Virginia launches program to honor longtime family forests

CHARLOTTESVILLE—Virginia has launched the nation’s first Century Forest Program designed to honor and recognize families who have owned working forestlands for more than 100 years.

State law authorizing the program went into effect July 1.

Virginia’s agriculture and forest industries contribute a combined $70 billion annually to Virginia’s economy, and timber is the third-largest contributing sector.

“Nearly two-thirds, or 10 million acres, of Virginia’s woodlands are controlled by family forest landowners. How they feel about their woodlands, the options available to them and the decisions they make to manage and conserve (their land) are crucial to sustaining the commonwealth’s $17 billion timber industry,” said Mike Santucci, forestland conservation manager for the Virginia Department of Forestry. “Their forestlands are the collective fabric that stitches landscapes together across Virginia.”

Virginia began its Century Farm program in 1997 to recognize farms that have been held in the same family for more than 100 years.

Century Forest properties also must have been owned by the same family for at least 100 consecutive years; include at least 20 contiguous acres of managed forest; be lived on or managed by a descendant of the original owners; and have a history of timber harvests or forest management activities.

“The Century Forest program builds on the highly successful Century Farms program. It recognizes the importance that the family farm and forest community has on the lives of all Virginians, and the need to retain this land cover and land use to maintain the quality of life we all enjoy,” Santucci said.

Andrew Smith, senior assistant director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said many Farm Bureau producer member families “have timber and farmland. Some just have farmland, but both have a sense of pride in their agricultural and forest heritage. This program encourages people to keep land in production and shows that generations have been involved.”

The Century Forest program addresses the important challenge of keeping forestland intact. 

“The parcelization and fragmentation of family-owned woodlands is a real issue,” Santucci said. “We know that family-owned forests are most vulnerable to being broken apart or taken out of forest use at the time the land is passed forward from one generation to the next. Oftentimes a distinction like Century Forests is encouragement for a family to continue good management and conservation of their land and resources.” 

To request a Century Forest application, email or call 434-977-6555.

Media: Contact Smith at 804-290-1021 or Santucci at 434-220-9182.

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