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THE FLORIDA FOREST STEWARD  A Quarterly Newsletter for Florida Landowners and Resource Professionals
Volume 6, No. 2                                                            Summer 1999
IN THIS ISSUE:  
Opening Words
Stewardship Survey Summary
Working Trees for Wildlife
Sherman's Fox Squirrel
Timber Price Update
Upcoming Workshops
 
 
 
A University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service and Florida Division of Forestry joint project:  

Chris Demers (editor), School of Forest Resources & Conservation, UF, P.O. Box 110410, Gainesville, FL  32611-0410, (352) 846-2375 or cdemers@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu 
Alan Long (co-editor), School of Forest Resources & Conservation, UF, (352) 846-0891 or AJL@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu 
Chuck McKelvy (co-editor), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 3125 Conner Blvd, Tallahassee, FL 32699-1650, (850) 414-9911 or mckelvc@doacs.state.fl.us

 
Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
 


 
Opening Words
 
Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial start of the summer season.  Thanks to the recent return of afternoon rains, we may not have the wildfire danger we were all too familiar with last year.  With the summer season come some changes in the UF Forestry Extension Team.  Assistant Professor Michael Jacobson has moved to Penn State University.  We wish him the best of luck in his new position.  Also, Chris Latt, former Forest Stewardship Coordinator and editor of the Florida Forest Steward, has taken an urban forestry job in Atlanta.  Chris Demers, who just received his Masters degree in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida, has assumed the Forest Stewardship Coordinator position.  As part of Chris' graduate study in forestry extension, he created the Florida Forestry Information web site, which you can find on-line at: http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/Extension/ffws/ffwshome.htm.  If you have questions, suggestions or comments contact Chris at cdemers@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu or 352-846-2375. 

The first half of this newsletter will describe the results of a survey we sent to most of the participants in the Florida Forest Stewardship Program.  Your responses will help us focus on improvements in the program and provide us with a better understanding of landowners' needs and interests.  The second half will include some information from the USDA National Agroforestry Center on trees and wildlife, an introduction to the Sherman's fox squirrel, and the latest timber price update.

 
 
 
Stewardship Survey Summary
 
We have just finished analyzing your responses to the Survey of Participants in the Florida Forest Stewardship Program.  Of the 1,058 surveys sent, 289 (27%) were returned.  We certainly appreciate the time you committed to thoughtfully answering the survey questions. 

Overview 
Based on the information derived from the survey, most participants seem fairly satisfied with the Program.  The usefulness of the Program seems to be highlighted by its provision of a multiple-use forest management plan, educational resources, and technical assistance.  Sources of dissatisfaction included cost-share application complexity, excessive delays, inexperienced personnel, and failure to receive cost-share funding.  As many of you know, Congress has steadily decreased Stewardship Incentive Program allocations in recent years and did not fund it at all this year.  Even when funding was available, requests for funds always seemed to exceed annual budget allocations. 

There also seems to be some confusion about the Program with respect to what it does and does not provide.  Some participants are not aware of how to get help or what to expect from the Program.  Some feelings of inequity, with regard to how cost-share money is allocated, are also evident.  In addition to providing an unambiguous description of the Program, it seems that we need to clarify the process - how priorities are set and how money is distributed. 

The Respondents 
Most respondents started in the Forest Stewardship Program between 1994 and 1999, and a few have been with it from its beginning in 1990.  The number of acres owned by survey respondents varied evenly between 13 and 5,000 acres.  The respondents represented every county in north Florida, with Madison County being the most frequently stated ownership location.  Most respondents were born between 1920 and 1960, with the highest number born during the period 1940 to 1949.  Responding landowners represent a diverse mix of occupations, including: physicians, dentists, attorneys, accountants, educators, beekeepers, postal workers, bankers, investors, engineers, biologists, nurserymen, ranchers, farmers, veterinarians, real estate brokers, computer specialists, military workers, foresters, builders, developers, contractors, homemakers, and much more.  About 25% percent are now retired. 

Participation in the Program 
About half said that a county forester informed them of the Forest Stewardship Program.  Other common sources included: county extension agents, private forestry consultants, extension publications, and friends or relatives.  The most common reasons for participating in the Program have been to obtain forest management advice, and/or cost-share benefits.  Others want recognition for good forest management, wildlife on their property, or to simply be a better steward of their land.  The majority of the respondents had timber, wildlife, or some combination of those as their primary forest management objective.  Others wanted various combinations of timber, wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, and soil and water protection.  Eighty-five percent of the survey respondents support the concept of multiple-use management. 

