Monday, October 25, 2010

Ants Featured in Afterschool Program

Jim Casteel, Program Assistant with the Winston County Extension Office, is conducting a program about ants at afterschool programs in each of the Winston County schools. Each class receives an ant farm with live harvester ants inside. During his visits to the schools, Jim shows the students how the ants build tunnels in their enclosure, gives them some basic facts about ants, and tells them the different parts of an ant. After learning how to care for the ants, the students will be able to observe them for several weeks. This program is funded through a 21st Century grant from the Winston County Board of Education.

WCHS Wins First Place in 2010 FFA Land Judging Contest Held on Sudduth Farm

Students from Winston, Walker, and Fayette Counties recently attended a FFA Land Judging Competition at John and Mary Sudduth's Farm in Double Springs. At the competition, students evaluated four sites, each excavated to a depth of four feet to expose all the soil layers. Students then described the features of the land such as slope, soil texture, and rated the land capability class. Students evaluate the soil for its suitability for production agriculture, building homes, or forestland. They also estimate drainage and erosion potential. Students at the contest are tested on their knowledge of soil types, topography, proper land use practices, and related topics. Scores were based on how closely the students’ evaluations match those of the official judges.

Teams prepared for the contest by learning the information in class, studying material published by the NRCS, and practicing land evaluation. Winston County Soil and Water Conservation District awarded prize money to each team. The Natural Resources Conservation Service provided technical support.

Photos from the event are here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fire Use Restriction Expanded to all National Forests Lands in Alabama

Forest Supervisor Miera Crawford Nagy has expanded the fire use restrictions to all lands outside developed recreation areas on the National Forests in Alabama. This prohibition on the use of all fire applies on the Bankhead, Talladega, Conecuh and Tuskegee National Forests. This restriction was prompted by continuing dry conditions and high wildfire dangers. The closure order is effective through December 31, 2010. More information can be found on the National Forests in Alabama's website at

October Council Meeting Minutes

The Winston County Natural Resources Council met at the U. S. Forest Service Office at 9:00 a.m. on October 21st. Present were Elrand Denson, James Burnett, Tom Counts, John Creed, Laverne Matheson, Mike Henshaw, and Jim Hughes. The following topics were discussed:
  • Laverne Matheson spoke to the Haleyville Rotary Club and mentioned FAWN as part of his program about Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc.
  • Reviewed the FAWN Program at Houston Recreation Area for Winston County sixth grade students.
  • Bankhead Liaison Panel Meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on October 21st at the Traders and Farmers Bank in Double Springs. Elrand gave a review of the agenda for the upcoming meeting, which includes an overview of the mission of the panel, recent thinning operations, feral hog issues on the district, and horse trails.
  • The Winston County FFA Soil Judging competition is being held today.
  • A Bacteria Blitz will be held on October 22 and 23. Laverne reported that the Alabama Water Watch team will be up from Auburn to assist with the Blitz and give a "State of the Lake Address" at Dodge City.
  • An updated Emergency Fire and Fireworks Closure on USFS land is now in effect until December 31st.
  • A Lake Clean Up is being organized by WCSLAI for October 26-27 on Rock Creek.
  • Laverne noted that some of the tributary signs are now up on Smith Lake.
  • Tom said that a coal strip mine near Pebble is being sued by the Tennessee River Keepers for alleged violations.
  • The Pulling Together Initiative Grant has been submitted by the NW Alabama RC & D Council.
  • Status of Hazard Mitigation Program through Alabama Forestry Commission.
  • James said the State Troopers will be holding an Open House for the new State Trooper helicopter that will be located in a new hanger at the Cullman Airport. The helicopter may be available for search and rescue in the Bankhead National Forest.
  • Elrand noted that Alabama Power is undergoing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing for the operation of Smith Lake.
  • Laverne stated that there is currently a ban on installing rip rap on Smith Lake pending an evaluation of its effects on wildlife.
Mike Henshaw,

Free Rain Barrel Workshop in Florence

This is Heath King with the Northwest AL RC&D Council. We have secured a grant that will allow us to host a FREE Rain Barrel workshop at the Lauderdale County ACES office on December 1, 2010 at 9 a.m.. This will be a joint project with Extension staff involvement as well as other dedicated volunteers.

I have attached a flyer and a pre-registration form. Please distribute these items to your contacts at schools, community centers, and any other individuals that are interested in the positive benefits of recycling precious natural resources through the use of Rain Barrels.

