Continued Support for the Forest Recovery Act during COVID-19

 

As owners, managers, and stewards of natural resources, we talk often of the resiliency and ability of natural systems to recover from disasters like hurricanes and wildfires.  However, as we collectively navigate another challenge in the form of COVID-19, it is apparent that the people that make up our forestry industry have a similar resiliency.  Over the past twenty months we have experienced pressures on our industry that are unprecedented beginning with the onslaught of Hurricane Michael in October 2018 and continuing now with the current pandemic.  The weeks and months following Hurricane Michael were filled with uncertainty and confusion, but ultimately we forged a path forward with confidence that our working forests were important and meaningful enough to restore.  While the recovery effort is far from over, efforts continue in earnest to restore full functionality to these working lands.  Assuredly, the resolute people of our industry will confront the current pandemic with the same perseverance that has allowed us to overcome the challenges of the past.

To that end, Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC) and Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA) are proud to share the letter below sent to leaders in Washington and endorsed by members of the Legislature pushing the inclusion of the Forest Recovery Act in legislation addressing COVID-19 relief.  SFC and WEA feel this is a product of the tremendous effort by the agricultural industry in general, and specifically our forestry industry, to educate our lawmakers about the financial aspects and subsequent implications of the long-term investment in timber.

While this letter alone may not result in monumental changes for the forestry industry, it is symbolic of the policy changes that our collective effort will continue to target.  To that end, SFC and WEA want to take this opportunity to extend our gratitude to our clients, partners, and colleagues who have dedicated their time and resources on behalf of our industry.  Furthermore, we want you all to know that we will continue to stand with you in this effort through our participation and leadership in national organizations like the Society of American Foresters and state level Forestry Associations, Farm Bureaus, and Forest Landowner Associations across the Southeast.

We will continue to face challenges as we move forward, but with a resilient group of people grounded in the natural resources entrusted to our care, SFC and WEA are confident our industry will continue to thrive and produce the many products, environmental services, and outdoor opportunities that benefit all of society.

FRA and COVID-19 Letter to Leaders in Washington

SFC and WEA Presidents Address COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Over the past few weeks we have all watched the rapidly evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Like you, we have been overwhelmed with news reports, email notifications, and inquiries surrounding this situation.  The health and safety of our staff, our customers and partners, and our collective families is the top priority of Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC), Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA), and Southern Forestry Realty (SFR).

While we are not experts on this disease, we are professionals and scientists who focus on science and data-driven decisions.  Therefore, we echo the recommendations of many of our colleagues and associates and encourage you to monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for details and updates to navigate this rapidly changing landscape in our daily lives.

SFC, WEA, and SFR are prepared to navigate these challenging circumstances.  Our efforts began internally almost a month ago when our executive leadership restricted business air travel and attendance at large group meetings, increased cleaning efforts in our offices, promoted remote work technologies, and discussed COVID-19 risk mitigation procedures with our staff.  As you know, much of our work is in remote locations and allows us to enjoy the spring weather, but our staff does face challenges in the office, in our communities, and in caring for our families.  We embraced emerging technologies years ago that now allows our staff to routinely utilize remote work environments, social distancing, and virtual meetings to provide nearly uninterrupted service to our customers and partners.

The forest products industry has been deemed an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Business” by the US Department of Homeland Security, so we anticipate that mills and support businesses will make every effort to remain fully functional.  While our offices may be less full, we remain open and plan to provide you the same level of support and service you have come to expect.  Please excuse us if we don’t shake your hand when we see you or rely more on phone calls than in-person meetings with you over the next few months.

SFC and WEA will continue to monitor the conditions surrounding this event and adhere to the guidance of federal and state leadership. We will also evaluate any fiscal stimulus measures or changes that may impact your management decisions.

We recognize that during this time of social and fiscal uncertainty you may have many questions regarding your assets or work on your projects.  Do not hesitate to call or email us as you normally would.  The turbulent days ahead will not diminish our commitment to our trusted and valued clients, partners, and customers.  We know you value the same principles of loyalty, community, and resilience that have built the SFC family of companies. Thank you for your patience and trust in the days ahead.

We wish you and your loved ones all the best!