Management Plan 
The first important step in the Forest Stewardship Program, or in any long-term decisions for natural resource management, is the establishment of objectives and development of a multiple-use forest management plan.  Interestingly, 71% of the respondents did not have such a plan prior to participation in the Program.  For completing that first step, 86% of the respondents had their management plans written by a government employee or private consultant.  Several wrote their own plans or had it prepared by a representative of forest industry.  Eighty-two percent said they were satisfied with their plan.  Some respondents indicated that there was no follow-up by the author of the plan.  Seventy-six percent found their plan useful.  Respondents that did not find it useful believe that the recommendations were too theoretical, not practical, or not economically feasible.  Ninety percent of the respondents said their plans reflect their goals.  Long-term management plans usually require implementation over a period of years, and this was reflected in the fact that: 40% of the respondents have followed the plan closely; 27% have implemented some things; 20% intend to follow the plan closely; and 6% have not followed much of the plan as it was written.  The majority of the respondents have not changed their objectives since their management plans were written. 
 

Cost-Shares 
About 65% percent of the respondents have applied for Stewardship Incentives Program (SIP) cost shares.  Most of the respondents who have applied for cost-shares were assisted by a county forester, Natural Resource Conservation Service employee, or private consultant.  Ninety-one percent of the applicants said there was adequate help available to assist them in applying for cost-shares and 78% said that it was generally easy to do so.  Others had problems getting a prompt response from a county forester, or getting the money they applied for.  About 80% of those that have applied for SIP did receive approvals.  Most respondents received approval within six months but several waited much longer.  Some are still waiting after more than a year.  Those that did not receive cost-shares believed that lack of money and complicated application process were the cause.  Slightly less than half of the respondents said they had used other incentive programs, such as: the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Forestry Incentives Program (FIP), Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and Florida Reforestation Incentives Program (FRIP) (this program has not existed in about 7 years). 
 

Forest Stewardship Workshops and Publications 
Twenty-eight percent of the respondents had attended at least one workshop.  Most of them found the workshops informative and useful, and 43% of these landowners modified their management practices as a result of information provided in workshops.  Ninety-three percent of the survey respondents read the Florida Forest Steward Newsletter, as you are doing now, and most find it informative and useful.  However, over half of the respondents are not aware that the Forest Stewardship Program produces other Extension publications, which have been mailed to most program participants and county extension and county forester offices.  Those that have read these publications find them useful. 

Internet Access 
Over half of the respondents have access to the Internet, and 34% of the rest anticipate using the Internet in the next two years.  Only 29% of Internet users obtain forestry information on it.  The most frequently used sites are those of the University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC), Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), and the Florida Division of Forestry (DOF). 

Views about the Forest Stewardship Program 
The aspects of the Forest Stewardship Program that respondents liked most include (in order of decreasing frequency): technical forestry advice/information, the management plan, cost-shares, wildlife management advice/information, The Florida Forest Steward newsletter and other publications, educational programs, promotion of good stewardship practices, recognition given to Forest Stewards, and information about multiple use management. Many respondents indicated that their forest management would have been less intensive and lacking in necessary information for good decisions. 

From a list of possible changes in the program, respondents favored (in order of decreasing frequency): more experienced personnel and follow-up, more money available for SIP cost-shares, easier application/approval process, more encouragement of wildlife and longleaf pine management, more educational seminars, increase timber market/economic information, better communication between program coordinators and participants, and better cooperation between agencies. 
Topics that respondents want addressed in future newsletters, workshops, and publications include (in order of decreasing frequency): wildlife management, timber market/investment opportunities, controlled burning, taxes/estate planning, herbicides/fertilizers, non-market forest management, pine straw harvesting/marketing, longleaf pine regeneration/establishment, invasive exotic plants, and wetlands management.  Several of these topics are addressed in the rest of this newsletter and upcoming workshops.


 
Working Trees for Wildlife
  
 
If you have part of your land dedicated to agricultural production, you know that providing quality wildlife habitat in an agricultural setting can be a challenge.  However, by combining forestry and agricultural practices you can provide a more wildlife-friendly agroforestry system.  Windbreaks, riparian buffers, forest farming, alley cropping, and silvopasture can protect crops and livestock, provide new sources of income, and create or improve wildlife habitat. 

