League Lines: New Trees Conserve Wildlife Habitat and Water Quality

Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter Planting Trees_IWLA

Virginia >> Each year, the Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter orders 50 native trees from the Virginia Department of Forestry for a spring planting project. (The Department of Forestry sells native tree seedlings to Virginia landowners at discounted prices.) This year, the chapter’s planting project took them to a conservation easement along the Rapidan River.

The city of Fredericksburg owns approximately 4,800 acres of riparian (streamside) lands along the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers and their tributaries. The city purchased this land from Virginia Electric Power Company to protect the city’s water supply. Approximately 70,000 residents get their drinking water from these streams and rivers. In 2006, the city placed 4,232 of the acres into a permanent conservation easement that is now referred to as the Fredericksburg Watershed Property. The conservation easement protects the riparian corridor for recreational uses (such as camping, canoeing, and hunting) as well as water quality. The land also includes bald eagle habitat and several historic sites.

The manager of the Watershed Property, Officer Lee Sillitoe, knew that the Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter leaders were looking for a location where they could conduct conservation activities on a regular basis. He asked the chapter to assist in the reforestation of a 25-acre section on the easement that had been converted from forest to farm land more than 40 years ago. The League would be the first organization to begin this reforestation process. The chapter sent word out about the project through its newsletter and Web site and received an enthusiastic response from members and others.

On a cool, wet day in March, Tree Warriors from the Fredericksburg- Rappahannock Chapter and members of Cub Scout Pack 22 set out to plant the 50 trees along the Rapidan River. It was a bumpy road to get there, but planting went smoothly. The group met at the chapter house and convoyed about 10 miles to the planting site. Cars with low ground clearance had to be left on the main road as the group traveled a half mile across a temporary farm field road and then down a narrow path — barely wide enough for a truck — along the banks of the Rapidan River. After arriving at the planting site, chapter leaders gave instructions and volunteers dug in.

“All the volunteers worked tirelessly to put the trees in the ground properly so they would have an excellent chance of survival,” says chapter Conservation Chairman Mike Sullivan. “Our thanks goes out to all 25 volunteers — and one Labrador Retriever — who made this an exceptional day. You made our little piece of this planet a much better place to live.”