VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

20 VIRGINIA FORESTS Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation Update The Future is Now By Matt Dowdy, VFEF Board of Directors The mission of the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation is to financially support statewide youth education promoting sustainable forests for the environmental, social, and economic benefit of all Virginians. There is an urgent need for investment into the future workforce in Virginia’s forest industry. Quite simply we need to make investments to ensure that we have qualified, future workers in all aspects of our industry. We need boots on the ground. We need workers―loggers, truck drivers, mill employees and foresters to get the job done. What we need from you is financial investment in VFEF. Contributions ensure steady funding that help us promote and grow our mission. Much like you invest in your forest by planting seedlings, we need you to invest in VFEF to help us regenerate the next workforce. We are at a crossroads. We can see the future need, and we must act today. We need you to volunteer your time and apply for new grant opportunities. VFEF currently funds scholarships for students to study forestry at Virginia Tech and Mountain Gateway Community College, two different institutions that offer a variety of programs in forestry. VFEF also supports Project Learning Tree and summer camp experiences, like the Virginia Dept. of Forestry’s Camp Woods and Wildlife. These are all great programs, but it’s not enough. We are looking for new ideas to help expand our reach and get today’s youth interested in careers in Virginia’s forest industry. A college education is a great thing, but not every kid needs to go to college. There are plenty of great job opportunities in our industry for anyone interested in forestry and natural resources. Some ideas that you could help develop include student mentorships, a forestry career camp or field day, speaking to a high school class, sponsoring field trips, or inviting students to your logging job or sawmill. We’ve got to let today’s youth know what we do, and that there are good jobs waiting for them when they graduate in all aspects of our industry. Many of our jobs are in rural areas. Let’s help keep those kids at home with well-paying jobs. As the recent pandemic has shown us, a supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Trees in the forest only become commercially valuable once they are harvested, hauled to the mill, and turned into wood products. Without truck drivers, loggers, foresters, and mill employees all working together, there is the potential to lose financial incentives that help to actively manage our forests. We all know that an actively managed forest benefits everyone by creating oxygen, wildlife habitat, forest health and sequestering carbon. VFEF is currently working to reimagine youth forestry education in Virginia. Fifty years ago, our industry saw a need to develop the Reforestation of Timberlands (RT) program to ensure a future crop of timber to harvest. VFEF is working now to ensure a future workforce to harvest those trees. Your contributions are needed to help VFEF support educational programs and scholarships that educate youth about forests and natural resources. These programs can also provide their first introduction to careers in the forestry industry. Please call (804) 278-8733 or visit www.vfef.net to donate. All gifts are tax-deductible.