Patrick Sheridan District Ranger gives report and career news
“This is District Ranger Patrick Sheridan with the monthly report from the James River Ranger District and the Warm Springs Ranger District.
We are in the process of finalizing the Decision Notice for the Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management project. We received to formal objections. One objection was resolved and withdrawn. A second objection was heard. The final decision is expected to be signed by the end of December which will clear the way to implement the decision. This planning effort identifies projects that can advance the natural resource goals for the approximately 100,000 acres of the eastern portions of Allegheny and Bath Counties and proposes a wide array of land management activities to occur in the next ten years. A significant aspect of the project has been the broad group of public stakeholders that has participated in the process since its inception two years ago.
Campground1 at Lake Moomaw and the Hidden Valley Campground closed for the season December1. Hidden Valley will reopen in March, and Lake Moomaw will resume operations in April.
Active timber management is occurring on the Little Mountain Sale in Bath and Allegheny Counties, the Tri County Sale in Allegheny, and the Bratton’s Run timber sale in Rockbridge County. In-active timber sales are the Back Creek sale in Bath and Highland Counties and the Mare’s Run sale in Bath County. Timber Management projects planned for sale in 2016 include the 294 acre Porters Mill timber sale. Porters Mill is comprised of ten units and the primary objective of the sale is to perpetuate the oak-hickory forest and create early successional wildlife habitat by establishing two to four-acre permanent wildlife openings. Timber sales are competitively auctioned to the highest bidder who must comply with the timber sale contract that governs every aspect of the operation from planning which trees to harvest and when, to logging and road building practices, to reforestation and invasive species control.
The Forest Service fire season forecast for our area and most of the southeastern part of the United States is expected to be below normal through February. There is high confidence that the current and peaking El Nino episode will continue to produce a progressively higher frequency of moderate to locally heavy storm events of either rain or mixed rain/snow events. The Farmers Almanac seems to concur saying we should expect slightly higher than normal snowfall for the winter of 2015/16.
Warm Springs and James River Employees recent work in the woods includes: boundary line maintenance, prescribed burn control lines, wildlife opening maintenance, road maintenance, and timber stand improvement work.”
This is part two of a report from Patrick Sheridan, district ranger of the James River and Warms Springs Ranger Districts.
“The 2016 spring prescribed burn lineup is carrying 10 burns for a total of 7,000 acres. The burn planning today is a multi jurisdictional effort encompassing prescribed fire on national forest, The Nature Conservancy, Virginia Department of Game and Fish and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation lands. Employees from each entity work together to plan and conduct the prescribed burn regardless of ownership. We will begin to look for opportunities to burn in February. The conditions for the prescribed fires are complex. Weather and fuel conditions must all be within prescribed ranges in order to conduct the burn. At a minimum, parameters include wind speeds and direction, temperature, relative humidity, mixing heights, transport winds, dry fuel moisture, live fuel moisture, soil moisture and days since wetting rain. When everything is within limits, a “burn window” exists and the prescribed fire can be implemented. While there may be smoke, it will likely be far less than produced by an unwanted wildfire in an area where fire has not been restored to the ecosystem. Consideration for human safety is the highest priority for these burns.
Since the emerald ash borer was first detected in Michigan in 2002, the non-native invasive beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees across the eastern half of the United States and continues to infest new regions. Within its native range in in Asia, emerald ash borer is attacked by a variety of predators including several species of wasps that parasitize the beetles eggs or larvae. Because these wasps are expected to play a role in maintain low emerald ash borer populations in Asia, three species have been introduced into North America as biocontrol agents. Researchers released thousand of non-native predatory wasps in experimental release plots in forests of southern Michigan.
So far, the results show significant declines in the densities of live emerald ash borer larvae in infested ash trees. The study has indicated that the non-native wasps helped control emerald ash borer populations and can help prevent widespread ash tree death in newly infested forests, and the scientists recommend that the wasps be released as soon as the presence of emerald ash borer has been detected. Biocontrol, however, is always a risky and unpredictable management action. Remember the lady bug that was introduced as a biocontrol to aphids that were decimating pecan crops in Texas 20 years ago? The lady bugs did a great job on the aphids and saved the pecan crops, but their populations went out of control without any natural predators. Hopefully the wasps and the emerald ash borer has a happy ending.
This is my last update on the Allegheny Mountain Radio airwaves. I am retiring from the Forest Service on January 1. My first AMR update was back in 2002 under Bonnie Ralston’s guiding hand. Over 100 updates and thirteen years later, their support has been unwavering and complete. I want to thank Allegheny Mountain Radio for the opportunity to inform the public, and share the activities and management of our national forests with our communities. I can also tell you that my AMR updates are on the list of things I will miss most. “