Forestry in Louisa County, Virginia

Jefferson Work Area
serving the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Goochland and Louisa

A map showing the geographic location of Louisa County in Virginia.

Senior Area Forester: David Powell. Office: 434.220.9179. Cell: 434.981.0439
Forester Specialist: David Stone. Office: 540.967.3702. Cell: 434.981.5202
Forester: Chuck Wright. Office: 540.967.3701. Cell: 804.912.0248
Forest Technician: Andrew Fisher. Cell: 434.953.0013

Virginia Department of Forestry
900 Natural Resources Drive | Map and Directions to this office.
Suite 800
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903

Phone: 434.977.5193
FAX: 434.220.9189

Virginia Department of Forestry
P.O. Box 218
430 West Main Street | Map and Directions to this office.
Louisa, Virginia 23093-0218

Phone: 540.967.3702
FAX: 540.967.1259

General Information

Forest Management

Information from the Louisa County Forester

Table of Contents

Select Cutting Your Forest - read this before you let a logger cut trees on your land.
Forestal Resources and Economic Impacts for Louisa County
Average Revenue Expenditure for Tax Dollar

Louisa County: Land By Class

  • All Land: 317,805 acres
  • Forest Land: 228,537 acres
  • Non-Forest Land: 89,368 acres

Forestal Resources and Economic Impacts for Louisa County

Forestry is a major contributor to Louisa County's economy through timber sales, the sale of products, employment, and the generation of support activities. Over 228,000 acres of land are devoted to forestry, almost 72% of the county. Forestland in Louisa is predominantly private, and owned by individuals.

Forestry also provide related benefits such as: protection of public water supply watersheds; preservation of the natural landscape and open space, and less costly service delivery needs than would be required by scattered residential subdivision development in rural areas. Forestland has traditionally contributed to the quality of life in Louisa County. They provide the rural character and scenic quality, which distinguish these areas from urban and suburban regions.

Forests help recharge ground water and clean it for drinking, absorbs carbon dioxide from combustion, and provides oxygen. One acre of flat forestland collects enough water in ground water recharge to provide a one year supply to 2.75 homes every year. (Source: Virginia Department of Forestry 1999) One mature tree absorbs approximately 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. For every ton of wood a forest grows, it removes 1.47 tons of carbon dioxide and replaces it with 1.07 tons of oxygen through photosynthesis. (Source: US Forests; Facts and Figures 1995)

The average expenditure for every dollar received in property tax from forest and agricultural lands is $0.19 for county services in comparison to $1.27 in expenditure for every dollar received from residential property owners for county services (1998). This trend has been very consistent over the years where less money is paid out in services than is taken in as property taxes.

The total number of Agricultural-Forestal Districts in the county is 27 (as of August 1999). These Districts encompass 33,127 acres, which accounts for approximately 10.8% of all agricultural/forestal lands.

Forest Area

The 1992 Forest Survey estimated the forested area of Louisa County at 228,500 acres, which is almost 72 percent of the total land area. The total forested land area of Louisa has remained essentially constant since the first forest survey was done in 1940, with acreage additions to forestland equaling deletions for uses such as agriculture or home sites.

Forest Ownership

Forestland in Louisa is predominately owned by individuals. Non-industrial private landowners own 60 percent, farmers own 21 percent, corporate owners (other than forest industry) own 10 percent, and forest industry owns 9 percent. Public ownership is less than 1 percent.

Forest Types

Hardwoods, mostly the oak-hickory type, make up the greatest portion of Louisa's forests (163,000 acres, or 69 percent). The oak-pine mixed type comprises 7 percent of the forestland. Pine types total 49,000 acres, or 21 percent. Of the pine acreage, 28,400 acres (12 percent of the forest) are in plantations and 20, 700 acres are in natural stands. (Source: Forest Statistics for the Northern Piedmont of Virginia. 1992-USDA, Forest Service, Resource Bulletin SE-l27)


For the past 5 years, most forestland that was completely harvested was reforested with pine species or allowed to regenerate naturally into mixed stands of hardwood and pine. From July 1998 to the end of June 1999 approximately 3556 acres were thinned or cleared. In 1999, 2130 acres were reforested, mostly in loblolly pine, with some tracts planted in shortleaf pine or mixed hardwoods. For 2000, reforestation is projected to be more than 3000 acres. (Source: Virginia Department of Forestry)

Economic Impacts

Stumpage, the money paid to forest landowners for the right to harvest their standing timber, averaged 3.2 million dollars per year for the years 1992 through 1996. (Source: Virginia Department of Forestry) Value added activities such as logging, primary processing at mills, secondary processing into finished products, transportation of forest products, construction, marketing, and induced economic impacts from wages, add value to the local economy in both employment and income. A 1995 Virginia Department of Forestry study estimated that for every dollar of stumpage received by forest landowners, $28.16 is generated by value added activities, and another $20.48 is generated by induced economic impacts. Using these multipliers for Louisa's stumpage estimates suggest that from 1992 through 1996 Louisa's forest products contribution to the local and regional economy averaged over 150.2 million dollars each year.

