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Virginia Forests Join National "Network" to Protect Them

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The James Madison Landmark Forest is only about 200 acres in size, and contains some trees that are more than 200 years old. (American Forest Foundation)
The James Madison Landmark Forest is only about 200 acres in size, and contains some trees that are more than 200 years old. (American Forest Foundation)
 By Chris Thomas, Public News Service - VA, Contact
May 16, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – A conservation group wants to designate an old-growth forest in every county in the United States that has forestland - and four in Virginia already are on the list.

The Old Growth Forest Network estimates only about one percent of the original forestland in the eastern U.S. is still in pristine condition, and only five percent out West.

Ernie Reed, president of Wild Virginia, said almost all the forested land in Virginia was logged, burned, developed or overtaken by invasive species in the past 150 years or so – and what's still standing is in recovery.

"These forests that we have are extremely precious and extremely important, but they aren't what was here before," Reed said. "It's our job to kind of actively bring them back, as best we can. We can have areas where the natural processes dominate what's going on."

He said protecting large forested areas is critical because their genetic diversity makes them more resilient, giving them better odds against continued threats from invasive plants and animals.

The Virginia forests in the old-growth network so far are the Fernbrook Natural Area, Glencarlyn Park, Whiteoak Canyon and the James Madison Landmark Forest.

According to Joan Maloof, executive director of the Old Growth Forest Network, about three out of four counties nationwide have forests worth preserving. She said tall trees help identify an older forest, but tree age isn't the only consideration.

"You will find some trees that are larger than you would find in a more recently logged forest, and they're home for so many organisms: so much fungi, so many insects, so many reptiles and amphibians," she explained.

Maloof added volunteers are key to saving forests across the country and her group is looking for people who can help.

They also take nominations for areas to be considered for inclusion in the Old Growth Forest Network, online at oldgrowthforest.net.

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