "adds value" to products made here, McCarthy expressed his hope to see certified organic forestry products being grown in the county.

Five guidelines

In his presentation exploring the "Five Guidelines for Sustainable Forest Management," arborist and forester Lyt Wood emphasized overall forest health. For a nearby example of a less-than-healthy forest, Wood cited the Shenandoah National Park forest atop Thornton Gap, ravaged in recent history by fire, gypsy moths, ice, high winds, and by Oriental Bittersweet and the herbicides used to control it.

Wood's first guideline is to assess the site and then select tree species appropriate to the site, not the other way around. Secondly, the sustainable forester works with, rather than against, the flow of succession, in which open land is succeeded by trees that seed in full sunlight, followed by shade-loving hardwoods. With a mixed stand of hardwoods and Virginia pines, for example, cutting the pines out works with the flow of succession by removing "pioneer" trees that don't live very long.

Wood distinguished between alternative harvesting approaches, including clear cut, selective cut, and group cut. While "clear cutting" has become a "dirty word," according to Wood, in some cases, for example with a pure stand of Virginia pine, the only reasonable way to harvest these short-lived, shallow-rooted trees is with a clear cut, followed by replacement. Clear cutting also avoids "high grading," the practice of selecting only the best quality and most vigorous trees to cut, leaving the poorer trees and ultimately degrading the quality of the forest.

Further, clear cutting in itself is not damaging to the watershed; water quality is damaged by soil-disturbing practices such as heavy equipment, unstable logging roads, and skid trails. Selective cut, on the other hand, is usually only applicable with shade-tolerant stands such as sugar maple and American beech not typical in the county. While he was not advocating clear cutting, he said, it should be understood as one of several systems appropriate under certain circumstances.

When logging is over, said Wood, the area must be "put to bed" properly and timber replanted consistent with overall forest management goals, indicated by the third guideline: never consider timber harvest except in conjunction with timber regeneration. Fourth, remember that the forest is a complex ecosystem, including not only trees but also other plants, animals, soil, water and air. Healthy soil contains both air and water; healthy water does not contain soil. Three ways the watershed can be damaged are improper logging techniques, grazing, and forest loss.

The fifth guideline is to implement practices that have multiple benefits. Because we want to keep our forested land in Rappahannock County, said Wood, we must find ways for our forests to contribute to our local economy in some way: by harvesting timber or by adding value to forest products in various ways represented by the event's exhibitors.

Mt. Vernon Farm

Mt. Vernon Farm owner Cliff Miller spoke about the 850-acre farm farmed by his family since 1827. Miller's farm management philosophy has evolved over the years and he is now committed to improving the land and water, growing healthy products for sale locally, using sustainable practices and encouraging entrepreneurial young people to farm the land.

With 160 riparian acres in hardwood forest under the CREP program and 604 acres under conservation easement, the farm uses grass-based, management intensive grazing, no plowing, and no pesticides or fertilizers. They have just begun marketing grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef and will soon have chicken and lamb available.

After the presentations came the demonstrations. Chad Vogel, a professional horse logger, demonstrated felling and hauling a log with Belgian work horses, explaining why horse logging supports sustainable forestry. Horses compact the soil much less than big machines, are less damaging to surrounding timber, run on solar fuel and are "self-renewing - you never find little baby skidders in the woods," said Vogel.

Other demonstrations included Chris Bird, a master at cutting, milling and building with local hardwoods, with his transportable sawmill; Bruce Westfall, a talented craftsman and woodworker who has restored several barns at Mt. Vernon farm; furniture-maker Peter Kramer; Luther Steve Marquisee, and Steve Morse, who manufactures wood veneer panels using sustainable, rapidly renewable and recycled content. Artist and potter Jeannie Drevas displayed items from her "Conversations with Nature: Gleanings from the Forest" collection.

At the conclusion of the event, under glorious spring skies, a free lunch of Mt. Vernon-grown grass-fed beef, hot off the grill, was sponsored and served by the members of the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection.

©Times Community Newspapers 2004