Volume 3, No. 3                                                                                 Fall, 1995

Welcome to Autumn

It's great to open the window and find that the outside air feels better in every way than the inside air. The breeze just wafted a winged ash seed through the third story window and landed it on the keyboard. Hard mast!

It's also a time of year when Florida residents tend to think about hurricanes and other vagaries of nature. An elderly neighbor once recollected to me what she'd been told, as a young girl, about the jobs held by two of the leaders of her clan: "Your father is a businessman. He goes downtown every day and outsmarts other businessmen. But your uncle is the (Tennessee) Commissioner of Agriculture. He deals with God Almighty, and nobody outsmarts Him." Forest Stewardship is a bit like being that Commissioner of Agriculture. You think and plan, make land management decisions, and have them carried out, but you'll often be reminded that success or failure depends at least as much on the universe's awesome forces of creation and destruction as on anything you can control. We're thankful that Florida's forest landowners have almost made it through a long and busy hurricane season without overly harsh "reminders". But, with extremely high rainfall in south Florida, some farmers and ranchers--and deer and other Everglades wildlife--have not been so fortunate.

Federal Cost Share Update

As the bloody budget battle in Washington enters the final stages (for this year), here is how things are shaping up for the main federal funding sources available to private non-industrial forest landowners:

* Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP) Funds available for reforestation will be about 25% less than last year. (Last year overall program funding was cut 50% but the funds earmarked for forestry were minimally affected.)

* Forestry Incentives Program (FIP) Funding is expected to be about the same as last year. (Last year's funding was only half of what it had been previously.) These funds are for reforestation and Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) only. The name FIP will likely not be around anymore, as these funds will probably be lumped with several other programs and awarded to the states in block grants. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)--formerly the Soil Conservation Service (SCS)--now administers these funds, which used to be handled by the Farm Services agency (FSA)--formerly the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS).

* Stewardship Incentives Program (SIP) Funding is expected to be only about 25% of what it was for the year just ended. Each year since 1992, 60-80% of SIP funds have been used for reforestation (site prep, planting, and natural regeneration) and TSI.

* Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Funding will be about the same. Greater emphasis will be placed on wetland restoration, seasonal use of farmed wetlands by waterfowl, water quality improvement, and wildlife habitat improvement, including hardwood tree planting.

* Forest Stewardship Program Funding will continue at last year's level. The Stewardship Program funds enable government agency resource professionals to visit landowners and prepare Forest Stewardship Management Plans. They also cover this newsletter and other publications, workshops, and other technical assistance. Adequate funds will continue to be available for landowners to hire consultants to prepare their Stewardship Management Plan preparation.

Natural Regeneration and Cost Sharing

On many sites, natural regeneration is a viable alternative to planting. Site preparation for natural regeneration of pine, using prescribed fire, herbicides, or mechanical means, is eligible for cost-sharing under SIP and other above-mentioned programs at the same rates as for plantations. (Because natural regeneration is usually much less expensive than planting, it can help stretch reduced federal reforestation cost-sharing dollars to reach more landowners and more acres.) In addition, since overstocking sometimes occurs at a very early age in naturally regenerated pine stands, pre-commercial thinning of them is eligible for SIP cost share funds.

Even for landowners who need to keep cash outlays for reforestation to a minimum, natural regeneration of pine can be affordable without cost sharing. A forester skilled in the art of natural regeneration can help you decide if it suits your situation and then make an appropriate prescription.

Natural regeneration can also have some advantages for wildlife. Because of slower initial growth, a young, naturally-regenerated pine stand provides wildlife cover and abundant food for a longer period than a planted stand. Also, it is more likely for mast-producing hardwoods to be retained or become established in a naturally regenerated stand. The remaining seed trees make a newly harvested stand more appealing to some bird species. Seed trees that are killed by lightning become snags, which are important for many wildlife species.

Natural regeneration does have some drawbacks. Planting seedlings have a "head start" on competing vegetation. Planting permits control of spacing and use of genetically-improved stock. For these reasons, planting will usually produce merchantable pine trees in a shorter time than natural regeneration. Natural regeneration usually requires planning several years in advance and, compared to planting, it has a greater risk of failure. So, in some cases, the landowner will need to site prep and plant after all. For more information, you may wish to refer back to the article on natural regeneration in newsletter Volume 2, Number 4 (Fall, 1994).

