The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is a 68-year old annual event in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park featuring professionally-guided walks to explore the region’s rich natural and cultural resources. More than 700 pilgrims from more than 30 states and several countries joined us in 2017. Our programs included fungi, ferns, wildflowers, trees and shrubs, medicinal plants, insects (terrestrial and aquatic), salamanders and snakes, birds, mammals (bats to bears), birds, journaling, art and photography, and park history.
Thanks to the following educators for participation in the field day and information for this article:
Eric Baker, Estill Co Extension Agriculture/Natural Resource Agent
Jason Powell, KDF
Sam Miller, NRCS
Merle Hacker, KDF&W
Portia Brown, KWOA
Henry Duncan and Clarissa Rentz, KWOA – photos
Woodlands owners experienced an exceptional on-site tour of a top-rated tree farm on October 5. Jack Stickney, 2016 Kentucky Tree Farmer of the Year, and his wife Teresa own 100 acres of woodlands in Estill County. During the field day agency professionals assisted the Stickney’s demonstrations, covering topics that included timber stand improvement (TSI) practices, technical and financial assistance programs, advanced agricultural practices, shitake mushroom production and wildlife habitat management.
Located in the eastern knobs and eastern coalfield region of Kentucky, Estill County transitions the bluegrass to the mountains. The county is covered by 116,480 acres of woodland which is an important part of the local economy. Approximately 75 percent of Estill County is forest, of which around 4,500 acres lie within the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Estill County has beautiful natural resources and we were so pleased to have 101 people come enjoy the field day and help showcase the Stickney family’s exceptional stewardship efforts on their farm and woodlands. Eric Baker, Estill Coounty Agriculture/ Natural Resource Extension Agent
The Stickneys got a forest stewardship plan from KDF in 1987, the same year they purchased the land. In accordance with the plan they have implemented timber stand improvement (TSI) on all their woodlands. Sam Miller, NRCS Technical and Financial Assistance Program, has worked with the Stickneys over the last 20 years to provide financial assistance through various programs (WHIP, FIP – now EQIP, and CRP). They broke the TSI practice down into segments of 8 to 10 acres to be tackled at a time. For this practice KDF helped by marking the trees.
Marking trees – KDF uses a blue dot to identify trees to be killed using hack and squirt or cut stump herbicide treatment. An “X” is used to mark desirable species, such as red and white oak, hickory and poplar that could benefit from simply cutting to encourage healthy re-sprout; no herbicide would be used on these stumps.
The Stickneys have planted a variety of tree species. They began by planting northern hardy pecans 25 years ago but have not had significant nut production. The trees still help preserve water quality. In 2003, under the Conservation Reserve Program they planted more pecans and walnuts in a 2.2-acre tract of bottomlands along the Red River. This area has flooding so their practices help water quality. They also planted a few cypress trees. The first planting was 800 trees 15 years ago. Early plantings did not fare so well due to weeds and deer and beaver predation. KDF helped with the next planting – in rows 12 feet apart with seedlings at 8 foot centers – and using herbicides to control weeds.
For decades, Estill County first thought of woodland as a logging opportunity. Too often, the woods were high graded and left without any consideration for the future. This is not a sustainable practice. It is far better to harvest in a calculated way, doing selective harvesting with management post-harvest for desirable species to come back. Managing woodlands is investing in the future.
The Stickney’s first non-timber forest product venture was growing shitake mushrooms from logs. The first ten years was for personal use. After a TSI practice opened a 67 acre area, they began growing mushrooms on 500 logs. They transitioned to a commercial operation adding oyster mushrooms to the shiitake farming. Their
land is at the edge of the outer Bluegrass and the Knobs limestone creek bottoms are excellent for soaking logs.
Eighty percent of the nutrients in mushrooms comes from the mycelium. The stem of a shiitake has a lot of medicinal value. Teresa dries the stems and grinds them into a powder that she uses to add flavor to recipes for gravy and Alfredo sauce. Jack says “Eastern Kentucky should be the mushroom capital of the world.” He thinks there is a valuable future market for mushrooms as a medicinal product, especially in cancer treatment.
In 2003, the Stickneys planted native warm season grasses to provide rotational grazing for their grass fed beef production and to provide grazing throughout the summer. They have a 30 to 50% improvement over continuous grazing by using rotation. They fenced cattle out of the streams and woodlands and instead water them using gravity-fed waterlines from a spring on the property to four strategically placed tanks. In addition to rotational grazing, the native warm season grasses provide good mixes for pollinators and value for ground nesting species, rabbits, turkeys and quail. Undergrowth in woodland habitats is fabulous for wildlife such as rough grouse and other birds. They like the scattered light as opposed to the closed canopy. Mid story removal also promotes filtered sunlight.
The next stage for the Stickney’s woodlands will be to ramp up invasive species management. They are fighting bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Having a plant identification guide can help identify invasives. Many factors, such as ice storms, disease and insects open up the forest and introduce opportunities for invasives.
Managing woods for a diversity of species helps brace against diseases that can take out one species.