"Working trees" are strategically planted trees and shrubs, which provide much-needed cover for nesting, roosting, loafing, brood rearing, and escape from weather and predators.  They also provide wildlife food in the form of nuts, berries, drupes, sprouts, and other mast.  The following suggestions were provided by the USDA National Agroforestry Center's publication, "Working Trees for Wildlife." 

Windbreaks 
Windbreaks are multiple rows of trees and shrubs planted to protect agricultural land from erosion.  They also benefit wildlife when plant species and arrangements provide the basic essentials of cover and food.  When designing a windbreak, try to: 
· Connect it to other sources of cover or water; 
· Establish food plots along the windbreak or leave a few rows of standing crops;  cultivating a strip to let native herbs and shrubs grow can be a good source of food and cover; 
· Plant it 10-20 rows of trees/shrubs wide; 
· Mix different, yet compatible plants, or plant connected groupings of 5-7 tree/shrub species.  The result will be a planting that resembles a native woodland. 

Riparian Buffers 
Natural or restored forests along waterways protect aquatic environments and enhance wildlife.  When planning a riparian buffer, consider the following: 
· A diversity of plant species will provide the best habitat for many wildlife species; 
· Native plants are best because animals are adapted to them as a source of food and cover; 
· Tall trees with spreading canopies provide more shade, food and in-stream woody structure for fish than small trees; 
· The wider the buffer, the better. 

Alley Cropping 
Alley cropping systems are designed to grow crops between rows of high value trees until they are harvested or the crops are shaded out.  This provides a source of annual income while the crop trees mature.  These modifications will make an alley cropping system beneficial to wildlife: 
· Use ground covers that are attractive to wildlife between tree rows; 
· Plant fruit-bearing shrubs between or adjacent to the trees; 
· Plant two or three rows of trees between crop rows instead of one; 
· Plan the alley cropping system so that the tree rows can be used as travel corridors to connect other food, cover or water sources. 

Silvopasture 
Silvopasture combines trees with livestock production.  Trees are managed for high value timber while providing shade and shelter for forage and livestock. The following general guidelines will also encourage use of this agroforestry system by certain wildlife species: 
· Provide some areas of native understory vegetation; 
· Regulate the amount of light penetration through the tree canopy to enhance forage production; 
· Manipulate the timing, intensity, and duration of grazing to protect resources allocated to wildlife. 

Forest Farming 
Forest farming involves cultivating high value specialty crops under the protection of a forest canopy,  which is modified to provide an appropriate shade level.  Examples of such crops include ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, decorative ferns, and medicinal plants. 

Small rodents and certain birds that feed on crops can be problems in these systems.  Providing habitat for predators such as foxes, hawks, owls, and bats may help control pest populations.  In addition to encouraging predators, planting good food sources away from your specialty crop could distract nuisance wildlife.  Depending on the understory crop, fencing may also be necessary to protect it from pests such as turkey, deer and small rodents. 

Other Considerations 

Horizontal Structure 
Vegetation should be arranged to provide the greatest width possible and a smooth transition into adjoining land uses.  For example, instead of a row of shrubs next to a crop field, plant a strip of native grasses between the shrubs and crops, or cultivate a strip and let native plants seed in. 

Vertical Structure 
Vegetation heights should vary from tall trees to medium-size trees and shrubs to shorter grasses and forbs.  This is very important for birds - different species use different layers for nesting, roosting or feeding. 

Placement Within the Landscape 
This is important in determining habitat value for wildlife.  Optimal habitat includes food, cover and water in the same vicinity and connected. 

Diversity of Vegetation 
There is a good chance of providing year-round habitat for several species if a variety of plants is used.  This also minimizes the risk of plants succumbing to damaging insects and diseases.  Consider a variety of both pines and hardwoods.  Native plants are always the best choice because wildlife are adapted to their use. 

Disturbance 
Disturbances usually increase the amount and variety of plants available for wildlife.  Vegetation can be disturbed naturally with fire and browsing by wildlife.  Leave dead trees standing when possible - these make excellent homes for cavity nesters. 

For assistance with planning, design, application, and maintenance of working trees on your property, contact your local Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission office, Division of Forestry, County Extension Office, or a USDA Service Center. 

