Bark Beetles in the Aftermath of Hurricane Michael

The aftermath of Hurricane Michael left landowners and managers in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama scrambling in pursuit of an opportunity to salvage what was left of their investment. While all segments of the industry worked as close to full capacity as possible, the combined effort is estimated to have salvaged only 10-15% of the compromised material. As the dust settled following the salvage period, the battered forests of the region were dealt another blow in the form of an unseasonably hot and dry May that further stressed timber stands. The broken, leaning, scarred, and windblown trees were quickly infested with bark beetles, and, with a factory of sorts in which to reproduce, the beetles soon moved to adjacent, otherwise healthy trees suffering from a lack of rain.

The two most economically impactful beetle species in the US south are the Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) and the Ips engraver beetle (IPS). SPB outbreaks are rare and occur most often in unmanaged, overstocked stands and generally require harvesting to salvage whatever can be utilized before the beetles eradicate entire timber stands. Attacks from IPS beetles are more sporadic and may affect a handful of trees or portions of stands of timber. Rather than targeting overstocked stands, IPS beetles focus on specific individuals suffering from injuries like lightning strikes, windthrow, and root disturbance. The scattered leaning, broken, and otherwise compromised trees resulting from hurricane damage plays right into the hands of the IPS beetle. Across all age classes, all species of pines, and all regions within the path of Hurricane Michael, IPS beetle activity has increased.

Southern Forestry Consultants, Inc. (SFC) has been monitoring beetle activity continuously and while activity slowed with the onset of consistent summer rainfall, activity has increased recently with drier weather. Earlier in the year IPS beetles were found in downed trees, but they had not successfully attacked living, healthy trees. In the past few weeks IPS beetles have begun to attack trees that, at least from an outward appearance, do not appear to have been damaged by the storm. We encourage you to be vigilant in watching for yellowing or reddening needles in isolated trees or groups of trees. Additionally, our monitoring efforts from the air and ground will continue.

IPS beetles have successfully attacked 16 species of pine in the US including loblolly, slash, and longleaf pine. Under normal circumstances IPS beetles are unable to successfully attack most healthy trees as the sap in the vascular system of the tree is able to expel or trap the attacking beetle. However, during periods of drought, reduced sap flowing in the tree as a result of less available groundwater inhibits the tree’s ability to resist attacks.  Furthermore, an abundance of dying material following disasters like Hurricane Michael provide ideal breeding grounds for the IPS beetle to reproduce and multiply.  Our monitoring efforts have supported the idea that hurricane-stressed trees of all age classes, including timber stands as young as three years old, have suffered damages leading to IPS beetles infestations.

Most control options for IPS beetles require the application of pesticides, but even the available products produce minimal effectiveness due to the difficulty in obtaining adequate coverage.  This challenge, coupled with the cost of treatment, really preclude pesticide applications from consideration as a logical option, except in isolated cases.  The best way to minimize risk for a given stand of timber is to prevent disturbance of all kinds.  As we enter the fall season when many people enjoy recreational activities on properties, be diligent in avoiding disturbance to timber stands.  Injuries from mowing, harrowing, tree stand attachments, and more can all lead to stressful conditions that could be the impetus for an infestation.

At this time, we are asking everyone to keep a close eye on their timber. It is perfectly normal to lose an isolated tree during any given year and secondary beetle infestations are common once a tree begins to die. However, if you see a group of trees in close proximity begin to decline or die, this could be a primary beetle infestation which will require closer observation. Yellowing needles, pitch tubes, and reddish-brown sawdust between bark plates are all indications of active beetles.  Please stay vigilant in your observations throughout the summer and fall as the peak beetle populations often coincide with seasonally dry conditions during this time.  If you have concerns about an infestation, alert your SFC forester to discuss an evaluation and options.

Harvey Selected to Mississippi Black Leadership Institute (MBLI)

Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA) Mississippi Area Manager Alex Harvey was recently selected as a member of the 2019-2020 cohort of the Mississippi Black Leadership Institute (MBLI) which is held annually by One Voice, a civic engagement, non profit organization working to democratize public policy.  MBLI is an invitational institute for emerging leaders from various disciplines across the state of Mississippi, who participate in a nine-month curriculum of civic engagement, public policy and governance, state history, and relationship development.  It is an effort to prepare and produce a cadre of informed, socially conscious transformative leaders and public servants.   Graduates of MBLI will help to advance, advocate and articulate an agenda of equity in their respective communities.

The opening session for Mr. Harvey’s MBLI cohort was held August 8th to 11th in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus’ Mississippi Policy Conference in Tunica, Mississippi. The Tunica Policy Conference which celebrated its 20th year is a national event which brings elected officials and civic leaders from all over the country to the Mississippi Delta.  The Conference also included the Bennie G. Thompson Sporting Clays Challenge an annual event hosted in partnership with Ducks Unlimited.