Hats Off to "THE BIRD"

One of your fellow stewardship landowners, David A. Avant III, has written and published "Plantation Management on a Sharecroppers Budget". The book aims to show owners of tracts of 200-300 acres or more "...how we can have the best of both worlds--high population densities of bobwhite quail ("THE BIRD") and other game, as well as productive and profitable land, while keeping the diversity of plant species."

While the book focuses on "quail country", which includes panhandle areas near the Georgia border, it may be of interest to forest landowners throughout the state. It is a good reminder that a willing landowner who reads and talks with the experts can achieve a set of management objectives largely with his or her own brainpower and labor. The author loves what he's writing about and it shows. For more information or to order copies of the 150 page paperback, contact David A. Avant III at 14 N. Cone St; Quincy, Florida; 32351; tel. 904-575-1260 (home), 856-5753 (work). The cost is $16.00 per book.

Partners for Wildlife

The Partners for Wildlife program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeks to provide technical assistance to private landowners. "Partners" has some cost-sharing funds of its own. Also, it can help landowners find funding from other programs. The FWS is mandated to focus on migratory birds, waterfowl, endangered and threatened species, and wetland management, but its programs also benefit other wildlife. The program's flyer states, "Anyone can be a partner: farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, local agencies, private organizations, government agencies, educational institutions--anyone interested in improving and protecting wildlife habitat".

Partners for Wildlife has been very active in the upper midwestern U.S., helping landowners restore wetlands on drained agricultural fields and, in the lower Mississippi River valley, helping replant bottomland hardwood forests on abandoned agricultural land. This program began nationally in 1992, but is just beginning to attract interest in Florida.

Some Stewardship landowners and the state agency professionals who assist them are at the forefront of developing "Partners" projects on private lands in Florida. The following proposed "Partners" projects for private, non-industrial lands in Florida will give you an idea of some of the possibilities of this flexible program:

* One Stewardship landowner has requested assistance for nesting structures, bat boxes, osprey towers, and interpretative signs. Another FWS program, "Watchable Wildlife", may cover most of these costs. Also, there is the possibility of an arrangement with the local community college that would permit the building of a boardwalk across wetlands to the edge of the St. John's River. The landowner, the FWS, and the college would share the cost. The landowner would retain private property rights and responsibilities. The college would have permission to use the wetland as a teaching facility. The entire community would benefit as many students--and the landowner's family and friends--gain a greater awareness of the wetland's ecological and economic contributions.

* "Partners" may assist another Stewardship landowner in converting a dug pond back to a natural ephemeral wetland. This project would involve pulling down the banks and filling in the deeper portion of the pond.

* A Sumter Co. rancher hopes to get "Partners" help to restore a longleaf pine community on a small (10 acre) area. (On the right sites longleaf pine plantations are a viable option for timber production, not just valuable wildlife habitat.)

* A Jefferson Co. Stewardship landowner is seeking "Partners" assistance for a wetland restoration.

The landowner, FWS, and any other partners involved in a particular project make a "habitat development agreement" that extends for a minimum of 10 years. To avoid confusion or duplication of effort, Partners for Wildlife is committed to working in coordination with the state natural resources agencies.

Stewardship landowners who consider a "Partners for Wildlife" project should be sure to incorporate it into the Forest Stewardship Management Plan. It is extremely important for the landowner to have a clear idea of how the entire holding is to be managed over time. Any special initiative should be developed as part of an overall management plan. Some landowners might wish to work with "Partners" to restore wetlands, longleaf pine, or upland hardwoods, yet continue to manage the rest of the same holding for intensive wood production, cattle, game, or agriculture. In general, such arrangements would be welcomed by the FWS.

For more information contact:

Partners for Wildlife Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6620 Southpoint Drive, South, Ste 310
Jacksonville, FL 32216
(904) 232-2580 FAX (904) 232-2404

Turn Over a New Leaf...and Eat It!

Would any of you like to harvest, prepare, and eat some of Florida's wild plants? You won't get rich (financially), foraging for edible wild plants. But, you can enjoy some good eating, deepen your appreciation of the diverse wealth of the land, and make a connection with its earlier human inhabitants. And it never hurts to have another reason to visit your woods on a beautiful fall (or winter, spring, or summer) day.

If this sounds like your cup of yaupon * tea we suggest that you join the Florida Native Plants Society; PO Box 680008; Orlando, Florida; 32868. You can learn a great deal by attending field trips and lectures held by the society's chapter in your part of the state. To help get you started, the society has published a useful booklet, "Florida's Incredible Wild Edibles" by Richard J. Deuerling and Peggy S. Lance, available to members and non-members for around $7.00. (Years ago a group of Boy Scouts went on 153 mile, 13 day survival hike across Florida. Carrying no food with them, they depended on what they could find in the wilds. It is said that the one boy who had been "coached" by Mr. Deuerling gained weight during the hike!)

Also, Soloman Crawford, whose business slogan we borrowed for the above heading, holds "wild foods seminars" on his wooded property on Orange Lake in Marion Co. For seminar dates and prices, contact Soloman Crawford; 1993 NW 186 th St.; Citra, Florida; (904) 595-4131.

If you're new at plant identification it may take some practice before you can be rightfully confident that a given plant is what you think it is. Mr. Crawford tells about a couple of his pupils who came back from a plant identification test with an "elderberry bush", or so they thought. It was really a highly poisonous water hemlock plant ( Cycuta maculata )--and to the trained eye it didn't look much like an elderberry bush ( Sambucus canadensis ). Be careful. Make your first few wild plant harvesting excursions in the company of an experienced forager.

* Oven toast leaves of yaupon ( Ilex vomitoria ), a common native shrub, and steep in hot water to make a mildly-caffeinated beverage.

A New Twist to Berry Pickin'

Anyone who has spent much time in rural Florida knows that saw palmetto ( Serona repens ) is not an endangered species. This tenacious, low-growing plant is abundant under flatwoods pine stands and on rangeland. Pharmaceutical companies have developed an extract from the palmetto fruits that is widely used in Europe as a treatment for inflamed prostate gland. (That makes sense. Saw palmetto berries are eaten by many wildlife species. Have you ever seen a black bear or a raccoon with prostate trouble?...) The dried and powdered berries (botanically, they are not true berries) are sold here in health food stores as a food supplement and are well known as an herbal medicine in eastern Asia.

Suppliers to the trade began buying saw palmetto fruits in South Florida at least 18 years ago. In spite of increasing demand, prices remained low, 10 to 30 cents per pound. Last year's price was about 32 cents per pound. So far as we've learned, pickers paid landowners little, if any, "stumpage" before this year. But this year, saw palmetto fruits created quite a stir in South Florida. In the spring, many plants failed to set fruit. When picking time came in July-August the fruits were only about 1/4 as abundant as usual. Prices skyrocketed and a frenzy of picking activity ensued. During much of the season buyers in Immokalee were paying around $1.00 per pound, with the price briefly rising to over $3.00.

With cattle prices low, the 1995 saw palmetto fruit boom provided much-needed income for some south Florida ranchers. One arrangement between landowners and pickers was a 50/50 split of the proceeds. On several holdings the rancher's cut--all profit--averaged about $100.00 per picker per day. However, smitten by the idea of making $200.00 or more per day, many pickers just made a beeline for the berries. Some fences were cut, cattle got loose, cars hit cattle, ranchers were held liable for damage to cars... Also, unfortunately, four berry pickers died of rattlesnake bites and another drowned trying to cross a canal. Black bears, raccoons, opossums, wild hogs, field mice, and other wild animals who eat the fruit suffered a double whammy this year: the crop was poor to begin with and then the two-legged critters grabbed most of the already-slim pickins.

Was it a once-in-a-lifetime bonanza or the first sign that the fruits will become an additional source of income for owners of Florida range and forest land? A south Florida nurseryman who keeps track of the saw palmetto berry trade believes that rising demand and increased competition among buyers were important factors in this year's price rise. If he is right, next year's price could be high enough to interest landowners as well as pickers even if the fruits are abundant.

Although saw palmettos growing in the forest understory do bear fruit, practically all of the picking to date has apparently been done on rangeland not shaded by trees. We'd like to know more about yields in the understory of pine stands and on recently clearcut areas.