You can also contact the USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) for more information: USDA National Agroforestry Center, East Campus - UNL, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0822, (402) 437-5178. 
For a brochure, e-mail Nancy Hammond at nhammond/rmrs_lincoln@fs.fed.us, or visit the NAC web site at http://www.unl.edu/nac


  
Sherman's Fox Squirrel
  
 
Florida is blessed with a wide array of interesting wildlife species such as the manatee, the American alligator, the gopher tortoise and the burrowing owl. One species that is just as interesting but not as well known is the Sherman's fox squirrel. 
 
The Sherman's fox squirrel is one of 3 varieties of fox squirrels found in the state. It ranges from Okaloosa County south to Lee County.  Adult Sherman's average 24 inches in length and weigh 2 to 2 ½ pounds, making it the largest tree squirrel in North America.  Coat colors are variable, ranging from beige to rusty to black.  The crown of the head is usually black, and the nose and ears are white. 

Fox squirrels live in colonies.  The number of animals in a colony depends on the habitat available, but most habitat supports a density of one fox squirrel per 20-35 acres.  They are wide ranging animals male home ranges average 200 acres, females average 80 acres.  Adult females are territorial towards other females, such that each female occupies a territory that is exclusively hers.  Males are not territorial, and are free to range across the territories of females. 

Breeding seasons occur in winter and summer.  Females are capable of producing 2 litters per year, although most only breed once per year.  Litter size ranges from 1-4.  Most litters are born in leaf nests, although females occasionally nest in tree cavities.  The young leave home when they are about 8 months old.  Some travel up to 5 miles before settling in their own home range. 

Acorns, pine seeds, and mushrooms are dietary staples.  Fox squirrels frequently forage on the ground, digging for mushrooms and buried acorns.  They prefer woods with open, low-growing groundcover and an open canopy of seed bearing pines and oaks.  Occupied habitat includes sandhills, frequently burned flatwoods, golf courses, and cattle ranches. 

Sherman's fox squirrels are rare because of habitat loss to short rotation pine stands, urban development, and land clearing for farms.  They are listed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a species of special concern, and they are protected from hunting. 

Contributed by: Daniel S. Coggin, M.S., Wildlife Biologist/Forest Stewardship Program, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; & John Wooding, Ph.D., Certified Wildlife Biologist, Coastal Plain Wildlife

 
Timber Price Update
 
The 1st quarter 1999 Timber-Mart South report for Florida listed average stumpage prices as $33/cord for pine pulpwood, $82/cord for pine C-N-S, $96/cord for pine sawtimber, and $105/cord for pine plylogs.  Prices were down slightly, up slightly, down, and down for the four products, respectively, compared to fourth quarter 1998 prices.  Hardwood pulpwood averaged $16/cord, which was up from the previous quarter.  Stumpage prices are highly variable and the actual price for a particular timber sale can be affected by characteristics such as tract size, timber density, access, proximity to operating mills, and weather.  A more complete summary of 1st quarter stumpage prices is available at your County Extension Office.  To determine current prices in your area, your best source of information will be forestry consultants and timber companies that conduct timber sales in your area. 

Long-term Trends 
The graph linked below charts quarterly stumpage prices for three major pine log classes in northeast Florida since the beginning of 1993.  Numbers on the horizontal axis indicate the year (first digit) and quarter (second digit), so 31 would indicate the first quarter of 1993. Average pulpwood prices have varied from $30/cord to over $55/cord, but the 6-year trend has been virtually flat.  Despite recent slumps, both chip-n-saw and sawtimber have shown definite upward trends in average price over the 6-year period, with chip-n-saw stumpage increasing from the low $50s/cord in 1993 to near $90/cord in 1998.  If these trends continue or level off near current prices, the higher value for sawtimber compared to pulpwood makes a strong case for considering management options with longer rotations that allow some trees to reach chip-n-saw or larger log size. 

Click on the link below to see the graph - use the "Back" function to return here: 
Long-term Trends 
 


Upcoming Workshops
 
Regeneration and Establishment of Longleaf Pine 
August 10: Baker County Extension Office in MacClenny 
August 12: Washington County Extension Office in Chipley 
· This workshop will address the requirements of successful natural and artificial regeneration of longleaf pine stands, and their management during the first few years after establishment. 

Estate Planning for Forestland Owners 
September 14: Taylor County Extension Office in Perry 
September 16: Putnam County Extension Office in East Palatka 
· Estate planning is among the most requested topics for future workshops among attendees at past workshops.  These sessions will provide an overview of topics relating to estate planning so landowners can communicate effectively with estate advisors. 

If you are interested in attending these workshops, please call Chris Demers at 352-846-2375.  Hope to see you there.