PORTFOLIO: Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar College – Amherst County, Va (2002-present)

Sweet Briar College is a small women’s college in central Virginia that encompasses more than 3,248 acres of rolling Piedmont land. In 2002, VFWG prepared the first Forest Stewardship Management Plan. This was updated in 2016 to reflect changes in the age and structure of stands that had been harvested during the previous decade. Though portions of the property are represented by steep and mountainous terrain, most of the land is typical Piedmont - an upland plateau in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that is characterized by gently sloping topography and numerous streams and wet weather tributaries.

Since forest management has only recently been a major objective, the property contains an abundance of mature, high grade Appalachian hardwoods (>80-90 years old). In addition, there are seven “old growth” sanctuaries with a much older age class of trees. Due to their scenic and ecological uniqueness, these sanctuaries are protected from development and forest management - other than invasive species control. Because many of the mature stands in need of thinning (due to overstocking) lie in close proximity to the campus, critical viewsheds, and riding trails, the intensity and location of timber harvesting is severely limited. As a result, it is critical that we carefully manage the timber to maintain its aesthetic quality while improving the health, quality and vigor of the stand. It is also important that we continue to employ a small logging crew that will work carefully and methodically to minimize the amount of damage to the residual timber. In addition to cutting and leaving tops close to the ground (to expedite decomposition and reduce the amount of standing slash), these crews are expected to leave little or no debris on the loading deck, and skid timber out in log lengths (instead of tree length). Research has shown this greatly reduces the amount of butt damage to the remaining timber. Since Sweet Briar also contains several stands of loblolly pine that are now ready to thin, we plan to conduct a series of traditional thinnings and pine savannah cuts as a way of generating income, improving stand growth and vigor, and enhancing the wildlife habitat, especially for quail.

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"I am not a lover of lawns.  Rather would I see daisies in their thousands, ground ivy, hawkweed, and even the hated plantain with tall stems, and dandelions with splendid flowers and fairy down, than the too-well-tended lawn."

~W. H. Hudson