By Jerry Lacey

On September 8, 2022, LRLEAN, Alabama’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and other partners will host a site visit and demonstration to educate property owners on how they can realize an even greater return on their investment through pre-commercial thinning of their timber stands. Simply stated, precommercial thinning is a forest improvement practice that occurs long before tree harvesting. In our demonstration, we will discuss what measures landowners can take to remove small diameter wood and other undesirable species that cause forest overcrowding. By removing trees like these that have no commercial value, hardwood, loblolly pine, and other species have room to grow and thrive.

The idea for the site visit and demonstration was conceived as we assisted the first LRLEAN landowner that I have had the privilege of working with, Joe Wilson. A lot of the trees on Mr. Wilson’s property needed to be thinned, but the two stands in question were at either end of the window for performing the practice. The older trees were almost too large to be considered pre-commercial, and the younger trees were smaller than those typically pre-commercially thinned. However, the value of the pulpwood typically harvested has declined enough to make thinning when trees are much smaller and easier to deal with a potential option. Potential, because we also recognized that changing the recommendations on Mr. Wilson’s contract with NRCS required some expert assistance.

Mr. Wilson was able to obtain this help, due in large part because of his work on a variety of conservation programs for more than a decade with LRLEAN and Larry Hardy, NRCS District Conservationist. The team convened on the Wilson property and also included Tim Albritton, NRCS State Staff Forester; J.R. Harbison, Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) Forester; Jeff Thurmand, NRCS State Wildlife Biologist; Steve Rohrer, NRCS Resource Conservationist; Jonas Freeman, Pickens County AFC Ranger; and Brock Reynolds, NRCS Soil Conservation Technician. Steve Glasgow, owner of Zebco Forestry, joined us to offer his expertise. Mr. Glasgow’s unique perspective as a professional logger, landowner, and longtime LRLEAN vendor, assisted us in determining practical forestry solutions.

Although Mr. Wilson now lives in Elmhurst, New York, he has pursued responsible stewardship on his land in Newtonville, Alabama, and serves as an example of the persistence and wisdom nearly anyone can employ to manage their forests if they follow through with their goals. And his land provides the perfect setting for the upcoming site visit and demonstration.

The event will showcase precommercial thinning and includes a tour of the Wilson property, a demonstration of land clearing performed by Mr. Glascow, and other activities. Most of our anticipated attendees have received financial and technical assistance from NRCS, and many are seeking American Tree Farm System (ATFS) certification. However, the event is open to anyone who is interested. Our outreach has taken many forms, including placing signs on major county roads encouraging anyone to attend!

We have rented buses to transport the dozens of individuals that we expect will join us for this special day. We plan to record the day’s activities and create a video that we can share with our partners, clients, and property owners who are considering how to put their land to work for them.

For more than a decade, LRLEAN, in strong partnership with the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention (SFLR) Program, Alabama’s NRCS, and the AFC, has been dedicated to assisting and empowering African American landowners in the Black Belt region of Alabama. We hope that our site visit and demonstration will become a regular part of our continuing outreach and support to African American landowners interested in improving their lands and wealth through sustainable forestry management.

Mr. Joe Wilson
Mr. Joe Wilson and his wife, Maggie Wilson (East Elmhurst, NY).
The team of experts assessing Mr. Wilson’s timber stands. Pictured left to right: Tim Albritton, Larry Hardy, Steve Glasgow, Jerry Lacey, Brock Reynolds, Jeff Thurmond, J.R. Harbison, Jonas Freeman, and Steve Rohrer.
The team of experts assessing Mr. Wilson’s timber stands. Pictured left to right: Larry Hardy Jonas Freeman, Steve Glasgow, Tim Albritton, J.R. Harbison, and Deron Lacey.