Monday, January 24, 2011

Bankhead Liaison Panel Meeting Set for February 10th in Moulton

The next Bankhead Liaison Panel meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 10, 2011.  The meeting location will be the Library of the Lawrence County High School in Moulton, AL.  The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm and end at 9:00 pm.   The meeting is open to the public for anyone who wishes to attend.

Topics to be covered at the meeting include: (1) Sipsey Wilderness Non-native Invasive Plant Inventory and Treatment Proposal; (2) Upper Brushy Stewardship #3 Project; and (3) planning for Liaison Panel Hardwood Field Day. If you have any questions, call Elrand Denson at (205) 489-5111.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Minutes of January Council Meeting

The Winston County Natural Resources Council met at the U. S. Forest Service Office in Double Springs on January 20, 2011.  Present were Elrand Denson, Stephanie Love, Jeremy McDonald, Jim Hughes, Chris Wright, Johnna Franks, Allison Cochran, John Creed, LaVerne Matheson, Mike Henshaw, James Burnett, Carl Godsey, and Tom Counts.  Chris Wright, chairman, called the meeting to order.

Payne Creek Demonstration Area
Jeremy McDonald requested that the council fund the bus transportation for a Junior Ranger Program to be held at the Payne Creek Demonstration Area on February 18th.  Approximately 80 Double Springs Elementary School students will participate in the program.  The Junior Ranger Program will feature five learning stations and a hike down to Payne Creek.  Lunch will be furnished by the school, and the council will cover the approximate $130 fee for the bus transportation.  John Creed said that next year we might want to include this in a request to the Winston County Commission to cover this program from Forest Service payments to the commission.

Johnna Franks, Treasurer, stated that the balance in the treasury was $7,254.42.

The Arbor Week Tree Sale will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 22nd at the Forestry Commission Office.  Some of the plants available will include blueberries, muscadines, and Japanese maples.  More information on the plants available will be posted on the WCNRC blog as it becomes available.

This year, the council is considering landowner and logger classes emphasizing safety.  Johnna suggested CPR classes that would satisfy loggers' requirement for Professional Logging Manager CEU points and their requirement to be CPR certified.  Other safety subjects could be taught as well.

Allison mentioned that a Hardwood Field Day was being planned on the Bankhead National Forest for April, and the date will be announced later. 

The National Wild Turkey Federation is seeking partners to hold a longleaf pine workshop in North Alabama, and has funds available to help offset the cost of the program.

Allison said the Pulling Together Initiative was not funded, but that the proposal could be submitted to other funding agencies.

The next Bankhead Liaison Panel meeting will be held on February 10th in Moulton.  The meeting place and time will be announced later.

LaVerne Matheson said that Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc. is organizing a Slough Cleanup on April 30th.  They will have three locations for volunteers to bring the bagged debris from the cleanup.  No styrofoam will be accepted at this clean up since most of that has been picked up during previous clean ups.  LaVerne voiced concern about soil erosion during the heavy rainfall and snow events of this winter.  Shoreline developments and roads were special areas of concern.

Elrand Denson said that FERC re-licensing for Alabama Power would be looking into shoreline issues on the lake.

Chris Wright said that the sign-up for the next prescribed burning and mulching program would open up in May.

Allison gave the council an update on the Rush Darter fish which is being considered for the Federal Endangered Species List .  The Fish and Wildlife Service may list this species this summer, and may designate critical habitat when and if it is listed.

Tom Counts noted that there had been a fatal hunting accident in Madison County.  He said that a hunter fell out of a 40 foot high tree stand.

Mike Henshaw and Allison Cochran gave a short demonstration of Google Maps and Google Earth being used to map natural resource features such as water bodies, property lines, and landmarks.

John Creed reported that he'd seen a single Bald Eagle at Corinth Recreation Area on Smith Lake.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Among Locavores, the Meat that Gets No Respect (But Should)

    by James Lancuster, Specialist III, Communication & Marketing, Alabama Cooperative Extension System