 

 

 

Michael J. Dooner, President, Southern Forestry Consultants

 

 

 

Austin D. Carroll, President, Wiregrass Ecological Associates

Helping Shape the Future of Forestry in Virginia: The Virginia Landscape Management Plan

 

Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA) and Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC) staff were in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month to lead the initial stakeholder meeting for the Virginia Landscape Management Plan (LMP). The goal of this kickoff meeting was to present the general plans for Virginia’s LMP and to garner input from the stakeholders regarding elements and objectives unique to Virginia. Stefan Bourgoin (Senior Ecologist and Project Manager) and Austin Carroll (WEA President and SFC Partner) were on hand to introduce the preliminary LMP format to the group.The meeting was held at the Virginia Department of Forestry headquarters in Charlottesville. Virginia Tree Farm President John Matel hosted the event and has been instrumental in early stages of development for the Virginia LMP. The diverse group of attendees represented stakeholders from various national and state organizations, including the Virginia Department of Forestry, F & W Forestry, Franklin Lumber, Westrock, Huber Engineered Woods, Enviva Biomass, James River Association, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Weyerhaeuser, and the Virginia Tree Farm Committee. Virginia is one of multiple states for which SFC and WEA are currently developing LMPs including Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

This LMP is a document produced through the American Forest Foundation (AFF) geared toward increasing landowner engagement in the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and the Forest Stewardship Program (FSP). Streamlining the process for landowners to meet with a forester and enroll their property in ATFS is essential in conserving, protecting, and harvesting timber land throughout Virginia.  The LMP provides comprehensive details on various ecological and silvicultural topics (ecoregions, state forest types, landowner objectives, landscape objectives, conservation incentives, etc.) to give landowners options for managing their land within the ATFS guidelines and FSP standards.

SFC and WEA Present Landscape Management Plan to South Carolina Stakeholders

 

Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA) and Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC) staff were in Columbia, South Carolina last week  to present the South Carolina Landscape Management Plan (LMP) for stakeholder review. Stefan Bourgoin (Senior Scientist and Project Manager) and Austin Carroll (WEA President and SFC Partner) were on hand to present the draft LMP document and geodatabase they composed. The meeting was held at the South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC) headquarters in Lexington, SC. SCFC Forest Management Chief Russell Hubright and State Stewardship Coordinator Chisolm Beckham hosted the event and have been instrumental in development of the South Carolina LMP. The diverse group of attendees represented stakeholders from 40 various national and state organizations, including Audubon of South Carolina, the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, South Carolina Forestry Commission, International Paper Company, Longleaf Alliance, National Wild Turkey Federation, and South Carolina Tree Farm Committee, among many others. South Carolina is one of multiple states for which SFC and WEA are currently developing LMPs including Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia.

The LMP is a document produced through the American Forest Foundation (AFF) geared toward increasing landowner engagement in the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). Streamlining the process for landowners to meet with a forester and enroll their property in ATFS is essential in conserving, protecting, and harvesting timber land throughout South Carolina.  The LMP provides comprehensive details on various ecological and silvicultural topics (ecoregions, state forest types, landowner objectives, landscape objectives, conservation incentives, etc.) to give landowners options for managing their land within the ATFS guidelines.

 

WEA Biologist Discusses Gopher Tortoise Research at ALAPARC Annual Meeting

Chance Gwaltney, Biologist with Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA), gave a presentation at the recent 10th Annual meeting of the Alabama Chapter of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ALAPARC) held at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama from November 1-3. His presentation, co-authored by WEA President Austin Carroll, provided an update of the research on the Apalachicola National Forest (ANF) Gopher Tortoise Research and Restoration Area (GTRR).

The ANF GTRR is the result of an innovative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, and WEA. This MOU couples gopher tortoise population restoration efforts with a formal research study. Mr. Gwaltney and Mr. Carrol, respectively, serve as the Field Research Coordinator and Program Manager for this FWC-approved gopher tortoise recipient site managed by WEA. The ANF GTRR research evaluates site fidelity response of the relocated tortoises (once their temporary enclosures are removed) related to silvicultural management practices (e.g., thinning, burning, and/or herbicide). Relocated tortoises are tracked using radio transmitters to follow their movements within the ANF site. The ANF GTRR accepts tortoises donated from across Florida and has translocated approximately 2,000 tortoises since its inception. Mr. Gwaltney also discussed preliminary results and observations from the field work.
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The national Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC; www.parcplace.org) organization is an inclusive partnership dedicated to the conservation of herpetofauna–reptiles and amphibians–and their habitats. PARC is the most comprehensive conservation effort ever undertaken for amphibians and reptiles. The mission of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) is to forge proactive partnerships to conserve amphibians, reptiles and the places they live. Our ultimate vision is of a society where amphibians and reptiles are valued for their importance in our natural and cultural heritage and are considered in all conservation and land management decisions. ALAPARC (www.alaparc.org), a chapter of the Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (SEPARC; www.separc.org), includes scientists, naturalists, government representatives and citizens that are devoted to the preservation of amphibian and reptile populations in the southeastern United States.