Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Episode 623 (4-4-22): Exploring Forest Lands and Labors with Music of “Piney Mountains”

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:39).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 4-1-22.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 4, 2022.  This revised episode from May 2013 is part of a series this year of episodes related to trees and shrubs.

MUSIC – ~ 16 sec – Lyrics: “Lost my fingers in the Galax mill, Buddy sing a sad old song; And my heart got broke in the yew pine hills, Lordy my time ain't long.”

This week, we feature music about some historical aspects of a natural-resource industry that’s been important to Virginia’s economy for hundreds of years and also plays an important role in managing the Commonwealth’s water.  Have a listen for about 30 more seconds.

MUSIC – ~31 sec – Lyrics: “I started out to loggin' when I was in my prime, Woman don't you weep for me; Hitchin' up the spruce to the big drag lines, You damned old piney mountain; Where the skidders start a-buckin' as the years come down, Buddy sing a sad old song; Makin' God's own thunder on the new-cut ground, Lordy my time ain't long.” 

You’ve been listening to part of “Piney Mountains,” by Bruce Molsky on his 2013 album, “If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back,” from Tree Frog Music.  The song was written by Craig Johnson, a highly-regarded string-band musician who died in North Carolina in 2009.  Focusing on one logger-turned-millworker’s tragic accident in a Galax, Virginia, mill, the song weaves in several aspects of the history of the forest industry in the southeastern states: hard work and rough leisure by loggers, opportunities and risks of working in sawmills and furniture factories, economic ups and downs of resource-based industries, changes to landscapes after land uses change, and a rich heritage of traditional music.

With a complex history, forest use and management in Virginia remains of vital economic and ecological importance, including for water resources.  As the Virginia Department of Forestry has stated, quote, “In addition to lumber, paper, and a host of other products, forests provide benefits called ‘ecosystem services,’” unquote.  Those services include air quality, water quality, soil conservation, outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, and scenic beauty.

As of 2017, over 16 million acres in Virginia—about 62 percent of the state—were covered by forests, and those forests provided an estimated $30 billion annually in economic benefits, considering both forest products and ecosystem services.  At the same time, forest-related work can still be hazardous, as it was for the narrator in this week’s music.  Logging, for example, typically has higher workplace injury and fatality rates than other occupations.

With connections and impacts like these, piney mountains and other wooded landscapes will continue to influence Virginia’s economy, culture, wildlife, air, and water.

Thanks to Bruce Molsky for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 15 more seconds of “Piney Mountains.”

MUSIC – ~ 16 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 160, 5-6-13.

“Piney Mountains,” from the 2013 album “If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back,” is copyright 2013 by Bruce Molsky and Tree Frog Music, used with permission.  More information about Bruce Molsky is available online at http://www.brucemolsky.com.

Information on Craig Johnson was taken from his December 2009 obituary online at http://www.cremnc.com/sitemaker/sites/Cremat2/obit.cgi?user=151400Johnson; and “Most Done Traveling: A Tribute to Craig Johnson,” by Dave Shombert in the Dec. 2009-Jan. 2010 issue of The Old Time Herald (Durham, N.C.), online at https://www.oldtimeherald.org/issues/volume-12-number-2/ (subscription required for access) [Used this source in 2013].

Virginia Water Radio thanks Jennifer Gagnon, Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Conservation, for her help with the original version of this episode, done in 2013.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at http://www.bencosgrove.com.


Percentage of forest land in Virginia counties as of 2016.  Map taken from the Virginia Department of Forestry, “Virginia Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources,” November 2020, page 40.  The report is available online (as a PDF) at https://www.stateforesters.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2020-VA-Statewide-Assessment.pdf.  The original source is Thomas J. Brandeis et al., “Virginia’s Forests, 2016,”  Resource Bulletin SRS–223, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Asheville, N.C., 2018.

Forests made up much of the watershed surrounding a Bedford County, Virginia, reservoir (center of photo) in this April 21, 2011, photo from Peaks of Otter.


The following information on trends and threats for Virginia’s forest lands is from the Virginia Department of Forestry, “Virginia Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources,” November 2020, page 10.  The report is available online (as a PDF) at https://www.stateforesters.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2020-VA-Statewide-Assessment.pdf.

Virginia’s Forest Trends, Conditions, and Threats 

Several important changes, trends, and threats in Virginia are likely to significantly impact the health,
quality, and extent of Virginia’s forests in the foreseeable future.

Population growth and expanding metropolitan areas;
Changes in forest ownership;
Rising forest volumes;
Positive growth/drain ratio for hardwood and softwood forests;
Consistent timber harvest numbers and application of water quality Best Management Practices.

