Texas breaks new ground in effort to keep our forests healthy

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Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service East Texas Operations Department Head, and Kristi Keach, USDA Forest Service Timber Resource Specialist, survey a timber stand at the Sabine National Forest on June 24, 2019.

COLLEGE STATION – On June 24, for the first time in Texas, Texas A&M Forest Service successfully merchandised, marketed and sold 224 acres of timber for the USDA Forest Service. This timber sale marks a successful step forward in the first phase of a larger Good Neighbor Authority project meant to nurture healthier, more resilient forests in Texas.

Under the Good Neighbor Authority agreement, Texas A&M Forest Service can augment the U.S. Forest Service’s manpower and perform necessary forest management services on National Forest System lands.

For this project in the Sabine National Forest, Texas A&M Forest Service marked the stands, indicating where the timber should be thinned, and cruised them, which measures the volume of wood for 224 acres, and sold it. The stands will be thinned by the buyer within the next 18 months.

“When a forests’ timber is left unmanaged, a forest can become stressed,” said Wes Moorehead, the East Texas operations department head for Texas A&M Forest Service. “It’s also more susceptible to disease and pests.”

Thinning the timber in a stand, which is removing selected trees within a marked site in a forest, can reduce competition. The remaining trees have better access to the soil nutrients, water and sunlight they need to thrive, which leads to healthier trees.

“Once we’re reimbursed for our time and resources, the net proceeds from the sale will be plowed right back into the U.S. Forest Service land,” said Moorehead. “The U.S. Forest Service will then determine what management projects are the highest priority.”

Working on national lands helps keep the Texas A&M Forest Service foresters current on local timber markets and silvicultural practices. The cooperation also creates a stronger relationship between U.S. Forest Service and Texas A&M Forest Service.

“It’s been a wonderful experience working with the Texas A&M Forest Service so far,” Lanton Chumley, the timber sales contracting officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said. “It gives their foresters more training, and it helps us with more capacity. We can speed things up with their help.”

“We had a good relationship with U.S. Forest Service prior to this,” Moorehead said. “But actually kicking the ground together, walking the ground, talking about what can and can’t be done, what should and shouldn’t be done, definitely reinforces those relationships.”

The biggest advantage, as Texas A&M Forest Service sees it, is the health of the forest in Texas.

“We’re working on the U.S. Forest Service’s lands to help increase the resiliency and health of Texas’ forests,” Moorehead said. “When we help keep U.S. Forest Service lands healthy that can translate to keeping neighboring Texans’ lands more resilient, too.”

 

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