Hundreds of acres of second-growth forests on James Madison’s 2,650-acre Montpelier Estate are in need of restoration. These conditions are, in large part, the result of previous management practices, invasive species, and waning forest health. If left unmanaged, these forests will further deteriorate. However, Virginia’s LEAF Program is working to restore the health and sustainability of forests at Montpelier. Innovative and restorative measures will improve the situation and establishing a LEAF classroom for demonstration would greatly enhance natural resource and forestry education at Montpelier.
The circumstances at Montpelier are not uncommon in Virginia. Much of the Commonwealth’s 15.3 million acres of forests face similar health and sustainability threats. Restorative management practices are needed to reverse additional degradation. Yet promoting appropriate practices across Virginia is challenging because audiences are vast and dispersed. A LEAF classroom at Montpelier offers an extraordinary opportunity for informing many about the benefits of forestry and natural resources management.
Taking advantage of this opportunity will greatly improve sustainable forest management education in the Commonwealth and beyond. Merging Montpelier’s attractions and forest management and restoration demonstrations will allow educators to draw upon the past to inform the future. Such an educational approach is unique and will certainly enrich the experience for all visitors.
A trail system will service the working demonstration forest and tie into an existing network of trails that traverse the estate’s old-growth Landmark Forest. We are implementing innovative restoration treatments along the trail to create healthy forests, mitigate invasive species, enhance wildlife habitat, maintain soil stability, improve water quality, and achieve economic productivity.
Treatment compartments have been delineated and a trail network designed to provide these educational opportunities. Long-term objectives include researching effective small-scale thinning and regeneration treatments in various second-growth conditions and developing an interpretative plan that effectively incorporates the LEAF classroom into Montpelier’s story.
Two intern technicians completed projects at Montpelier during the summer of 2008 to establish a permanent inventory system, collect comprehensive forest data, and develop interpretive materials and signage. Both intern technicians also worked on research projects designed to enhance the educational aspects of Montpelier's LEAF classroom.