Wildland fire and growing wildland urban interface;

Declining diminished tree species;
Declining hardwood resource;
Forestland fragmentation and conversion;
Forest health issues;
Changing forest industry;
Climate change;
Funding of conservation work and programs.

These trends and threats will increase the need for: innovative and proactive wildfire prevention and
suppression; water quality protection; forest stewardship; forest health management; and urban
forestry efforts in all areas of the Commonwealth.


Used for Audio

University of Washington/Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, “Logging,” online at https://deohs.washington.edu/pnash/logging.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The facts of the faller: Occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities to loggers, 2006–2015,” by Jill Jonacha and Caleb Hopler, Beyond the Numbers, April 2018, online at https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-7/the-facts-of-the-faller-occupational-injuries-illnesses-and-fatalities-to-loggers-2006-2015.htm.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “State Occupational Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities,” online at https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshstate.htm#VA.

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, “State and Private Forestry Fact Sheet—Virginia 2022,” online (as a PDF) at https://apps.fs.usda.gov/nicportal/temppdf/sfs/naweb/VA_std.pdf.

Virginia Department of Forestry:
“Virginia’s Forests,” online at https://dof.virginia.gov/;
“Benefits of Trees,” online at https://dof.virginia.gov/education-and-recreation/learn-about-education-recreation/benefits-of-tree/ (this is the source of the quote used in the audio);
“Virginia’s Forest History,” online at https://dof.virginia.gov/forest-markets-sustainability/learn-about-forest-markets-sustainability/virginias-forest-history/; and
“Virginia Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources,” November 2020, online (as a PDF) at https://www.stateforesters.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2020-VA-Statewide-Assessment.pdf (see page 19 for statistics on forested land; p. 21 for economic benefits; and p. 23 for water quality benefits).

For More Information about Trees and Shrubs in Virginia and Elsewhere

Center for Watershed Protection, “Trees and Stormwater Runoff,” online at https://www.cwp.org/reducing-stormwater-runoff/.

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Field Guide: Plants and Trees,” online at https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/field-guide/all/plants_trees/all.

Oscar W. Gupton and Fred C. Swope, Trees and Shrubs of Virginia, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, 1981.

Sanglin Lee and Alan Raflo, “Trees and Water,” Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, pages 13-18, online at https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/49367.   (A Virginia Cooperative Extension version of this article—“Trees and Water,” by Sanglin Lee, Alan Raflo, and Jennifer Gagnon, 2018—with some slight differences in the text is available online at https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/pubs_ext_vt_edu/en/ANR/ANR-18/ANR-18NP.html.)

Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, “How Trees Grow,” online at https://agrilife.org/treecarekit/introduction-to-tree-care/how-trees-grow/.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, Forests of Virginia, 2018, Resource Update FS-264, Asheville, N.C., 2020; available online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/59963.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Database, online at https://plants.usda.gov.

Virginia Botanical Associates, “Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora,” online at http://www.vaplantatlas.org/index.php?do=start&search=Search.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Natural Heritage Division, online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/.

Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, online at https://forestupdate.frec.vt.edu/.

Virginia Forest Products Association, online at https://www.vfpa.net/.

Virginia Native Plant Society, online at http://vnps.org/.

A.S. Weakley, J.C. Ludwig, and J.F. Townsend, Flora of Virginia, Bland Crowder, ed.  Copyright by the Foundation of the Flora of Virginia Project, Inc., Richmond.  Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, 2012.  This is the first comprehensive manual of Virginia plants published since the 1700s.  The Flora of Virginia Project is online at https://floraofvirginia.org/.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Plants” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on trees and shrubs.

Introduction to trees and water – Episode 621, 3-21-22.
American Sycamore – Episode 176, 8-26-13.
American Witch Hazel – Episode 238, 10-31-14.
Ash trees – Episode 376, 7-10-17.
Early spring wildflowers in woodlands – Episode 573, 4-19-21.
Maple trees – Episode 503, 12-16-19.
Photosynthesis – Episode 602, 11-8-21.
Poison Ivy and related plants, including the shrub Poison Sumac – Episode 535, 7-27-20.
Rhododendrons – Episode 574, 4-26-21.
Tree buds – Episode 622, 3-28-22.
Tree colors and changes in fall, including to water movement – Episode 285, 10-9-15.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.
6.8 – Land and water have roles in watershed systems.
6.9 – Humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment.

Life Science
LS.9 – Relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science
ES.6 – Resource use is complex.
ES.8 – Freshwater resources influence and are influenced by geologic processes and human activity.

BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – Impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.
VS.10 – Knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.5 – Factors that shaped colonial America and conditions in the colonies, including how people interacted with the environment to produce goods and service.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – How selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.3 – How regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.4 – Types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.
Episode 606, 12-6-21 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.