Life isn’t all crop production at the tree farm. The Stickneys have hosted many educational field days over the years including Scouts, MACED, Shitake Mountain Mushroom Foundation Festival and environmental practices. They have a teepee for the Scouts to use and an elevated viewing station in the woods. They have excellent wildlife and allow deer and turkey hunting.
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.
Thanks to Harry Pelle, KWOA board member, for sharing this story
While marking fifty acres for a timber stand improvement project on their property on April 23rd, Harry and Karen Pelle along with Chris Will, their consulting forester, found quite a welcome surprise. They discovered a couple of American Chestnut root sprouts. Harry admits there have been other aspiring chestnut seedlings over the thirty years the Pelle’s have been traversing their tree farm near Bradfordsville but they didn’t know what to look for.
The day before, Earth Day, they had helped plant 1200 American Chestnuts at Eastern Kentucky University’s Taylor Fork Ecological Area.
The effort with The American Chestnut Foundation seeks to restore the iconic tree as a staple in eastern forests.
That recent experience may have made the Pelle’s more aware of the chestnut’s latest effort to re-establish itself in the territory where it once reigned.
The Pelle’s marked the spot where they found the tree sprouts on Chris’s GPS and with a tee post.
The Pelle’s also cleared the area around the sprouts of fallen tops and brush. They intend to monitor the potential trees’ progress and just maybe these two will beat the Chestnut Blight that decimated the regions mighty giants. It may be the next generation of Pelles that will have to continue the watch over the seedlings.
The newest trees are in good company. Harry has an American Chestnut restoration grove just down the hill from the little guys. He likes to think the trees’ ancestors are looking down the hill and cheering on their new cousins in the fight to beat the blight. Harry thinks the finding of the sprouts “might have been the chestnuts’ way of saying ‘thanks for the help.’”
HCR 29 directs the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission to establish a Timber Theft and Trespass Reduction Task Force to study issues regarding timber theft and trespass and to develop consensus recommendations to address those issues.
The task force would meet three times before submitting its final report to the LRCommission by November 30, 2016. The LRC has authority to alternatively assign the issues identified in the Resolution to interim joint committees or subcommittees.
Sponsored in the House by representatives Combs, Denham, Howard, Montell, Nelson, Osborne and Riggs, the resolution passed 95-0 in February. It is now in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
KWOA voted at its annual meeting to support the resolution with a letter from President Frank Hicks. In addition, Keith Argow, President, National Woodland Owners Association submitted a letter of support to the senate committee. In his letter Argow notes that “…Kentucky has one of the weakest positions against timber theft of any state.” He argues that, in addition to inherent flaws, Kentucky’s current statute with respect to timber theft, KRS 364.130, is a civil statute that requires timber theft victims to file civil suits, an action that is out of reach for many landowners. The result, Argow concludes, is that “logging theft is an almost risk-free crime.”
KWOA members are encouraged to call and/or write their senators on the Natural Resources and Energy Committee in support of HCR 29. The 2016 legislative session adjourns April 12.
Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee
• Sen. Jared Carpenter [Chair]
• Sen. Brandon Smith [Vice Chair]
• Sen. C.B. Embry Jr.
• Sen. Chris Girdler
• Sen. Ernie Harris
• Sen. Paul Hornback
• Sen. Ray S. Jones II
• Sen. John Schickel
• Sen. Johnny Ray Turner
• Sen. Robin L. Webb
• Sen. Whitney Westerfield
On April 14, 2009, 15 industry and consultant foresters underwent American Tree Farm Inspector Training. This training provides the background needed to inspect and re-inspect Kentucky forested land which can then be certified in the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). All Tree Farm inspectors volunteer their time to work with and inspect Kentucky Tree Farm lands. Training was held at Domtar Paper Company, LLC-Hawesville, KY. The training facilitator was Pam Snyder, Forest Management Chief, Kentucky Division of Forestry. The training was sponsored by the Kentucky SIC (Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee).
In August, 2008, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) endorsed the American Tree Farm System. As a result of this endorsement Kentucky tree farms are now third party certified, and are recognized by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) as meeting the standards to qualify tree farms to provide SFI certified wood. The ATFS supports recognized requirements that assure sustainably managed forests. The mission of ATFS is to promote the growing of renewable forest resources on private lands while protecting environmental benefits and increasing public understanding of all benefits of productive forestry.
The ATFS is sponsored nationally by the American Forest Foundation, a 501c3 non profit organization promoting the sustainable management of forests through education and outreach to private forest landowners. Kentucky currently has 801 certified tree farms covering 270,729 acres. Kentucky’s Tree Farms are dedicated to producing wood products, maintaining wildlife habitat, improving water quality, and providing outdoor recreational opportunities. To be eligible for tree farm certification, a landowner must have a minimum of 10 forested acres, have a commitment to practice sustainable, long-term forest management , and demonstrate proactive forest management involvement.
To obtain more information on Kentucky’s Tree Farm Program, contact the Kentucky Division of Forestry at 502-564-4496, or any of the newly trained ATFS inspectors, or visit www.treefarmsystem.org or www.kytreefarm.org.