Dr. Lanny Copeland’s trek as a family physician focusing on rural health care delivery eventually brought him and wife Mica to health care of a different sort in Warren County, KY. With a son and his family already in the county, the Copelands began purchasing farmland tracts there in 2009. Retirement from the medical profession in 2014 has not slowed the pace of their engagement on what is now 280 contiguous acres of which 260 is in woods
In addition to various species of trees and wildlife, the property includes sinkholes, caves, several capped oil wells, a stand of Pawpaw seedlings and quite a few resident bobcats.
The Copelands grow black raspberries as a hobby, some of which are sold. But most are made into jam and donated to fund raising events for auction. Competitive bidding on such a collection of their preserves at KWOA’s last annual meeting attested to their attraction!
The Copeland’s woodland management has focused on eradicating invasive species, a never-ending task. Their goal of leaving the property better than it was when they became the owners has included planting 1500 black walnut seedlings and 500 white oak seedlings, with plans to plant many more. They have established and marked hiking trails and aggressively improved wildlife habitat. Their property was recently designated a Certified Tree Farm by the American Tree Farm System whose guidelines they attempt to closely follow.
The Copelands have relied on many individuals and resources to get to this point, including a consultant forester, state foresters, state wildlife biologist, UK Department of Forestry, county agents and KWOA. On the other side, the local community has realized many economic benefits from the Copeland’s forest stewardship. The local agriculture supplier has been a go-to for fertilizer, seed, etc. Service agencies such as equipment purchase and repair benefit as well. The Copelands donate a guided spring turkey hunt to Make-A-Wish Foundation each year, raising over $1200 for this worthy cause.
High school students are often employed to assist in planting seedlings, gathering firewood and clearing trails. The Copelands hope to increase interest in forestry in the county high schools. As a youth Lanny hiked, camped, hunted, enjoyed wildlife and conducted a 4-H forestry project on a small farm in southern Indiana. The experiences were significant factors in his journey to his present woodlands ownership.
Going forward, Lanny Copeland sees population growth and maintaining a sustainable forest as the biggest land ownership and management challenges. Even now they see tremendous expansion in housing in their area. It’s as if their woodlands are quickly becoming an island among small subdivisions. He thinks that his role as a woodland steward could be expedited by more tax relief for woodland properties.
Despite the many time-intensive and pressing management challenges presented by their commitment to their woodlands, the Copelands have built a lodge on the property where they spend most of their time.
They hope that their children and grandchildren continue to actively manage and enjoy the woodlands. They greatly enjoy sharing this special place with others.