Forestry in Spotsylvania County, Virginia

Mattaponi Work Area
serving the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford.

Senior Area Forester: Matt Coleman. 804.450.3145
Forester: Manij Upadhyay. Cell: 757.556.4004
Forest Technician: Kevin Dodson. Cell: 540.273.6404

Virginia Department of Forestry
138 Courthouse Lane | Map and Directions to this office.
Bowling Green, Virginia 22427
Phone: 804.633.6992

General Information

Forest Management

History of Forestry in Spotsylvania County, Virginia

Spotsylvania County is located in the northeast portion of Virginia – straddling the fall line of Virginia – with a small portion (35%) of the county in the Coastal Plain, and the bulk of the county (65%) in the Piedmont geographic providence. The City of Fredericksburg and the Rappahannock River lie along the northern border of the county.

Historically, Spotsylvania was a major producer of many agricultural products, but much of its early notoriety was due to its abundance of raw materials, such as iron ore, gold, lead and zinc. The county was named after colonial Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740), who, among other things, was responsible for establishing iron furnaces and foundries in the area. The county seal, with an image of three trees, reflects the importance of forestry to the local economy.

During the Civil War, four major battles and countless minor battles and skirmishes were fought in the area, earning Spotsylvania the title “Crossroads of the Civil War.” Civil War-era photos show the vast amount of open land during this time period; the timber had been cleared to provide firewood for the numerous furnaces in the county, as well as to make way for crop fields. The northwest area of the county is called "Wilderness," where large areas of dense shrub land made the area nearly impossible to travel through. The "Wilderness" shrubs grew in the poor soils that resulted from forest clearing and the removal of raw materials. Once the Civil War ended, with the majority of the pre-war workforce no longer available, much of the cleared land throughout the county reverted back to forest land. A considerable amount of the hardwoods (oak, hickory, poplar, etc.) existing in the county today is a result of the forest succession that began after the Civil War ended.

Poor farming practices used during the peak of agriculture production also took its toll on the soils in Spotsylvania, and further deprived this region of much of its precious topsoil. Once bountiful regions had now been reduced to marginal productivity, at best. Although marginal for agriculture, the soils were good for pine plantations, predominately Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). After the turn of the 20th century, and most of the 1900s, forestry and forest products were an important part of the economy of Spotsylvania County. Numerous portable sawmills, permanent sawmills and timber harvesters operated in the area, providing a livelihood for many families. This trend continued into the 1960s and 1970s, until the nature of the county begin to change.

As a result of Interstate 95 being built during the early 1960s, and the fact that Spotsylvania lies mid-way between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, the population of Spotsylvania began to grow. Prior to that, much of the timberland in the county was owned in large tract sizes by paper and pulp companies, sawmills and other timber producers as a relatively inexpensive commodity. As the population of Spotsylvania increased, however, so did the value of the land. Developers and builders were able to buy land to subdivide, further increasing the price of real estate. This once rural county has now become suburbanized, with large tracts of land being broken into smaller and smaller pieces, contributing to forest fragmentation.

While portions of the western and southern sections of the county are still somewhat rural, Spotsylvania County today is largely made up of suburban areas. Many county residents commute to Northern Virginia or Washington, D.C., for high-paying jobs. Other people are moving to Spotsylvania from those areas because of the relatively lower cost of living. As a result of this shift from rural to suburban, the urban and community forests have become increasingly important to homeowners, and new housing developments are being built with “green spaces” for their residents to enjoy. These people also see the value in protecting forested areas so that all will be able to enjoy the many benefits forests provide.

Last modified: Thursday, 14-Jan-2021 13:11:05 EST

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Identification Guides
We've created two informative guides, covering the most common native tree species and the most common shrubs and vines found in Virginia's forests.We've created two informative guides, covering the most common native tree species and the most common shrubs and vines found in Virginia's forests. Learn more and purchase these guides.