Jerry and Portia Brown have been awarded the central regional and the state Division of Forestry awards as the 2017 Outstanding Forest Stewards. The award will be presented to them at the awards luncheon October 20 during the 41st annual Kentucky Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment in Lexington. The conference’s two days of discussion and debate will examine the top issues involving Kentucky’s energy future and its environment.
“Over the years we have learned so much, met many wonderful people who share our interest in sustaining the natural resources that bless us all, and tried to share our time, talents and resources to conserve these invaluable resources and promote sustainable practices.”
The selection committee chose the Browns for having “… left a beneficial, everlasting mark on the natural resources of our great Commonwealth.” The award reflects work done at both farms. Grayson Woods, the Grayson County Tree Farm that Portia’s mother started a little before 1950 to curb severely eroded land reflects successful and natural transition from a pine plantations to native hardwood. The last pines were harvested in 2014 with the help of ACA consultant, Chris Will. Jerry & Chris laid out road access to the site prior to opening the bidding process. This served a dual purpose:
> preparing the site with respect to BMP practices for logging
> allowing bidders to better see what trees were to be harvested and any areas of concern relating to the actual harvest process.
The Shelby Property contributes an educational center and reflects post-harvest regeneration. The Browns purchased this land in 1996. The majority of the land was clear cut around 1975 for transition to grazing / silage crops. An area of roughly 35 acres, that the Browns like to call “The Back Forty”, appears to have been high-graded about 75 years ago.Their first project was re-aligning access roads to prevent erosion and improve the quality of access. They used a number of techniques for crop tree release and invasive species control in order to nurture the regeneration of native hardwood species. They also use several techniques to provide wildlife habitat, including:
- the establishment of over 30 acres in local ecotype native grasslands with over 50 wildflower species (such as milkweed for pollinators)
- a variety of wetland and woodland habitats.
Portia observes that over the years the Kentucky Division of Forestry in Grayson County has provided outstanding service to their family by guiding them through stewardship options, educating them on the implications of different practices, and connecting them with various programs to help implement their plan. Federal programs including CRP & EQIP, administered through NRCS, have provided financial aid that made it feasible to implement many of the practices. State assistance has also come through KY Fish & Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy.