Combining education, networking, sightseeing, and good food, the Fall Forestry and Wildlife Field Tours have provided the opportunity to learn about sustainable forestry management for 40 years and counting. This year’s tours, offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment in collaboration with Virginia’s natural resource agencies, companies, and associations, will start on Oct. 7.
The tours offer landowners, natural resource professionals, and other interested individuals the opportunity to spend a day in the field visiting a variety of properties that are actively managed. Participants will visit private, industry, and public lands that center on multiple-use management opportunities and practices. At each tour stop, participants meet with landowners to hear their stories, learn from their experiences, and even share a meal.
Complementing the 40th anniversary of the tours, the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program has recently created a series of videos highlighting the experiences of several participating landowners. In addition to the field tours, the award-winning program offers a number of training sessions and other resources throughout the year, including weekend retreats, short courses, online classes, and newsletters.
“We wanted to know if our programs were actually making a difference,” said Jennifer Gagnon, Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program coordinator.
Gagnon’s team turned to past participants for help, and the result was a series of videos providing an overview of the educational programs from the eyes of landowners who have experienced them. Each video features a participant sharing his or her story and the ways that the workshops and tours have helped the participants become more productive, sustainable landowners.
Taking place annually since 1976, the Fall Forestry and Wildlife Field Tours promote wise resource management on private forestlands and focus on science-based forestry and wildlife management practices, public and private sources of technical and financial management assistance, and networking among landowners and natural resource professionals.
The experience provides an ideal setting for landowners to discuss their forest management issues with professionals in an informal setting, as well as to network with their peers. Since the initial excursion, tours have been held in nearly every county in Virginia and enjoyed by more than 11,500 participants.
Tours are organized with the help of the Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Forestry Association, other state and federal agencies, and the forestry industry. In particular, Gagnon cites four district Extension agents in Virginia as being vital to the program’s success. “Adam Downing, Neil Clark, Jason Fisher, and Bill Worrell have been instrumental in coordinating stops for the tours. It really takes a village,” she noted.
“The tours are great for people who are visual learners,” Gagnon added. “They get to see the properties and have the opportunity to have the full attention of an expert and discuss their land with them.”
The one-day tours will be held in Essex County on Oct.7, Lee County on Oct. 11, Prince William County on Oct. 14, and Dinwiddie and Nottoway counties on Oct. 20. Pre-registration is required, as space is limited on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration fee of $35 per person, which covers lunch, refreshments, and transportation, is due one week before the tour date.