Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013 Kentucky Woodland Owners Short Course Program - East

This past weekend Andrea and I attended the 2013 Kentucky Woodland Owners Short Course Program - East. I am very glad that we discovered the event, as it was exactly the type of thing we needed to get us started down the path to actively managing our woodlot. The stated goals of the program are to provide educational opportunities to woodland owners, encourage sustainable woodlot management, and raise awareness of the critical role played by private woodland owners to the management of Kentucky's forests. The program is in its eighth year, which was evident by how well organized it was. 

The Eastern Kentucky event was held at the Lewis County Cooperative Extension Office in Vanceburg. A similar event was held the previous week in Daviess county (Western Kentucky) and one for Fayette County (Central Kentucky) is scheduled for next month. We would like to be able to attend the Central Kentucky event, but will be unable to do so due to other plans.

The workshops were divided into two tracks, the Green Track, for beginners, and the Gold Track, for more experienced woodlot owners. Andrea and I attended the Green Track, since we know very little about the topic.

After a round of introductions the day began with what they called the Woodland Games, which was a quiz to see what participants already knew. I was very surprised to learn that 43% of participants already had a written Forest Management Plan.

After the woodland games were wrapped up we were divided into groups based on the track we were attending. Gold track participants were transported to a nearby tree farm for the field portion of the day, while the rest of us remained in the classroom. The first workshop for the green track was Tree Identification, taught by Doug McLaren of the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry. We were taught how to properly use a dichotomous key for tree identification, which I found very helpful. I had attempted this several times in the past, but now realize that the part I was missing was using the buds, rather than the leaves, to identify the arrangement. 

The next speaker was Zak Danks, an NRCS Liaison Biologist. He talked about several programs available through NRCS which provide either grants or cost-sharing for help with woodlot management. I think it is something for us to look into. He suggested getting a Forest Management Plan from both a forester and biologist, which I think is a great idea. The most surprising thing I learned, however, is that Kentucky State Law requires anyone owning ten acres of land or more who practices either agriculture or silviculture, the practice of managing a woodlot, to have a Water Quality Management plan, which is something we do not currently have. 

The last subject before lunch was about forest pests, specifically those that are causing widespread damage. The primary focus was on the Emerald Ash Borer and Hemlock Woody Adelgid, the latter of which is of greater concern to me because we have several large Hemlocks on our property. 

When it came time for lunch I was expecting sandwiches, which seems to be the norm for events that provide lunch. I was very surprised when they uncovered "real" food, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls. They even served the food on glass plates and had real silverware available. Dessert, in the form of ice cream, was also provided.

After lunch, those of us in the green track loaded into vans to head to the tree farm. A gentleman by the name of Philip Traxler welcomed us onto his farm, and showed us some of the ways in which he uses wood harvested from his lot. Mr Traxler is a wood worker, and showed us some beautiful pieces he was working on. We were also shown his kiln, and he talked a bit about the increased price that the kiln allowed him to get from the lumber he sold. Next we went to another section of his property, to the recently completed cabin which is being used both as a showroom for his wood working and will also be available for rent.

From the cabin we took a short walk in the woods to an area where crop tree release was currently being practiced. It was nice to see how much better the areas looked where the smaller and less desirable trees had been removed. The folks from the Kentucky Department of Forestry explained that the process is not only only beneficial from a timber growth perspective, but also for the forest animals, which is one of our priorities. We were shown a method of dropping trees, called hack and squirt, which relied on an herbicide to kill the tree rather than cutting it with a saw. Andrea and I both agreed that we have zero interest in introducing chemical pesticides of any kind into our woodlot, but it was educational to see the process demonstrated.

After returning to the classroom, we were combined with the gold track participants for the last workshop of the day, Timber Harvesting and Sales. This was led by Jeff Stringer of the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry, with a couple of guest speakers, one a consulting forester and the other an industry forester. One thing that I took away from this segment was the benefit of having a forester help with a timber sale. Since the Kentucky Department of Forestry does not handle timber sales, we will likely use them for developing the management plan, then contract with a consulting forester when it comes time to do a timber harvest in the future.

I am very glad that we attended this WOSC event. It was eye opening for both Andrea and myself, and will certainly help us get started down the path of more actively managing our woodlot. Even with a fairly long drive, three hours each way, I consider the event to be a great value and well worth the time investment. We will likely attend another WOSC event next year, and regret not being able to attend the Central Kentucky event next month.

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