Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that the Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF) will receive increased funding to support two vital forestry programs – the Reforestation of Timberlands (RT) program and the fire suppression program. Investments in both programs solidify Virginia’s commitment to the Virginia forestry industry which contributes more than $17 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy and supports more than 103,000 jobs in Virginia.
“Virginia’s forestry industry supports thousands of good jobs in our rural communities and provides important market opportunities for the Commonwealth’s private forestland owners,” Governor McAuliffe said, speaking at today’s announcement. “Partnering with Delegate Landes and others in the General Assembly, we have secured funding to ensure that Virginia’s forests are sustainable and healthy for years to come. As we continue our efforts to build the new Virginia economy and promote Virginia’s forest products domestically and internationally, it is imperative that we ensure our forestlands are protected, productive and healthy for the future of this vital industry.”
For the first time since the 1990s, the Commonwealth will fully match the revenue generated by a self-imposed tax on commercial timber harvesting with these investments, as is called for in the Code of Virginia since 1970. These RT funds are allocated to Virginia landowners to help pay for the costs of site preparation and replanting trees following a timber harvest. In addition, DOF will receive significant leveraged funding over the biennium through the Master Equipment Leasing Program to replace aging firefighting vehicles used to suppress the nearly 1,000 wildfires that occur each year in Virginia. This will result in a sustainable replacement cycle of these first-responder pickup trucks, transports, and dozers.
“The additional funding for both of these programs was long overdue, and I’m grateful that the Governor made this a budget priority and for the bipartisan support we garnered from General Assembly members,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “The forestry and forest products industries are major economic engines for the Commonwealth. As we promote increased wood usage here via economic development projects and more exports through trade deals, we need to do everything in our power to ensure a sustainable and healthy wood basket for the Commonwealth.”
“The forest products industry is one of the largest private industries in Virginia, and these two programs help ensure that the timber on which that economy relies remains accessible for Virginia producers,” said Delegate Steve Landes. “The RT program helps Virginia landowners keep their property in productive forestland, and the fire suppression equipment supported by these funds plays a vital role in protecting rural communities, as well as timber resources.”
“Our forests are both economically and environmentally vital to the Commonwealth, and the forestry community is thrilled with Governor McAuliffe’s announcement today regarding increased support for the Reforestation of Timberlands Program and funding for three new Department of Forestry landowner assistance positions,” noted Paul Howe, Executive Director of the Virginia Forestry Association. “These investments will go a long way toward aiding forest landowners with reforestation and sustaining our forest resources for the future. We are most appreciative of this renewed commitment to forestry as championed by the Governor in partnership with Delegate Landes and the General Assembly.”
“All Virginians count on the clean water and air, wildlife habitat and the superior wood supply that comes from the majority family-owned forests across the Commonwealth,” added Susan Jennings, President of the Virginia Forest Products Association. “Without the improvements and enhancements to the wildland fire suppression and firefighting equipment announced today, Virginia’s forest products resource, forest landowners, associated service industries, and the Commonwealth’s citizens would be at a severe risk of losing valuable timberland that provides $17 Billion and 103,000 jobs to Virginia’s economy annually. On behalf of the Virginia Forest Products Association and the entire industry, I thank Governor McAuliffe, Secretary Haymore, State Forester Ring and the entire General Assembly for their efforts in ensuring the health and welfare of Virginia’s forests against catastrophic losses and for the forethought and planning to preserve Virginia’s working forests for future generations.”