Review - Institutions of Higher Education: Old-Growth Forest Fragment and Urban Tree Care Plans

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Virginia Tech, College of Natural Resources and Environment

Extensive focused research of universities’ and colleges’ urban forest and remnant forest areas yielded valuable insights and comparisons into relevant efforts benefiting the Stadium Woods Stewardship Plan. Positive successes and valuable lessons learned through failures and restarts helped optimize the content of the Stadium Woods Stewardship Plan. Research and implementation methods utilized to conduct reviews, describe findings, and provide conclusions by the various sources in this document aid in the formation of issues and associated resolutions for Virginia Tech’s (VT) Stadium Woods. The descriptions of these varied forest remnants appear to be of lower ecological health, to be younger in age, and to have smaller trees than Virginia Tech’s Stadium Woods. However, the application of their collective approaches greatly assisted the research for VT’s Plan. Additionally, the uniqueness of the Stadium Woods (SW) effort has the potential to pay it forward to both current projects and those planned for future implementation.

This document’s logical progression takes advantage of three critical categories of information gathered from the diversity of the included resources:

  1. Old-growth Forest Manager Responses
  2. Peer Institution Urban Forest Plans
  3. Natural Land Area, Forest Stewardship/Management Plans, & Information From Higher Education Institutions

Conclusions captured in this document include input from communities exhibiting strong emotions resulting from intra-community controversy. This required development of formal processes, the formation of advisory councils/committees, documenting process management procedures, and the use of consensus-building activities. The use of Internal Conservation Easements, Student based projects, Community Volunteer Programs, and Summer Intern job services, all played a role in natural land area protection. This allowed college administrations to avoid the considerable restrictions, management costs, and transaction fees associated with the placement of the land into a formal conservation easement. These natural land area plans offer a way forward, allowing maintenance and stewardship activities to take place. Invasive plant species control is, by far, the most common concern and is usually listed as a primary objective. Safety, protection, education, research, and restoration are also listed as major considerations and objectives. Proactive managers include storm response action guidelines in their procedures. Some plans include memorial tree programs and encourage public donations for funding. The old-growth forest and natural land area management plans that appear to be successful, tend to embrace community participation, find common goals, and forge partnerships. The most successful old-growth forest are professionally managed and usually have some financial structure in place to administer and physically maintain the natural land areas. Managers who embrace positive relationships with community leaders and work in conjunction with them to increase public engagement, increase awareness, and involve community and student volunteers stand out as exemplary in their efforts.

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