The grant will allow the workshop to be free and each participant will get to construct their own rain barrel and take it with them. Registration will be first come, first serve so make sure any interested parties email, snail mail, or fax the attached pre-registration form back to me in a timely manner. My contact info is listed on the pre-registration form.  See registration form here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October Council Meeting on 21st

The Winston County Natural Resources Council will meet at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 21st, at the U. S. Forest Service in Double Springs.

Feral Hogs Cause Damage in the Bankhead National Forest

Barry Baird, Manager of the Black Warrior Wildlife Management Area, says that feral hogs are a widespread problem on the wildlife management area. He sent me this map showing areas highlighted in green where feral hogs are present.  Barry said that this map would be updated as more information becomes available.  Plans also include a map of a larger area showing other areas where feral hogs are causing damage.

Monday, October 18, 2010

FAWN Programs Held at Houston Recreation Area

The 2010 Winston County FAWN Program was held on October 13 and 14, at the Houston Recreation Area in the Bankhead National Forest. 335 sixth graders attended the outdoor field days that included eight learning stations on a variety of natural resource and safety topics. Photos for the FAWN for the Addison, Double Springs, and Lynn Schools are available here. The photos for the FAWN program for the Haleyville and Meek Schools are available here. Thanks to all the partners that work together to provide the FAWN program for all Winston County sixth graders. Here's a partial list of the sponsors:

AL Cooperative Extension System/Winston County Office
AL Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources
Alabama Forestry Commission
Cradle of Forestry
Forest Stewardship Education Committee
Gateway Foods, Double Springs
Haleyville Board of Education
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Northwest Alabama RC&D Council
Regional Paramedical Services
Soil & Water Conservation District/Winston County Office
U. S. Forest Service, Bankhead National Forest
Winston County Assign-A-Highway
Winston County Board of Education
Winston County Commission
Winston County Emergency Management
Winston County Farmers Federation
Winston County Natural Resources Council
Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Article in local Times Daily on White-nose syndrome in bats

Check out this Times Daily article about the spread of white-nose syndrome in bats towards Alabama.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Professional Logging Managers and Foresters Course

The Alabama Center for Advanced Woodworking Technology is hosting a Professional Logging Managers and Foresters Course in Haleyville on Tuesday, October 12, 2010You can see the agenda for the program by clicking on this link. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

U. S. Forest Service Restricts Fire Use in Bankhead National Forest

Montgomery, AL (September 28, 2010) ---- Because of the extreme dry conditions that can possibly lead to wildfires, the U.S. Forest Service is alerting all forest users to be aware of specific public fire use restrictions in Alabama’s national forests. Forest Supervisor Miera C. Nagy recently signed an order that prohibits the use of fire in wilderness areas in the Bankhead and Talladega National Forests.

To protect the public and natural resources from the threat of wildfires, the following public restrictions are effective September 24, 2010 and will remain in effect until October 31, 2010:

Bankhead National Forest – Sipsey Wilderness; Talladega National Forest (Talladega and Shoal Creek Districts) - Dugger Wilderness and Cheaha Wilderness

  • Building, maintaining, attending, using a fire or campfire (wood or charcoal) at any wilderness area located on the Bankhead, Shoal Creek, and Talladega Ranger Districts of the National Forests in Alabama; except, the use of gas generated fire in a Coleman-type or backpacking stove will be allowed throughout the Sipsey, Dugger, and Cheaha Wilderness Areas on the Bankhead, Shoal Creek, and Talladega Ranger Districts. 36 CFR 261.52(a).
  • Violating any state law concerning burning or fires which are implemented for the purpose of preventing or restricting the spread of fires. 36 CFR 261.52(k)
  • Pursuant to 36 CFR 261.50 (e), the following persons are exempt from the order: Any federal, state, local officer or member of an organized rescue or fire fighting team or those holding a permit specifically authorizing the use of fire.

Anyone found violating any of these prohibitions might face a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization or imprisonment for not more than six months or both.

Forest Service officials advise that if you are planning to spend a few days in the national forest, you should look for changes in restrictions, which could change according to fire weather conditions. Human-caused fires can be reduced during these very dry conditions when everyone work together to prevent wildfires.

For information concerning any public restrictions and closure orders, please contact a U.S. Forest Service district office before visiting: Bankhead District (205) 489-5111, Conecuh District (334) 222-2555, Shoal Creek District (256) 463-2272; Talladega District (256) 362-2909; Oakmulgee District (205) 926-9765; and the Tuskegee District (334) 727-2652.