Category Archives: Practices

Best management practices for woodland managagement

Stickney tree farm field day demonstrates options for sustainable woodlands

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.

Jack Stickney introduces field day participants to the many facets of his tree farm with a slideshow in his barn. (The barn was built with salvaged wood from the farm.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Jack displays a collection of the logs used for growing mushrooms

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.

An intergenerational effort. Jack and Teresa pause for a photo with Teresa’s mom who lives in nearby Breathett County. Caleb, Jack and Teresa’s son, has been instrumentally involved in all aspects of the farm. He is pursuing a college degree in natural resource/environmental studies.

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.

KWOA members selected for Outstanding Forest Stewards Award

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.

Portia Brown, KWOA secretary, and Jerry Brown, KWOA board member, accept the 2017 Outstanding Forest Stewards Award at the KY Governors Conference on Energy and the Environment. With them are KWOA members Greg Kuhns and Harry and Karen Pelle, 2012 Forest Stewards of the Year. Photo by Lisa Armstrong, KDF

“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.

 

Leopold Conservation Award 2018 Call for Applications

If you, or someone you know, is a Kentucky landowner who is committed to land management practices that increase conservation, the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts invites your application for the Leopold Conservation Award.

Sand County Foundation, the Kentucky Agricultural Council and KACD are accepting applications for the 2018 Leopold Conservation Award program in Kentucky. The $10,000 award honors Kentucky farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who voluntarily demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. It inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. The Leopold Conservation Award Program is offered in the following states: California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Application deadline for the 2018 award is spring 2018. See the 2018 Leopold brochure (2017 winner) (v.3) for information on applying or on candidate nomination.

Mail all materials to:

Leopold Conservation Award

c/o Franklin County Conservation District

103 Lakeview Court

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

 

To submit materials electronically, email materials to:

Steve Coleman, colemansteve51@gmail.com, 502-330-5044

The award will be presented at the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts annual convention in July 2018.

KWOA member Charles Williams, Hart County tree farmer, was the 2015 recipient. The 2017 Kentucky winner is Harry (KWOA board member) and Karen Pelle’s Tallow Creek Farm in Taylor County. The Pelle’s timber stand improvements have enhanced their forest crop, wildlife habitat and growth of forest floor vegetation. Their forest generates addition income through the sale of carbon credits to help sustain their conservation practice.

KWOA is a sponsor of the KLC award.

Salt River Watershed Watch 2017

The Salt River Watershed Watch project plants trees, shrubs and grasses in riparian areas to improve water quality. The project is designed to raise awareness of the importance of the riparian zone, and the important part it plays in water quality.  Last fall SRWW volunteers planted 1500 trees and hundreds of grasses and forbes along streams in Jefferson, Meade and Nelson counties.

The project focuses on Breckinridge, Bullitt, Jefferson, Oldham and Shelby Counties but will work anywhere in the basin. It is looking for landowners to provide property for plantings.

Identify riparian planting sites.  If you own land along a creek you may nominate it. We will secure agreements with the landowners to allow us to come onto the property and they need to be willing to provide maintenance of trees/shrub seedlings for at least the first two years. If you know of a site with habitat that would be classified as “marginal” or “poor” please email Stephen Perry, Riparian Corridor Enhancement Project Manager at at sperry40055@att.net.

More information about the project and its latest progress reports go to https://sites.google.com/site/saltriverwatershedwatch/.

The project is supported by the Virginia Environmental Endowment, Kentucky Woodland Owners Association, UK Extension Service and Jefferson County Extension Office. The Salt River project is a pilot that hopes to be the lead on a statewide project.

Jack Stickney Named Kentucky Tree Farmer of the Year

From the Kentucky Forest Industries Association newsroom:

 Jack Stickey from Irvine, Kentucky was recently honored as the 2016 Kentucky Tree Farmer of the Year at the KFIA 52nd Annual Meeting in Lexington. Stickney was selected from a number of nominations submitted to the state Tree Farm Committee from throughout Kentucky.

Steve Gray, KY Tree Farm Chairman (right) present Jack. & Teresa Stickney with the Kentucky Tree Farmer of the Year award and a STIHL Farm Boss Chain saw donated by Bryan Equipment Sales.
Photo courtesy KFIA

Stickney’s 100 acre Tree Farm in Estill County, Kentucky is managed for a wide range of benefits including timber production, wildlife and recreation.  The tree farm is also used for numerous educational purposes for environmental classes and has also hosted a regional woodland owners short course.

 

Jack is a KWOA board member for its eastern zone.

UK Forestry Extension Taking the Lead on Establishing a White Oak Partnership

Interest and demand for white oak timber supply is extremely high which has raised some concerns about the long-term sustainability of this invaluable resource. To address this concern, the Sustainability of White Oak Timber Conference was held at the Kentucky Forest Industries Annual Meeting on April 4, 2017. This conference was hosted by UK Forestry Extension—this is the second white oak meeting they have organized to address white oak supply in the last few years. Approximately 100 people attended the one day Sustainability of White Oak Timber Conference which provided information to industries dependent upon white oak and organizations/agencies associated with these industries. State and national experts provided updates on oak stand development, current forest inventory and monitoring, the issues affecting future white oak supply, and the need to establish a White Oak Partnership. There was overwhelming support amongst those in attendance to create a White Oak Partnership to address the following:

  • Proper monitoring of white oak growth and drain
  • Resources focused on addressing white oak threats
  • Economic modelling associated with determining white oak availability
  • Elected officials and governmental organizations understand the importance of this resource
  • Development of a National White Oak Initiative to help protect and improve white oak sustainability

If you would like to learn more about the White Oak Partnership please visit www.ukforestry.org or call Dr. Jeff Stringer at 859.257.5994.