    The demand for locally grown food has grown so widely and is expressed so passionately that a word has now been invented for it — locavorism.
    Yet, hunting — or to be more specific, game meat — is seldom associated with it.
    But shouldn't it be? Isn't wild game, by definition, locally grown food? For that matter, isn't it free-range and organic, precisely the kind of food locavores desire?
    Many wildlife experts, including Dr. Mark Smith, answer a resounding yes to that question.
    "If you're concerned, for whatever reason, with commercially grown or processed meats or want to follow a locavore lifestyle, game meat is the way to do it," says Smith, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System wildlife scientist and Auburn University assistant professor of forestry and wildlife sciences.
    But Smith says hunting secures something even nearer and dearer to the locavorist heart: knowing exactly where your food comes from.
    Yet, within most locavorist circles, deer and other wild game, which impose the smallest carbon footprint of any animals harvested for meat, scarcely rate as a blip on most locavorist food radars — a fact Smith attributes to persistent stereotyping.
    "Whatever the cause, there is still this perception among some people that hunting is bad, killing is wrong." says Smith.
    Therein lies one of the great ironies associated with hunting, Smith says. Without regulated hunting, life for us humans would be different. Far more deer and other game animals would be around to cause high-speed auto collisions on the nation's roads or, minimally, causing considerable mischief munching their way through home gardens and suburban landscapes.
    In Alabama alone, some 30,000 accidents each year stem from vehicle collisions with deer, averaging about $1,500 an accident, Smith says. Many other accidents likely go unreported.
    Federal, state and local governments have developed all manner of lethal and nonlethal methods to reduce potentially harmful human/animal encounters, but experience has taught time and again that regulated hunting remains the most cost-effective strategy.
    As a prime example, Smith cites translocation methods, removing deer and other animals to more remote locations.
    But like all other animal control strategies used in lieu of hunting, translocation is beset by challenges. Aside from being especially costly, it often proves self-defeating in the long run.
    The stress imposed on deer following removal to unfamiliar surroundings typically increases mortality rates, Smith says. Unintended consequences may also follow these animal introductions — the spread of disease, the disruption of preexisting ecosystems, and simply moving the problem into someone else's backyard.
    Other options are just as costly and inconvenient, Smith says. For example, high-wire fences built to contain wildlife may cost as much as $10,000 to $15,000 a mile, according to a 2007 New York Times article.
    Approaches such as fertility drugs, sharpshooting by trained experts, and trap-and-euthanize operations cost as much or more.
    Hunting offers other benefits. Local hunting hot spots typically form the nucleus of satellite enterprises, including sporting good stores, restaurants, hunting lodges and meat processors to name a few — all of which embody locavore values.
    Another especially well-served group: local landowners who sell hunting rights to their land.
    "The South, while not exactly a Mecca of leased hunting, is a region of the country where lots of leasing is occurring," says Smith, citing leasing rates that typically run between $10 and $14 an acre.
    "This could add up to a few thousand acres a year for some landowners," he says.
    Underscoring yet another strong affinity between hunting and locavorism, Smith says the principle behind hunting leases bears a strong resemblance to another practice near and dear to locavore hearts: community-supported agriculture, in which local consumers contract with local producers to secure a share of their produce.
    "Just as consumers chip in to secure a desired amount of produce from a local farmer, hunters lease tracts of land from property owners to secure game meat," he says.
    There are other stark parallels. For example, one expert says hunters have been thinking and acting like locavores long before the term was invented. Much like locavores, for example, they're training their sights closer to home as a cost-saving measure following the recent economic downturn.
    "Based on what I've gathered from hunter blogs and other online sources, they're not planting as many food plots or driving as far to a hunting lease," says Dr. Stephen Ditchkoff, Auburn associate professor of wildlife ecology and management. "They're figuring out how to tighten their belts, but they're not turning their backs on hunting."
    So what will it take to bring these two disparate camps together?
    Some observers contend that hunters could start by underscoring their longstanding emphasis on land stewardship and securing sustainable food sources — once again, the same sentiments that are driving the emerging locavore phenomenon.

    January Council Meeting

    The January WCNRC meeting will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 20th, at the U. S. Forest Service Office in Double Springs.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Updated Timber Tax Tips

    I'm posting these tax tips for Allison Cochran, a wildlife biologist with the U. S. Forest Service. They were written by U. S. Forest Service timber tax experts. These tips have been updated to include changes from the newly enacted tax law.  Here's a link to the two-page pdf file:

    Thanks to Allison for bringing these tax tips to our attention.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Alford Springs Fish Passage Project on Bankhead

    Bankhead National Forest received funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Economic Stimulus Program) to address problems with fish passage in streams on the Forest in 2010. A project was completed in the Houston Recreation Area where a perched culvert on Alford Springs Branch was prohibiting fish movement upstream.

    An Alabama General Contractor trained in the ROSGEN methods of natural stream design and restoration, Clay Davies (ECES Inc.), designed a project to raise up the streambed in increments to the level of the culvert outlet to restore fish passage and eliminate the 1.5' drop (perched condition) at the culvert outlet. The project was an overall success with stream flow and fish passage being restored in Alford Springs. Alford Springs drains into Smith Lake at the Houston Recreation Area on Bankhead National Forest.