Gov. Northam visits Valley to dedicate new state forest

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam visited Rockingham County to dedicate Virginia's 25th state forest and mark the 100-year anniversary of the Commonwealth's state forest system.

This is the Commonwealth's 25th State Forest totaling 69,441 acres.

The newest designated forest, "First Mountain State Forest," is located near the town of Elkton, next to the Massanutten mountain range on the southeast slopes. This brings the Commonwealth's state forest land total to 69,441 acres.

First Mountain encompasses 573 acres of hardwood and pine stands, as well as open fields and more than 21,700 feet of stream frontage. It is adjacent to 583 contiguous acres of the George Washington National Forest.

Governor Northam said the new state forest is a part of his administration's programs to find and protect more environments around the commonwealth.

"This is a beautiful area of Virginia here in the Valley," Governor Northam said. "And with this new state forest, there's 573 acres of forest land that we can preserve in perpetuity and allow people to continue to live off this land and to also come here and visit."

All of Virginia's state forests are self-supporting and receive no general state fund for operations. Operating funds come from the sale of forest products.

Monday's dedication was a joint effort between Northam's administration, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Dofflemyer family, who donated part of their tree farm for the state forest.

"For many people to all be in this together, as we say, it takes a village," Governor Northam said. "To have all these folks out here today, to participate in this is just very commendable and again it's just really a good day for Virginia."

The land that makes up First Mountain was purchased by the Dofflemeyers thanks to funding from the DuPont settlement over mercury contamination in the Shenandoah Valley.

Mercury from industrial activities at the former E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) facility in Waynesboro contaminated the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River for decades, impacting fish, wildlife, and their habitats.

Recreational fishing opportunities were also impacted from the mercury contamination, due to fish consumption advisories on the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River (SFSR).

The settlement over that contamination, administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is valued at about $50 million.

Originally part of Boone’s Run Farm, the property was owned by long-time Charlottesville residents Virginia and Alfred Dofflemyer and was in the Dofflemyer family for multiple generations. Prior to 2007, Boone’s Run Farm was a well-managed tree farm.

“I speak on behalf of the entire Dofflemyer family in expressing our excitement that the family farm is now part of the state forest system and will be protected from future development,” said Todd Dofflemyer. “Additionally, we are excited by the prospect of the VDOF actively tree farming like my grandfather, Alfred Dofflemyer, did for so many years.”

“First Mountain State Forest has magnificent views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, diverse flora and fauna, and the upper reaches of Boone’s Run are a designated Class II wild trout stream where brook trout are present,” said State Forester Rob Farrell. “Water is what makes this place special. With more than 21,000 feet of stream frontage and 43,422 feet of vegetated buffers, First Mountain plays an important role in improving water quality, recreation and tourism opportunities, and ultimately the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”