Northam dedicates new state forest in Rockingham County
Gov. Ralph Northam dedicated First Mountain State Forest on Monday in Rockingham County, the Commonwealth’s newest state forest, and joined the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Virginia’s state forests.
A gift of 588 acres in Prince Edward County, near Farmville, to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1919 by Mr. Emmett D. Gallion marked the beginning of Virginia’s state forest system. First Mountain is the 25th state forest in Virginia.
The new state forest lies on the southeast slopes of First Mountain, for which it was named, in the southern portion of the Massanutten range. First Mountain encompasses 573 acres of hardwood and pine stands, as well as open fields and more than 21,700 feet of stream frontage. It is adjacent to 583 contiguous acres of the George Washington National Forest.
“From tree planting to harvesting, Virginia’s state forests demonstrate the best practices in forestry, provide important recreation cultural and heritage resources, and scenery, help keep our air and water clean, and protect space for fish and wildlife,” said Governor Northam. “For a century, Virginians have benefitted from healthy and resilient forests, and I am delighted to announce our newest state forest, First Mountain, which will continue the legacy of sustainable forest management in our Commonwealth.”
Mercury from industrial activities at a former E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) facility in Waynesboro, Virginia, contaminated the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River, impacting fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Recreational fishing opportunities were also impacted from the mercury contamination, due to the fish consumption advisories on the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River (SFSR). The property was purchased from the Dofflemyer family through funding from the DuPont natural resource damages and restoration settlement and was identified as a land protection project. The settlement, which is administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is valued at about $50 million.
“When we talk about water quality we are also talking about healthy wildlife, resilient communities, and strong local economies. The common denominator is healthy forests,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “The acquisition and protection of First Mountain State Forest demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to envisioning vital forests and associated ecosystems.”
“Conserving forest lands and managing them responsibly for both their economic and environmental values is a key to sustaining many rural Virginia communities,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Virginia’s 25th state forest represents exactly what our administration’s ConserveVirginia initiative aims to do in protecting the highest conservation value lands in the Commonwealth, providing long-term benefits for all Virginians including outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, and cleaner air and water.”
Virginia’s newest state forest contains 21,711 feet of frontage on at least eight perennial and intermittent streams, including Snag Run and a portion of Boone’s Run. Snag Run flows into Boone’s Run, which empties directly into the SFSR, one of the injured resources identified in the DuPont Waynesboro–South River/South Fork Shenandoah River/Shenandoah River Site settlement.
“Millions of dollars from the DuPont settlement have fueled projects like this to conserve land for future generations, restore wildlife habitat and streams, and improve recreational opportunities in the region,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service North Atlantic-Appalachian Regional Director Wendi Weber. “We look forward to the benefits that this new state forest will bring to wildlife and nearby communities.”
“First Mountain State Forest has magnificent views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, diverse flora and fauna, and the upper reaches of Boone’s Run are a designated Class II wild trout stream where brook trout are present,” said State Forester Rob Farrell. “Water is what makes this place special. With more than 21,000 feet of stream frontage and 43,422 feet of vegetated buffers, First Mountain plays an important role in improving water quality, recreation and tourism opportunities, and ultimately the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”
Originally part of Boone’s Run Farm, the property was owned by long-time Charlottesville residents Virginia and Alfred Dofflemyer and was in the Dofflemyer family for multiple generations. Prior to 2007, Boone’s Run Farm was a well-managed tree farm.
“I speak on behalf of the entire Dofflemyer family in expressing our excitement that the family farm is now part of the state forest system and will be protected from future development,” said Todd Dofflemyer. “Additionally, we are excited by the prospect of the VDOF actively tree farming like my grandfather, Alfred Dofflemyer, did for so many years.”
The state forests of Virginia are self-supporting and receive no taxpayer funds for operation. Operating funds are generated from the sale of forest products. In addition, up to 25 percent of the revenue received from the sale of forest products is returned to the counties in which the forests are located. Virginians can support educational programs on state forests by donating a portion of their state tax refund to Virginia’s State Forests Fund.
The Virginia Department of Forestry protects and develops healthy, sustainable forest resources for Virginians. With nearly 16 million acres of forestland and more than 108,000 Virginians employed in forestry, forest products and related industries, Virginia forests provide an overall economic output of more than $21 billion annually. Headquartered in Charlottesville, the agency has forestry staff members assigned to every county to provide citizen service and public safety protection across the Commonwealth.