- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — A group dedicated to promoting the development of old-growth forests in Virginia will work with an Albemarle County couple to manage and preserve a 176-acre forest.

The easement with Jean and Hal Kolb is the first for the 500-Year Forest Foundation.

“So much of the acreage around us has been timbered,” Mrs. Kolb said. “It’s pretty clear that birds and wildlife that require mature forests are going to be left short.”

Ted Harris, who founded the 500-Year Forest Foundation about eight years ago, said the foundation intends to work with other private landowners to establish a connecting corridor of old forests.

“One-quarter of 1 percent of Virginia forest land is probably old growth. Those are in places the loggers couldn’t get to,” Mr. Harris said.

About 66 percent — or 10 million acres — of Virginia’s 15.8 million acres of forests are owned by private citizens. Federal and state government own 2.1 million acres, while nonforestry corporations hold 2 million acres. One million acres are owned by the forest industry.

An old growth forest is one that has a large number of very large, very old trees and a high degree of biodiversity. Some isolated stands in Southwest Virginia have oak, poplar and hickories that range from 200 to 300 years old, Mr. Harris said yesterday.

On the Kolbs’ two tracts of forest, the largest trees are probably 60 to 80 years old. Yellow poplars dominate the mountainside slopes, while oaks on the ridge may be as old as 100.

The Kolbs are putting their land near Covesville into a conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to protect it from commercial logging and development.

The couple is hoping their work with the 500-Year Forest group will encourage others to consider protecting their forests.

“A lot of timber companies are encouraging people, especially in Southwest Virginia, to cut their hardwoods and plant pines,” Mr. Kolb said.

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