Bright and early on April 18, 2013, a crowd of wildlife lovers gathered at Saloom Properties in Evergreen to discuss just how they can manage their timber in such tough economic times. Saloom Properties was a 2010 National Outstanding Tree Farm, where attendees of this event were able to enjoy a tour of the 1,762 acres on the back of a truck-drawn trailer. A host of expert speakers from a variety of agencies and the professional forestry community passed on their knowledge and experience through outdoor demonstrations including those from The Longleaf Alliance. They were there to help attendees understand the economic importance of Alabama’s forests and provide meaningful demonstrations of the latest advances made in the longleaf industry. The tour included four educational stops with three speakers appearing at each site.
At the first stop, Dana Johnson of Auburn discussed the destruction caused by overpopulation of wild hogs threatening not only pocketbooks but also the health of our forests. Being a trap expert, he travels the country helping landowners rid themselves of hogs, coyotes, beavers and even big cats.
"Pigs are not smart animals," Johnson stated. "But they can be trained like dogs, and soon you can trap every pig you need to on your property."
Johnson showed onlookers what can be done to capture animals that have become nuisances to landowners including a beaver trap demonstration. Next door to Johnson on the same stop was a demonstration showcasing pine bailing boxes and tools used to clear forest floors.
The next stop was in a sprawling pine tree field that took a 15-minute bus ride and another ride on the trailers to reach. The speakers covered various areas of longleaf care and food plot management to keep pine and wildlife in healthy order.
"Ragweed can be used as a natural food plot and everything from deer to quail loves it. And it’s usually free," one speaker noted.
Prescribed burning was another hot topic the speakers touched on. Over the last half of the century, prescribed burning has declined and our woodlands are suffering. Pinelands are being taken over by hardwoods blocking out too much sun trying to reach the forest floor, thus causing certain species of plants and animals to be driven out. Prescribed fire helps decrease the chance of this happening, keeping the pinelands healthy and the wildlife sheltered. It is an essential management tool in Southern pine forests that improves hunting, keeps brush down to grant better access to the forest and clears land for farming.
The third stop included two members of The Longleaf Alliance, Mark Hainds and Ad Platt, with guest Brent Shaver of The Nature Conservancy. The mission of The Longleaf Alliance is to ensure a sustainable future for the longleaf pine ecosystem through partnerships, landowner assistance, and science-based education and outreach. Mark Hainds discussed the various reasons landowners should be concerned about their pines.
"Pine straw sells for around $100 to $200 an acre per year," he said. "Harvesting pine straw is just as economically important to the state as harvesting timber."
Those owning pine forests were encouraged to start harvesting the abundant pine straw produced each year. Hainds also told attendees, when harvesting pine straw, leave some behind to provide nourishment to the forest floor.
"There has been a decline of longleaf pine over 90 million acres throughout the South," Shaver stated. "Twenty-nine animal species on the endangered list are native to longleaf pine forests. Alabama ranks fifth in the nation for biodiversity."
Taking care of our forests is crucially important.
Stop number four was the vendor exhibit. Several vendors from various companies gathered to discuss with attendees the work being done in the pine industry and for wildlife conservation including the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and the Alabama Forestry Commission.
The largest wood supplying region in the United States is the South. Alabama has a vast 22.6 million acres of forestland, producing almost $1.7 billion in forest products. Timber is vitally important to Alabama’s economic success. Every two out of three acres is covered with trees! Without proper management of our forests, Alabama’s economy would suffer. In 2002, total employment in timber-based manufacturing jobs in Alabama was 34,656. In 2001, Alabama was ranked fifth in the nation with almost $800 million in hunting-related retail sales. Our beautiful forests have so much to offer, not just in lumber and paper products but recreational benefits as well such as fishing, hunting and camping.
The field day was an excellent opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts including hunters, landowners and foresters interested in managing timber and wildlife to learn more about how this booming industry works.
Emily McLaughlin is a freelance writer from Uriah.