By Kevin Tate
Mississippi leads the nation in certified tree farmers, landowners whose forethought and planning puts them in good stead for the future, but that number could be higher and the area’s realized benefits greater timber officials say.
Adoption of the documented practices will also have landowners prepared for the future when timber sales may well hinge on whether or not their trees were grown following a certified plan.
Set for Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Crane Bottom Farm near Fulton, a Sustainable Forestry Field Day will show the benefits of following the best, proven practices for managing timber land, practices that offer top yields for both wood and wildlife.
“The big, institutional land companies have been involved in sustainable forestry for a good while, but for the owners of smaller tracts of land, this field day can be very helpful in explaining why they should be involved in the plan and how they can go about it,” said Tim Weston, vice president of the Fulton-based Homan Industries, a company with significant timber interests and one of the sponsors of next Saturday’s event.
The field day is open to the public, includes a lunch and is provided free of charge thanks to a number of sponsors, but those interested are asked to call 862-3201 in advance to register and get directions to the farm. The event is scheduled to last from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. and will include looks at managed pine plantations in three stages of growth, pine land in natural growth, a hardwood section and a prescribed burning demonstration.
“Sustainable forestry involves the production of commodities while protecting the environment and aesthetics for continuing use,” said Dr. John Kushla, extension forestry specialist with Mississippi State University’s north Mississippi research and extension center. “It’s a system of management that is friendly to the environment, one that promotes the enjoyment of hunting and fishing while earning money from wood products.”
Kushla said landowners nationwide formed the American Tree Farm System in the 1940s, building from a movement promoted by the Weyerhaeuser company in the Pacific Northwest to encourage the replanting and regeneration of timber lands. Mississippi tree farmers joined the non-profit, non-governmental group in 1944 and now boast roughly 3,600 members, more than any other state. Members are required to meet a number of standards, all geared to ensure sustainability. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative, part of an international trend by timber-consuming industries toward requiring their wood to have been grown following sustainable practices, began roughly two decades ago, and the American Tree Farm System has been working to align its standards with theirs for the past 13 years.
Of concern to owners and heirs of local timber lands, both Kushla and Weston say the trajectory of standards in the timber industry show there may soon come a day when timber not grown following a certified plan could have a hard time finding a buyer at a fair market price.