First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe helped harvest the 2 Billionth tree seedling grown by the Virginia Department of Forestry during a celebration March 29, 2017 at the Garland Gray Forestry Center in Sussex County. The First Lady and Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Basil Gooden, were staffing the lifting machine that pulled the special seedling out of its bed of loblolly pines before a gathering of elected officials, Agency partner organizations and VDOF staff.
The ceremony was part of the VDOF Nurseries’ 100th anniversary. The tree seedling nursery program began in Charlottesville in 1917 as a way to restore the millions of acres of Virginia forestland that had been lost to over-harvesting and wildfires during the previous three centuries. In the spring of 1917, Mr. J.P. Taylor of Orange, Va., gave $500 to establish a tree nursery under the direction of Virginia’s first state forester, Chapin Jones. At the time, Jones was the only employee of the Office of the State Forester — the predecessor to the VDOF. Jones planted a mix of loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, white pine and Norway spruce on the campus of the University of Virginia. At the end of that first growing season, Jones had 200,000 tree seedlings to sell to Virginia landowners so that they could replant formerly forested tracts on their property.
“Our beautiful Commonwealth had become a victim of its own success,” said Mrs. McAuliffe. “Our forest resources diminished from 25 million acres when the colony in Jamestown was established in 1607 to just 1 million in 1917 as a result of land clearing for farms, production and the establishment of our cities and towns. The trees were harvested for everything from building materials to fences, ships and poles. Much of Virginia grew and thrived, but this was detrimental to our forests as what was being cut was not being replanted. Fortunately, sustainability became a cornerstone for VDOF, and we now have 16 million acres of forestland across the state and have lifted a total of 2 billion seedlings from Virginia’s nurseries in the last 100 years.”
Secretary Gooden said, “Thanks to the forest landowners, the forest industry, a number of terrific partner organizations and the staff at the Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia’s forestlands have made a remarkable recovery and now comprise 16 million acres across the state. And forestry is a key component in the New Virginia Economy, employing more than 103,000 Virginians and contributing $17 billion annually to the state’s economy!”
From Forest Business Network: http://www.forestbusinessnetwork.com/69238/2-billionth-tree-seedling-harvested-in-virginia/