Updates from our cooperators – first quarter 2017

Forest fires

The Kentucky Division of Forestry implemented some novel procedures to address the 2016 fall forest fire hazard season (October 1 through December 15). Bill Steele, KDF Director, reported that 50,000 acres burned in the state last fall. KDF gave crash courses in fire fighting to staff from the state Mining and Fish &Wildlife agencies, as well as volunteer firemen in 2016. The agency plans to increase the number of seasonal firefighters whose pay is funded during the fire season. This expansion will free up its rangers in 2017 to implement prescribed burns, trail maintenance, invasives control and streamside management. (The spring fire season stretches from February 15 through April 30.)

Logging inspections

The above changes to rangers’ duties also intends for them to conduct fewer logging operation inspections. There are currently 50 rangers qualified to inspect logging sites who conduct 80-90 inspections per year.  By law the rangers are only required to respond to complaints, bad actors and requests for assistance.

Tree nurseries

Kentucky’s two nurseries have lost $400,000 in the last two years. The goal is to have them break even in the next two years. One initiative will be to grow more white oak with assistance from the state’s distilleries who require this species for their bourbon barrels. Another push will be plant tree seedlings on 140,000 acres of abandoned mined lands in eastern Kentucky. Although there are some land preparation and property ownership issues, Pam Snyder reported that there is Abandoned Mined Land Reclamation funding for the tree planting.

Forest management plans and NRCS

Progress in reinstating NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) reimbursement to KDF for marking trees should expedite the backlog of forest management plans. NRCS is also expanding the number of technical service providers (private consulting foresters who have met the TSP certification) to write Conservation Activity Plans for Forest Management (CAP-FM). In addition, the traditional Conservation Stewardship Plan is being expanded to include a practice plan and new program elements now called enhancements. Two thirds of the enhancements are forestry or wildlife related. Hopefully this change will speed up the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) application process.

Intergenerational transfer of family farm is cyclical, not linear

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you” is the ultimate conversation stopper, says Steve Isaacs, UK extension coordinator for farm management, in the complex and often unpleasant and unproductive dialogue between family generations regarding what will happen to the family farm.

Steve Isaacs de-bunks popular myths about how to transfer the family farm
Photo by Billy Thomas, UK Forestry Extension

Family farm succession is about more than legal and tax implications according to Dr. Isaacs who is also director for the UK Tax Education Program. It is about the transfer of assets, management, leadership and, yes, debt in a cyclical process.

Isaacs stressed that the first priority in this cycle is assuring an adequate retirement income for the parents. The estate tax is a paper tiger for most people; “death taxes don’t destroy family farms… families do.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are only two categories of workers that are older than farmers – school crossing guards and Walmart greeters.

Isaacs recommended engaging a transition team familiar with farmland issues that could include an attorney, accountant, financial planner, lender, extension educator and/or business consultant. This team’s function is to identify and generate ideas, technical information, evaluation and suggestions.

Isaacs recommended conducting the transition discussion at a neutral location, not at the family kitchen table. He advised treating siblings fairly, not necessarily equally and include spouses in the discussion.

A facilitator and recorder will summarize and document the items on which the family has agreed.

With some guidance and a transition plan, Isaacs says the conversation by the entire family can become “Here’s how we’re going to take care of things.”

Steve will be conducting a full day session on this subject in the near future. Check our events page for that announcement.

KWOF approves funding to support woodland education/practice initiatives in 2017

The Kentucky Woodland Owners Foundation has been a long-time financial supporter of the Woodland Owners Short Course, an annual UK Forestry Extension student scholarship and the Leopold Conservation Award. At its February quarterly board meeting, members approved financial assistance to three projects that will inform and enhance woodland and watershed management.

$650 for the 2017 Woodland Owners Short Course (WOSC) workshops

$400 for two $200 competitive scholarships to the Kentucky Forestry Leadership Program, a weeklong program at Jabez for students interested in natural resource management

$500 to the Salt River Watershed Project managed through the Kentucky Waterways Alliance

Ancient American Chestnut makes surprising appearance on Pelle tree farm

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.

Earth Day 2016 - EKU faculty, staff, students and volunteers join The American Chestnut Foundation to plant 1200 American Chestnuts in Taylor Fork Ecological Area on Arbor Day
Earth Day 2016 – EKU faculty, staff, students and volunteers join The American Chestnut Foundation to plant 1200 American Chestnuts in Taylor Fork Ecological Area on Arbor Day

The effort with The American Chestnut Foundation seeks to restore the iconic tree as a staple in eastern forests.

April 22, 2016 – Karen and Harry Pelle volunteer with EKU American Chestnut planting
April 22, 2016 – Karen and Harry Pelle volunteer with EKU American Chestnut planting

 

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.

April 23, 2016 – Newly discovered American Chestnut sprouts on Pelle tree farm
April 23, 2016 – Newly discovered American Chestnut sprouts on Pelle tree farm

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.’”