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

Carroll Discusses Restoration at Florida Panhandle Forests and Drinking Water Workshop

 

Austin Carroll (WEA President and SFC Partner) presented at the recent Florida Panhandle and Forests and Drinking Water Workshop at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center in Eastpoint, Florida.  Mr. Carroll spoke on the creation of the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) Central Water Reclamation Facility (CWRF) Forest Restoration Area. ECUA’s goal for the CWRF Forest Restoration area is to develop a sustainable, native forest ecosystem capable of maximizing groundwater recharge capabilities.  ECUA has worked with SFC and WEA since 2016 to convert the former International Paper lands surrounding the CWRF, from cutover and unmanaged plantations towards Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) of sandhill pine, pine flatwoods, and mixed forested wetland communities. Restoration and enhancement activities have included exotic and invasive species control, mechanical and herbicide treatments, harvesting operations, longleaf pine and wiregrass planting, and the return of prescribed fire to these ecosystems.  These practices, the ongoing management, and the long-term management plan developed by SFC and WEA are guided by current research results regarding managing forests for increased regional water availability (including the results of fellow speaker Dr. Matt Cohen, University of Florida).  Also in attendance to answer questions regarding the project was Don Palmer, PE, Deputy Executive Director of Engineering and Environmental Services at ECUA.  Mr. Carroll is Registered Forester and Certified Wildlife Biologist who serves as the SFC and WEA program manager for this restoration effort.

 

The Florida Panhandle Forest and Drinking Water Workshop is presented by the Florida Forest Service and the Workshop Planning Team to explore the connection between forests and safe, high quality drinking water, particularly for the northern part of the state, and foster collaboration and relationships among the forestry, drinking water and conservation sectors.  It is a priority for and coordinated by the Southeastern Partnership for Forests and Water, whose purpose is to maintain healthy watersheds that provide safe, reliable drinking water, healthy forests, and strong local and regional economies.

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.

McGlincy Presents Hurricane Michael Impacts on Rare Species at Georgia Chapter of The Wildlife Society

Joe McGlincy, Principal Biologist with Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA), presented at the recent meeting of the Georgia Chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS) on the impacts of Hurricane Michael on rare species that inhabit southwest Georgia and the Florida Panhandle areas impacted by the storm.  The species most affected by Michael was the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW), an endangered species that makes its home in mature pine forests.  Several populations of this great species were in the path of Michael and their pine tree homes were heavily impacted.  The rapid response by crews in the Apalachicola National Forest, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and The Jones Center at Ichauway replaced many of these cavities to prevent further loss of individuals. Following the destruction, all indications are that birds within these populations came through this catastrophic event in pretty good shape and had a successful nesting season this previous Spring.  Other species impacted by the disaster include the Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander (RFS) and Gopher Tortoise, which typically reside in components of the same pine woodland homes as the RCW.  While it is too early to tell what the long-term impacts will be for these species, we don’t expect any adverse impacts to gopher tortoises. However, several RFS breeding ponds were inundated with saltwater from the storm surge, which may have impacted the salamander breeding season.   Mr. McGlincy is a long-time member, a TWS Certified Wildlife Biologist, and has served on numerous TWS committees, most recently the Editorial Advisory Board for the Wildlife Professional, a bi-monthly publication of TWS.

 

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TWS (www.wildlife.org) is the national professional organization of wildlife biologists.  The Wildlife Society is a strong and effective voice in representing wildlife conservation and management and ensuring sustainable wildlife populations in healthy ecosystems. Founded in 1937, the mission of TWS is to inspire, empower, and enable wildlife professionals to sustain wildlife populations and habitats through science-based management and conservation.

Dooner Earns Audubon Florida’s Sustainable Forestry Award

 

Michael Dooner, founder and President of Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC), was recognized by Audubon Florida with the 2019 Sustainable Forestry Award at the Florida Forestry Association (FFA)’s Annual Meeting in Miramar Beach, Florida. Audubon Florida’s Sustainable Forestry Award is presented annually to a forester, forestry family, or forest business that demonstrates improvements in bird and wildlife habitats and water resources through forest management practices. Audubon recognized Mr. Dooner for his efforts to revitalize timber operations in the Florida Panhandle following Hurricane Michael.  In 2018, Hurricane Michael made a catastrophic negative impact on many rural communities that depend directly on a sustainable forestry industry in the Florida Panhandle. His commitment to lead the restoration of working forests in Florida has been essential to the economic and ecological benefits these forests provide.

“Thank you, Michael,” Audubon’s Director of Policy Beth Alvi said during the award presentation, “for helping see the Panhandle through this challenging time, and for protecting the region’s forest way of life and its economy.”

While assessing and salvaging personal holdings and those of his clients, Mr. Dooner simultaneously worked tirelessly with agency personnel to improve recovery efforts, connect forest landowners with essential resources, and advocate for federal disaster relief for the industry.  His efforts to expedite recovery of the forested regions of the Panhandle are essential in protecting the ecosystem services, watershed security, and wildlife habitat that are the foundation of the ecology of the area.  Mr. Dooner was also one of the first representatives of the industry to reach across the table and promote partnerships with organizations like Audubon Florida.  He understands that a healthy forest industry promotes working forests which, in turn, provide habitat for plants and animals that many other organizations are also working to protect.

“Michael Dooner is a great example of what forestry is all about,” said FFA Executive Vice President Alan Shelby. “He remains focused on moving forestry forward, especially in the tough times. Michael is a forward thinker and understands the connection between forestry and the environment and economy.”

A graduate of the University of Florida with over 40 years of experience, Mr. Dooner is the immediate Past-President of the Florida Forestry Association, member of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), and a Florida Farm Bureau State Director.  Mr. Dooner’s commitment to conservation and sustainability is reflected in the professional approach taken throughout SFC. In 2015, Michael led SFC through the creation of its environmental and ecological subsidiary, Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA), to strengthen and expand the level of expertise and services provided to the natural resource industry.  This expansion and the continued management of hundreds of thousands of acres of working forests in the Southeast, demonstrate the conservation-minded approach to forestry Mr. Dooner has worked to instill in his company and the entire industry.

Link to Florida Audubon Site Announcement

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Audubon (www.fl.audubon.org) is Florida’s most influential conservation organization and promotes stewardship and appreciation of the natural beauty of Florida’s land and water resources. Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

The Florida Forestry Association (www.floridaforest.org) is a statewide trade membership association representing all facets of the forest industry.  The Association’s mission is to promote the responsible and sustainable use of Florida’s forest resources.