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National Fire Plan Success Story

Advancing Land Care Stewardship
National Park Service Northeast Region, Virginia
National Fire Plan - Community Assistance

Firewise landscaping model.
Hanover County Master Gardeners made this eye-catching model viewed by thousands of people.

Partnership members.
Left to right: Barb Stewart, NPS; Sandy Mills, VDOF; Dave Close, Virgina Tech. Some of the hardworking Hanover Master Gardeners: Pattie Bland, Coordinator; Ginny Smithson, Emily Gianfortoni, and in the back row, Tina Chalekie, Edna Musser, Christy Brennan.

The little house showed the good, the bad, and the ugly of Firewise landscaping. A bin of worms and wet newspapers offered insight into vermiculture, using worms to aerate soil and convert organic matter into compost. Hard-working volunteers, many of whom created the displays, educated over 7,200 people about the house, the worms AND the compost at the 2008 Virginia State Fair. The Hanover Advanced Master Gardener Land Care Stewards, along with their partners from Louisa, enthusiastically gave people environmentally sound alternatives to burning or hauling yard waste to a landfill.

This was one of the recent demonstrations of Land Care Stewards’ (LCS) dedication to a program developed by a partnership of the Virginia Cooperative Extension and the National Park Service (NPS) Northeast Region. For that story, see New Handbook Addresses Wildland Urban Interface Issues Virginia (PDF) or visit the NPS Fire and Aviation Management website's Public and Media Fire Stories.

In 2005, Hanover Master Gardeners completed the inaugural Advanced Master Gardener Land Care Stewards Program at the Master Gardener College held in Blacksburg, Virginia and went home to train 13 more of their colleagues. They knew the Hanover County landfill closed in 2004 and that all waste was being trucked to neighboring Chesterfield at a cost of nearly $1 million. Almost one-third of it was yard waste. Thus, according to one of the pioneer LCS, Hanover County has been, “very supportive of the LCS program and has asked for our help in encouraging homeowners to reduce the amount of yard waste taken to the transfer stations.” Embracing their education mission, the Hanover LCS have conducted workshops on composting, with and without worms, spoken with homeowner associations and civic groups and hosted booths in various venues. They were also featured on Virginia Home Grown TV.

Two Hanover LCSs returned to the 2008 Master Gardener College to present sessions and help train even more Advanced Master Gardeners in Land Care. Ten Master Gardeners participated in this second offering of an intensive train-the-trainer program. In addition to classroom sessions, the group toured two Firewise communities within the Blacksburg area. The students completed a Firewise risk assessment of the property under the leadership of a Virginia Department of Forestry forester. In all, they completed 30 hours of training, culminating in a final assignment of developing a Land Care Stewards project for their community.


  • Barb Stewart, Fire Communication Specialist, Northeast and National Capital Region, (434) 220-9065.
  • Emily Gianfortoni, Hanover Advanced Master Gardener, (804)752-4310.
  • Francis J. Reilly, Jr., (540) 286-0072.