Total employment from forest industries in Louisa in 1998 is 457. This number is believed to be higher in 1999 due to recent mill expansions and increased harvest activities in the county.

Sustainable Rural Forestland

Although almost 72% of Louisa’s land is forest, not all of the forest is available for forest management and harvests. Sustainable rural forestland is defined as forestland that has a population density of 45 or less people per square mile (psm), is more than 5 acres in size, and has less than 40 percent slope. This "rural" forestland is likely to remain available for long term timber production. Non-sustainable or "non-rural" forestland is likely to become unavailable for timber production through residential fragmentation or other development, at least by the time the existing forest reaches economic maturity.

In 1997, Louisa's forestland was determined to be 69 percent rural and 31 percent non-rural. At some level of population density, sustainable forestry practices will essentially disappear. There is no absolute threshold of population density at which this occurs. However, it has been found that the probability of sustained forest management approaches zero at 150 people per square mile (psm), that there is a 25 percent chance of management at 70 psm, a 50 percent chance at 45 psm, and a 75 percent chance at 20 psm. Land use patterns, topography, economics, social attitudes all contribute to variations of impact of population on forest usage. (Source: Virginia Forest Land Assessment, Phase one, project report, Virginia Department of Forestry, 1997)

Land Trends

In 1998, 19 tracts of land over 100 acres were transferred in Louisa County. These transactions affected over 4,600 acres and cost over $9 million averaging $1,925 per acre regardless of the improvements or whether there was harvestable timber. Of these parcels, 28% were earmarked for development and 37% were categorized as investment properties. Only 20% of the acreage will be used for agriculture or forestry.

Smaller lots, which are associated with residential growth, lead to fragmented forest parcels that are considered non-sustainable for forestry practices. Factors contributing to ineffectual and non-sustainable forestry practices are a population density greater than 45 psm (people per square mile) and parcels of less than five acres in size. There are currently 7,615 undeveloped lots less than 5 acres in the county.

The beauty and character of Louisa County derive from its open landscapes, scenic vistas and productive forest and farmland. These features must be preserved, since once they are gone, they are gone forever. The encroachment of development pressures from the surrounding metropolitan centers of Charlottesville, Richmond and Fredericksburg have the potential of changing the rural nature of the County to forested subdivisions and becoming another victim of urban sprawl. (See Louisa and surrounding counties, Forest Cover and Land Use Map with 1990 Population Overlay)

Challenges Facing Forestry and Agricultural Practices in Louisa County

Key challenges facing the stewards of Louisa's forestland are twofold. The first challenge is to protect the suitable forest land base from further fragmentation from residential growth. The second challenge is to enhance forest productivity on those lands suitable for sustained forest management.

Development pressures from urban/suburban expansion are cited as major challenges to forestry and agriculture. Residential development in the rural portion of Louisa County has effects on forestal and agricultural activities. Direct effects include attempts by new residents to regulate or prohibit routine forestry activities (e.g. commercial timbering, reforestation operations, controlled burns, the use of pesticides), and higher land prices.

Environmental and zoning regulations and restrictions increase the costs of operation and may restrict the growth of the forestal/agricultural businesses. A shortage of quality forestry workers and the aging of forest landowners themselves are also important factors, which impact future forestry.

Increased efforts to preserve agricultural and forestal lands and industries should be centered on two approaches:

  1. active promotion of agricultural and forestal industries by the County of Louisa; and
  2. protection of farm and forest land areas through zoning regulations, and voluntary techniques, such as conservation easements and purchase of development rights (PDRs).

- October 1999

Hardwood and some pine forest will regenerate naturally following harvesting.

Economically Important Species: loblolly, shortleaf, and Virginia Pine, white oak, northern red oak, southern red oak, yellow poplar, sweet gum.

Avg. Expenditure per Dollar of Revenue

Last modified: Sunday, 19-Apr-2020 09:53:07 EDT

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