The buyers and the pickers who supply them work mainly in the Immokalee area of south Florida, although the plant and its fruit occurs throughout Florida and in coastal parts of neighboring states. One newspaper article stated that saw palmetto fruit buyers also set up shop in Tampa, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Lake City, and Albany, Georgia. But, we have so far been unable to find out anything about picking or buying in north or central Florida. Please give us a call if you have any information.

Are You Ready to Plant?

Mid-December through early-February is the best time for planting tree seedlings in north and central Florida. If you have tracts that need to be planted, make sure all arrangements have been made:

* Make sure your seedlings have been ordered and a planting contractor has been lined up. A nurseryman or the county forester can provide you with names of planting contractors.

Flash:  DOF's Chiefland nursery has rust-resistant slash pine and other seedlings available.  (904) 493-6096

* For planting to succeed, many flatwoods sites need bedding. Bedding and other types of mechanical site preparation should be done at least two months before planting so that the soil has time to settle and eliminate air pockets.

* As needed, site preparation burning can be done at this time of year.

* Certain herbaceous weed control treatments with herbicide can be done during the fall and winter.

Here are some other forest management--and enjoyment--activities of the season:

* Prepare fire lines for winter prescribed burning.

* Fall, before the first frost, is a good time of year to treat Cogongrass. The correct herbicide, applied at this time, will be transported to the underground stems (rhizomes) and kill the whole plant. (Refer back to newsletter Volume 2, Number 2--Spring, 1994--for more information on cogongrass.)

* Review your Forest Stewardship Management Plan. Take stock of what you did in 1995 and make plans for next year. Make revisions to fit changes in your objectives or timing of planned activities. Make notes on the stand maps to reflect harvests, thinnings, planting, and other changes. If you need help to review and update the plan, make use of your consulting forester or the state agency natural resource professionals in your area. That plan is a valuable tool as long as you maintain it as a living, current document that reflects your objectives.

* With cooler temperatures, less rain--and less activity of things that like to suck your blood--its a good time of year to put in or maintain walking trails, bridges, boardwalks, and nesting structures. It fact it's a good time for most woods activities so...

* Hunt, walk, watch wildlife, ride a horse, picnic, be still and silent, whatever suits you...enjoy your forest property first hand.

Timber Mart-South Update

We have taken the information in the following table from the Timber Mart-South 3 rd quarter (July-Sept) report. This information is very useful for observing trends over the years. However, these figures are averages from the past quarter. General market conditions may have changed since then. Also, timber bids vary from sale to sale for many reasons. If you are considering selling timber, we recommend that you let a consulting forester help you obtain the best price.

Hardwood and pine pulpwood prices were virtually the same as in the previous quarter. Prices in the other product categories, except pine plylogs in Region 2, were lower than they were in the 2 nd quarter. Prices in all categories remained higher than they were in mid-1994.

Stumpage Prices, 1995, 3 rd Quarter
(from Timber Mart-South)

        Product                Region       Average        Range                $/Ton      
Pine Pulpwood
($/Std. Cord)
$ 42
$ 38
$ 40
$ 40-43
$ 29-46

($/Std. Cord)
$ 59
$ 64
$ 62
$ 54-64
$ 57-71

Pine Sawtimber
($/MBF Scrib.)

Oak Sawtimber
($/MBF Doyle)
$ 96-106

Mixed Hardwood
($/MBF Doyle)

Pine Plylogs
($/MBF Scrib.)
(no reported sales)
$287-315 $40
Power Poles
($/MBF Scrib.)

Hardwood Pulp
($/Std. Cord)
$ 17
$ 16
$ 17
$ 12-23
$ 10-22

$ 6

Reminder: When sharing this price information with others, please include the following cautionary remarks. This information is based on sales in July-Sept, 1995; since then, general market conditions may have changed significantly. Also, prices vary depending on size of tract, access, amount and quality of timber, other stand conditions, and distance to mills. For example, small tracts, particular those in and around urban areas, tend to bring lower prices.

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A University of Florida Cooperative Extension Sevice and Florida Division of Forestry joint project:

Paul Campbell (editor), School of Forest Resources & Conservation, UF, P.O. Box 110420, Gainesville, FL  32611-0420  Tel:  (352)-846-0898
Alan Long (co-editor), School of Forest Resources & Conservation, UF
Charles Marcus (co-editor), Florida Division of Forestry, 3125 Conner Blvd, Tallahassee, FL  32699-1650