Thursday, October 16, 2008
Field Day emphasizes importance of forests
By SUE WATSON
Marshall County Forestry Association’s annual Field Day, held at McAuley Farms Saturday, drew a crowd of over 100 and numerous exhibits.
The field day featured four stops, led by John Gruchy who discussed food plots; Jason Fly, who talked about pine thinning; Justin Dewberry, who talked about controlled burning; and Chad Anderson, who discussed understory hardwood control.
Keynote speacker Bruce Alt, executive vice president of the Mississippi Forestry Association, emphasized the role of forests in cleaning the air and water and in fixing carbon, services provided by tree farming that is often lost on the populace.
A fourth, and not insignificant, role forests play is outdoor recreation, which he said provides more outdoor recreation than any other industry for Mississippians.
“These are all things people demand but don’t want to pay for,” he said.
With man-made carbon emissions now considered by environmentalists as the number one driver of global climate change, Alt said carbon is removed from the air (as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas) by trees and used to make timber, thus reducing the greenhouse effect (holding in of heat in the atmosphere).
Tree farmers have not yet figured out a way to get paid for the work their trees do in sequestering carbon, he said. But rules are being written by politicians, engineers and scientists whereby carbon credits can be traded on the Chicago Climate Exchange, he said.
“The rules are far from being finished,” he said. “In temperate North America, Mississippi is one of the best places to store carbon in our trees.”
The Mississippi Forestry Association is joining with several states to form a multi-state aggregator to provide carbon credits in large enough volume to trade on the Chicago Climate Exchange, Alt said.
Forest lands produce more clean water than any other land use, he said. Forests clean water by curtailing the erosion of soil sediments that otherwise would wash off the land and fill streams, tributaries and reservoirs. Reducing soil sediments in runoff water produces cleaner waters for wildlife that inhabit streams, rivers and lakes.
Alt shared some life lessons he said he has learned through work in forestry.
In 1979 he was working for a large corporate tree farming industry managing timber harvest, road construction and tree planting.
One of his more unpleasant jobs was to move families living in shacks off company land, as the company considered the families a liability, he said.
The father and son of a particular family he had visited often to try to get them to leave came into the Ripley office with big, brown grocery sacks of muscadines as a gift.
“They liked that old house,” he said. “It was one where you could see the ground through the floor and throw a cat through the wall. It reminded me that forestry is about people.
“Really, it never was about trees and it will never be just about trees. I said you are here because there is something in your hearts and souls that other’s don’t have.
“It is how we should act, what we do that is right and the desire to treat others well.”
Alt said these life lessons are the same things he learned as a Boy Scout.
“As a Scout and a landowner, myself, you take that learning and apply it to your tree farm,” he said. “There is a guiding compass in your heart, and as a landowner, you exercise your will as a landowner and compass.
“How big is your compass and in which direction does it point? Is it big enough to cover your family and children or people who don't look like us or who may not vote like us?
“Your conservation compass as an association; how big is it? How big is your influence and your example in reaching out to others? That is part of what we do at Mississippi Forestry Association to advocate on your behalf, to tell others what we do and why. Great work has been done in the past, but it is important to reach out to others because they will affect our ability to enjoy our land for many years to come.”
History of McAuley Tree Farm
Dr. Malcolm McAuley’s tree farm is located in an old community of Marshall County once known as Tallaloosa (black rock). In the early 1800s the Indian treaties of cessation of land to the United States opened Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia lands for settlement by whites.
A thriving community cleared and settled the bottomlands and cotton was king in the South. At one time Tallaloosa was populated by 2,700 souls and had a post office and several general merchandise stores.
Wealthy planters built large homes on the ridges. At that time the bottomland directly in front of McAuley's cabin was a large lake covering several thousand acres. The lake was drained in the early 1900s to make way for crops.
At one time Tallaloosa vied with Holly Springs to become the county seat but with the coming of the railroad through Holly Springs, Tallaloosa waned. People moved out and the town lost its post office and its identity as a town.
McAuley Tree Farm consists of 1,200 acres in a single tract of land that is used mostly for timber production and hunting. Soybeans are grown on the open bottomlands and hay is produced on the upper terraces. In the late 1980s, most of the stands were harvested of marketable timber. Large reforestation efforts did not begin for several years.
In 1993. McAuley’s Tree Farm wrote an overall stewardship plan which was approved by the Mississippi Forestry Commission. The tracts were site prepped, burned and planted to improve loblolly pine blocks. Eventually, all cutover areas were put back into production.
Using modern-day best-management practices, the wildlife habitat was diversified, access to tree stands were improved, firelanes were prepared and timber thrives.
Today, McAuley Tree Farm is stewarded and uses management practices to protect all natural resources. These include thinning, herbicide applications, prescribed burning, and intensive wildlife food plot habitats.
New buildings are under construction and a five-acre lake was built to meet the McAuley family’s objectives to have a second home, place for family, neighbors and friends to gather and place for hunting.
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