Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2022

Virginia Capitol Connections, Winter 2022 20 Virginia Introduces Its Twenty-Sixth State Forest By ROB FARRELL Ensuring the integrity of large forested landscapes and keeping them in sustainable management are two of the most important conservation strategies today. On November 4, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring joined the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and partners to officially open Charlotte State Forest, celebrating its rich history, future management, and conservation. Named for the county in which it resides, Charlotte State Forest is the most recent addition to the state forest system, and the county’s first state-owned publiclyaccessible land. Virginia’s state forests are critical to promoting environmental sustainability and a strong economy across the Commonwealth. The state’s 26th state forest contributes to the many benefits forests offer and opens a remarkable location for public use. The VDOF manages more than 74,000 acres across its 26 state forests. These forests act as models, demonstrating how sustainably-managed forest lands can provide economic, environmental, and recreational benefits. The property is a very special place in Charlotte County, with abundant water resources and a history of sustainable management for both timber and wildlife habitat. The new state forest spans more than 5,000 acres and will provide recreational opportunities for the public, maintain wildlife habitats, preserve water quality, and contribute to the local economy. The property features more than 800 acres of wetlands, creating a biodiverse ecosystem that game hunters have used for decades. The river, stream, and wetland resources drain into Kerr Lake, which provides drinking water to nearly 500,000 residents in Virginia and North Carolina. In addition to its significant conservation value, the property comes with a rich history. Located within the state’s highest timberproducing region, the land that is now Charlotte State Forest was once owned by Thomas B. Stanley, who served as Virginia’s Governor from 1954 to 1958. The property was subsequently used by Stanley Lumber and Land Corporation for the sustainable harvesting of shortleaf and Virginia pine, white oak, and hickory, to provide to local mills for furniture. The Conservation Fund, an environmental nonprofit that works to acquire and protect working forests, purchased the land from Stanley Land and Lumber Corporation in 2019. To acquire the land from The Conservation Fund, VDOF leveraged federal, state and private funding through the USDA Forest Legacy Program, the federal Land andWater Conservation Fund, agencymitigation funds, and additional Land and Water Conservation Fund Stateside grant funding. Forest Legacy projects can take several years to accomplish and require a high degree of commitment from partners and landowners. Thanks to the dedication of VDOF, The Conservation Fund, USDA Forest Service, support from Virginia’s U.S. Congressional delegation, funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the essential vision and cooperation of Stanley Land & Lumber Corporation, this special property in Charlotte County will continue to provide ecosystem services and offer families and individuals increased access to Virginia’s outdoors. Forestry is the third largest industry in Virginia and plays an essential role in the state’s economy, contributing $21 billion annually and employing more than 108,000 workers. Charlotte State Forest supports the industry through sustainable management, but it is the impressive wetlands, biodiversity and habitat that underscore the new state forest’s significance to all Virginians. Charlotte State Forest continues the legacy of three generations of the Stanley family and the Stanley Land and Lumber Corporation, safeguarding the forest’s ability to provide vital economic and ecological benefits for generations to come. As state forester, Rob Farrell serves as the director of the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and is responsible for ensuring that the agency accomplishes its mission to protect and develop healthy, sustainable forest resources.V