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Wilson Brothers Forest

Wilson Brothers Forest

This Augusta County forest owned by brothers Richard and Jim Wilson joins us with a long history of conservation efforts behind it. Their mother Gladys placed a scenic easement on the property in 1995, precluding any timber harvesting, to preserve the viewshed from the Appalachian Trail. In 2013, The 500-Year Forest Foundation, employing a legal concept known as "equitable servitude," joined that easement held by the U.S. Park Service. Surrounded by U.S. Park Service land, the approximately 190 acres is located on the western flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is difficult to access—something the Wilsons are working to improve. But successful visitors have been impressed by the considerable charms of a mature forest with promising old-growth potential.

Wilson Brothers Forest Boundaries

Summer 2014 Forest Report

Richard Wilson said he heard from a new US Forest Service lands specialist in early summer 2014 that traffic barriers barring access to the Wilson Brothers Forest had been removed. Now the Wilsons and the Forest Service are working on “permanent easements with each other that will provide recordable easements for each of us to our respective lands from SR 623, a public state route. We now are negotiating the actual details and road reaches.”


In pressing his case for access, Richard had included “management and protection of the old-growth forest habitat in cooperation with the 500-Year Forest Foundation” among reasons access was needed. The brothers are working with Lisa Ann Hawkins, an attorney with the Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District, to provide a recordable deed of easement.


Earlier Forest Reports

March 2012

RichardJimWilsonSmThe initial visit for the Foundation to the Wilson Brothers Forest was done over two days, with the Wilsons joining from their respective homes in Arizona and Colorado. The property line was well marked with Forest Service red blazes. The first day's access was from the north corner via Doe Ridge Road, which fords two forks of Toms Branch as well as Laurel Springs Branch. At the east corner, observers moved a few hundred yards into the forest. On the second day, from the south end of the property, the route was via Mose Fitch Creek valley alongside an exquisitely beautiful cascading mountain stream, and continued to the west corner.

 

The entire property is covered by mature forest; there has been no logging since 1954 when the brothers' father, Edward, had the tract horse logged, leaving all trees 20 inches or less diameter at breast height (DBH). Today, principal trees are Oaks (Red, White and Chestnut), Tulip Poplars, and Hickories of probably three species. There are some Black Locusts and Sassafras. In the central part is a large stand of White Pine. Other species noted were Red Maple, Hornbeam and Serviceberry. Many Tulip Poplars and Oaks measure 30- to 40-inch DBH. A White Oak in the northern section of the forest measured 52 inches and one Red Oak in the southern section was 57 inches. Forest healthWildColumbineSm, in general, is good. However, there was a fairly significant die-off of middle-sized oaks in the southern section, most likely the result of Gypsy Moth damage followed by a windstorm.

 

During this early spring visit, the forest floor exhibited flora just beginning to come out. The directors noted and recorded Toothwort, Star Chickweed, Columbine, False Hellebore and Bloodroot. A garter snake was out and active and both the red-backed and lead-backed forms of the Redback Salamander were uncovered.

 


October 2013

Jeff Smith with Massive Hickory TreeFormer Foundation staffer Jeff Smith visited the forest in fall. He was accompanied by Lynchburg area Master Naturalists, so impressed by the forest that they wrote an article for their newsletter and spurred discussion of future collaboration between the Foundation and Master Naturalists around Virginia.

Ferns

 

They noted, beyond the previous report, areas of early forest at the property edge that included Running Cedar. They also noted the large number and diversity of seedlings on the forest floor. Deeper in the property, there were trees topping 125 years in age, based on size, northwest aspect and soil. In addition, these visitors took note of a wet area over a shallow rise just beyond the copse of White Pine.

 

 

Invasives

The forest is relatively free of invasives. Some Garlic Mustard was noted in the southern section, which seemed to be moving in from the line of the survey.

 

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