September 2019 U.S. Forest Service Update

Hello, and welcome to your district Ranger update for September 2019. This is Elizabeth McNichols from the Warm Springs and James River districts of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you each month. 

Safety message of the day-

With fall arriving and cooler weather folks are starting to fire up the wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Did you know improper disposal of ashes from fireplaces and wood stoves can cause wildland and structural fires, one quart of wood produces about 50 pounds of ash. Wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days and winds can uncover still hot embers and start a wildfire. What can you do to prevent wildfires igniting from hot wood ash do keep ashes in a metal container that can be tightly closed with a metal lid and teach other family members about the dangers associated with hot ash disposal. Do not dispose of ashes and paper, plastic, or cardboard containers and never dump loads of wood ash into one pile. The pile can retain heat and insulate embers for long periods of time. Do not assume that ashes are cold and pour them onto the ground or into a hole leaves can blow onto them or the wind can stir up sparks. Wood ash once completely cool, can safely be dumped. To properly dispose of hot ashes. Pour the ashes into a metal container and soak the ashes with water. Place a metal lid securely on the container and put the clothes container outside your home away from combustible materials. Once you are positive the ashes in your container are cold, dispose of them properly. Did you know what ash can be used for fertilizer? Ash is composed of a 50 to 70 percent line and contains phosphorus potash and trace elements. Gardeners can raise the soil’s pH by applying wood ash to their soil. Ashes also may be used as a repellent by sprinkling cold ashes beside row crops and on pads through the garden to discourage slugs and snails.

District News- With the official arrival of Fall, we are preparing for campground and recreation site closures. Lake Moomaw campsites, managed by Royal Elk Park Management, are closed with the following facilities remaining open:

McClintic Point Campground is open until December 1 

Blowing Springs Campground is open till December 1. 

Fortney Branch Boat Launch is open year-round, and 

Bolar Marina Boat Launch is open year-round; portable bathroom facilities will be available. 

In addition, the campground at Hidden Valley Recreation Area will remain open until December and the Hidden Valley day-use area is open year-round. Hidden Valley is a historic location with an antebellum era mansion, and is popular for hiking, fishing the Jackson river, hunting, and wildlife watching. Other sites around the districts open year-round include the Bath County shooting range and Low Moor shooting range. 

District Happenings- The districts have two public events coming up in October. Our annual Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management planned field trip is planned for October 17th, 2019 at 9 am starting off at the park and ride on the corner of Route 220 and Route 39 just north of Warm Springs, Virginia. We will look at wildlife, timber, and fire and fuels projects from 9 am to noon. The James River and Warm Springs Open House to present the fiscal year 2020 upcoming projects will be on October 29th 2019 at the Allegheny County building in Low Moor, Virginia from 2 pm to 5 pm. If you have any questions about these upcoming events, please call our office at 540-839-2521.

Habitat Message- Weather radars in Virginia are registering what, at first glance, appear to be late summer rain showers, but are actually the vast dragonfly migration. Hundreds of dragonflies of different species will gather and swarms either for feeding or migration. Have you seen swarms of dragonflies darting through the sky? Dragonflies, specifically Green Darners commonly migrate in the Fall but are usually undetected. 

There’s something magical about dragonflies. Did you know that there are over 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies in Virginia in seven different families? Here are some dragonfly facts the Smithsonian Institute. Dragonflies get their name from the Greek “Odonata”, which means “toothed one”, and refers to the dragonflies serrated teeth. Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve some 300 million years ago. Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches, but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet. They’re more than 5000 known species of dragonflies in their larval stage, which can last up to two years. Dragonflies are in water and eat just about anything, tadpoles, mosquitoes, fish, other insect larva, and even each other. At the end of the larval stage, the dragon slide crawls out of the water, and then its exoskeleton cracks open and releases the insect’s abdomen, which had been packed in like a telescope. It’s four wings come out and they dry and harden over the next several hours. Today’s dragonflies our expert flyers and catch their insect prey by grabbing it with their feet. They can fly straight up and down, hover like a helicopter and even make midair if they can’t fly. They’ll starve because they only eat prey they catch while flying. A single dragonfly can eat hundreds of mosquitoes per day. Some adult dragonflies live for only a few weeks, while others live for up to a year. Nearly all the dragonfly’s head is an eye so they have incredible vision that encompasses almost every angle except right behind them. Scientists have tracked dragonflies by attaching tiny transmitters to wings. With a combination of eyelash adhesive and superglue, research discovered dragonflies can travel over 100 miles in one day, including a dragonfly called the Globe Skinner with the longest migration of any insect- 11,000 miles back and forth across the Indian Ocean. You can read more about dragonflies at

Today’s quote comes from the artist Robin Nola, “Dragonflies are reminders that we are light, and we can reflect light in powerful ways if we choose to do so.”

For Allegheny mountain radio, this is Elizabeth McNichols.


Story By

Abby Dufour

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