First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe celebrates Arbor Day, Garden Day

newspaperFirst Lady Dorothy McAuliffe celebrated Arbor Day and Garden Day on Friday by planting three longleaf pine trees behind the Executive Mansion.

The tree-planting event recognized several state agencies, non-government entities, and private individuals who are tirelessly working to restore native longleaf pine trees to the Virginia ecosystem.

Longleaf pines once covered more than 1 million acres of southeast Virginia.  Due to over harvesting for a variety of uses, including construction, shipbuilding, and naval stores, there are now only 200 mature native longleaf pine trees remaining in the Commonwealth.

“We were first introduced to the story of the longleaf pine and the species’ historical significance to Virginia during the Department of Forestry’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2014, when we had several longleaf pines on display at the Mansion,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.  “As part of our commitment to biodiversity and protecting our native species, the Governor and I want to do everything we can to help restore this native tree.  I am grateful that so many state and federal agencies, non-government stakeholders, and private landowners share this same passion and have come together to bring the longleaf pine back from the brink of extinction in Virginia.”

“As we work with our private and public sector partners to achieve the Governor’s goal of growing our forestry industry and becoming the East Coast capital for agriculture and forestry exports, we need to do everything we can to promote forest management planning and practices,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore.  “Restoring the native longleaf pine is critical to our efforts to retain, manage and conserve working forestlands so we can ensure their value, longevity and ongoing economic impact, as well as the vital role they play in Virginia’s ecosystem.”

Joining First Lady McAuliffe at Friday’s tree planting were officials from the Virginia Department of Forestry; Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program; Virginia Department of Health; The Nature Conservancy; The Longleaf Alliance; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency; along with two private forest landowners who have planted and are growing longleaf pine on their properties.

The partnership, known as The Virginia Longleaf Cooperators, is leading efforts for the identification, protection, production and growth of native longleaf seed in the Commonwealth.  In addition to several of the partners listed above, this effort includes: the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, USDA Forest Service, Old Dominion University – Blackwater Preserve, and Meadowview Biological Research Station.

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