The Blue Ridge, Foothills and Lakes (BRFAL) Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists was very lucky indeed to have Dr. Carol Croy of the US Forest Service give us a one hour presentation on Ecological Restoration in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests on the evening of January 16th. Dr. Croy has been employed by the US Forest Service for 22 years as a forest biologist and received her doctorate in forest ecology from Mississippi State University. She specializes in avian ecology and fire ecology.
Dr. Croy oversees approximately one million acres of the GW and Jefferson National Forests. Oak forests are dominant. Oak forests also include hickory and pine. There are also predominantly pine forests. Pine forests are fire dependent, especially table mountain pine which requires fire to open cones for seed propagation.
The National forests also include grasslands and shrublands. These type areas are vital to support various type of flora and fauna that thrive in this type environment. These areas only comprise about 1% of the GW & Jefferson National Forest land. Additionally there are spruce and northern hardwood areas. These areas are usually at higher elevations on north facing slopes.
Although we are all aware that the mature American Chestnut trees have been virtually blighted out of existence in Virginia, what you might not know is that American Chestnut still survives as living root systems and as shrubs. Biologists are working with these shrubs by splicing in blight resistant sections for other American Chestnut trees in attempt to restore our chestnut forests which have been vital for the existence of many species.
Dr. Croy discussed silviculture. In case you are not familiar with the term silviculture it is defined as “the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, and quality of forest vegetation for the full range of forest resource objectives.”. This would include selective clearing and controlled burns. This allows re-establishment of undergrowth which will support renewed growth of endangered plant species and habitat for endangered animals.
The BRFAL group found Dr. Croy’s presentation very interesting. Dr. Croy agreed to lead our group on a field trip some time in the future. She was presented with a BRFAL ballcap as a token of our appreciation.