Alex, a graduate of Mississippi State University’s College of Forest Resources, is also a Forester with Southern Forestry Consultants and owns Legacy Land Management, LLC (LLM). LLM is a certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) in Mississippi and Louisiana and Certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) with the Mississippi Development Authority. Alex is also a 2017 alum of the Mississippi Economic Council’s Leadership Mississippi development program.

 

WEA Staff Serve on Faculty at Florida’s Largest Environmental Conference

Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA) staff presented as invited faculty at the 33rd Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School in Marco Island, Florida. The event, put on by the Florida Environmental Network, attracts more than 850 attorneys, consultants, officials, and landowners and is an excellent opportunity for professionals in a variety of fields to increase their knowledge on rules, regulations and ongoing projects in the environmental and ecological fields.

Austin D. Carroll and George Fullerton authored a presentation about the effects of Hurricane Michael on threatened and endangered species.  Mr. Fullerton presented these findings during the “Successful Applications of Imperiled Species Management Practices” session. Hurricane Michael caused widespread damage throughout northwest Florida in 2018.  This includes significant impacts to populations and/or habitat for gopher tortoises, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and flatwoods salamanders. Through early action and continued management, natural resource professionals have sought to mitigate damages caused by this storm and develop strategies for recovery.  This presentation documented findings from public and private land managers across the impacted areas and how these lessons can help improve resiliency in the future. 

If you were unable to attend the conference or missed our presentation, please feel free to contact us at corporate@wiregrasseco.com with any questions or to request a copy.

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Mr. Carroll is the President of WEA and has served on the Environmental Permitting Summer School faculty for the last 10 years. He has extensive experience with imperiled species management and conservation across the Southeast.  He currently serves as Program Manager for the Apalachicola National Forest Gopher Tortoise Research and Recipient Site.

Mr. Fullerton is a Wildlife Biologist who holds a BS in Wildlife and Fisheries from the University of Georgia and a MS in Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture from Auburn University.  At WEA he works extensively with threatened and endangered species projects across the Southeast, dealing primarily with red-cockaded woodpeckers and gopher tortoises.

Southern Forestry Consultants Announces New Brand

Today we are proud to announce the launch of our new website and logo designs as a part of the continuing evolution of our brand identity. After 31 years, our business has grown in geography, offerings, and project complexity, and we felt it was time for a look that was reflective of this modernization. This update of our logos and website is indicative of what we’ve become since 1988: a multi-disciplinary natural resources firm focused on customer service and driven by modern technology and science. We feel it captures the essence of who we are: reliable, integrated, professional, and contemporary.

 

We recognize our brand and website need to function reliably within modern digital environments like the web, social media, and smaller mobile devices. This required professional graphics and colors which were cleaner, simpler, and consistent regardless of the media. Our new branding distinguishes between our different businesses by logo and color, but also recognizes the integration of each business into the SFC brand family. Furthermore, this new family of brand identities promotes our history of growth as an organization, recognizing the ongoing addition of new business lines, products, and services.

Our new SFC logo pays homage to our past with a classic and practical treatment of our familiar trinity of pines. The first step to forest stewardship is land ownership and that is represented through the Southern Forestry Realty logo, which contains the origin of every southern pine forest, a pinecone. Our newest subsidiary, Wiregrass Ecological Associates, has a classic and minimalist logo inspired by the wiregrass species itself and reflective of its modern approach toward environmental solutions.

For the last 31 years, SFC and its family of companies have provided industry leading natural resources solutions to public and private sector clients across the Southeast. While our professional core values and trusted customer service will always remain the same, we hope you appreciate our new logos’ representation of our integrated approach to solutions and commitment to redefining natural resource management.

SFC Announces new Forest Inventory Technology

The new Prism forest inventory solution is now released.  SFC teamed up to with Lim Geomatics create Prism to address several challenges with legacy inventory technology, including out of date tools which have limited support, complex interfaces with too many buttons, burdensome file management and lack of standardization on broadly used computing platforms.     Prism is fully integrated to make cruising easy.   Being integrated means that data entry and the map function as one, and your data is synchronized and managed in the background without the need to switch between different software.   Prism is designed to allow foresters and natural resource managers configure all types of sample designs and nearly eliminate data handling.    Engineered by professional software engineers, designed and supported by foresters, Prism serves the needs of all sizes of organizations with modern, supported software designed to function for the long term.

Prism is part of our effort to redefine forest technology to support digital transformation in forestry and natural resources.  Learn more at the link below to see how Prism offers Automated, Map-Centric Cruising which will save your organization time by getting minimizing the time spent keeping technology working and managing data.

Learn more about Prism