120 new acres (was: Forestry Censorship...)

Larry Caldwell larryc at teleport.com
Sat Sep 27 15:48:35 EST 1997

In article <01bcc87a$78717cc0$bfa2fbce at folivier.cajunnet.com>,
"Forest Olivier" <folivier at cajunnet.com> wrote:

> I guess I have to 'fess up.  I'm a lurker. I just bought 120 acres of land
> in North Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana and am just evaluating what I want to
> do with it.  Right now I'm trying to get electricity and water well on the
> site.  This fall and winter (actually just a cooler form of summer in La.)
> I plan to plant a couple of food plots and enjoy deer hunting with my sons.
>  I will need to clean up the property as the previous owner let the logger
> leave all the branches, etc on the property.  Then I would like to replant
> trees for future sale, and also additional food plots to enhance wildlife,
> specifically deer, turkey, dove, quail, duck, rabbit, squirrel and anything
> else worth eatin'.  If anyone has any advice I'll gladly listen.  

Hey, welcome!  I've been the only small forest owner here long enough!  

If you listen to the foresters around here, you find out that small tract
owners are ignorant and backwards.  I wish I could say they are wrong, but
the ignorant part is sure true.  There's a lot more to managing timber than
planting trees.

First, check with your county extension agent to find out what resources
are available.  If there's a small woodland owner's association, join it.
Get on mailing lists for short courses in wildlife management, forest 
management, sawlog manufacturing, and any other related field you can
find.  You really have to look around.  Check your local colleges and
community colleges for related courses you can take.

Leftover slash is a problem if it's a disease and insect reservoir.  You
may have to start piling it up and burning it, or at least chipping it
so it will dry rapidly.  Burning is probably the cheapest and fastest 
way of cleaning up the mess.  If something is too big to toss on a 
pile, cut firewood.

I hope you're young and vigorous, or have deep pockets.  Find out how
many seedlings per acre large landowners are planting, and double it.
You have room for about 100,000 little trees.  If you hire that planted,
you can get it done for $40,000.  If you plant it yourself, you can
do it for about half that.  At 100 seedlings per hour, that's a thousand
hours on the land, plus side trips.  Call it 1,500 hours of work.  If
you have a 15 week planting season, and you work 10 hours a day every
Saturday and Sunday for 5 years, you will get it done.  Now for the
good news.

This may seem like a lot of work and expense, but if you plant 100 acres
to pine and log it 30 years later, you will NET somewhere around
$150,000, after you pay yourself back for all your expenses and time.

Check with your county exension agent.  You may be able to get federal
assistance for reforestation.  You also need to chat with your accountant
about assigning a value basis for the land/house/timber/outbuildings
and to see of LA offers tax credits for reforestation expenses.  Oregon
allows a 30% tax credit on reforestation and the feds will pay 50% of
costs, so I only get stuck paying 35% of the gross, which is tax 
deductible so I get about 30% of that back.  Also, I get a 90% break
on my property taxes by placing land in "timber deferral," so in the
end, reforestation and brush suppression costs me almost nothing and
generates long-term tax savings.  Instead, a state severance tax is 
due on the timber when it gets logged.  This lets me pay the taxes 
when I have lots of money to pay taxes with.

Did you follow that?  Trust me, you need to find out where the angles 
are.  LA probably has a whole different set of them.  Timber is a 
multi-billion dollar industry in Oregon, so the state actively promotes
it with a state Forest Practices Act.  If you're lucky, LA does too.

Tax credits are also available for federally approved erosion control
measures.  Some agencies will pay you to provide wildlife habitat, so
get to know your local wildlife biologists.  Once a month for the next
few years, target someone for a free lunch.  You take notes while they
eat.  Get to know timber scalers, lumber graders, sawmill accountants,
fish biologists, game wardens, extension agents and your local banker.
Your long term bottom line depends on how much you know, so work hard
on getting an education.

Keep good records.  I mean keep GOOD records, both a diary of what you 
do and a set of ledger books.  Computerized records are not good enough.  
By the time you get around to realizing your profit, nobody is going to 
be able to read that silly Quickbooks file.

I hire part of the planting, and do some myself.  I've planted 13,000
seedlings in the three years since I bought this place, but it hadn't
been logged and there was a lot of well established reprod already
here.  I've spent a lot of time thinning and pruning.

Wildlife does best on the edge of a forest.  Ground birds like quail and
turkeys like insects on the ground, so dedicate some pasture and have a
few animals.  You'll have to fence cattle out of your new seedlings or
they will eat what they don't trample.  Tweety birds like to nest in 
trees on the uphill side of pastures.  The zone between forest and pasture
is favored by most wildlife, including deer.

If you leave wild fruit and nut trees around, wildlife will make use of
it.  Don't start shooting things until you know how many there are.  
The best guarantee of good hunting is a healthy breeding population.

Provide plenty of cover along watercourses, and tree covered routes to 
water wherever possible.  If you don't have water, develop some.  A
parcel without water isn't much use to wildlife.  

Welcome to the wonderful world of the small woodland owner.  It's a 
lifestyle choice.  120 acres is a small industry that will generate
about $50/year/acre for you over the long run.  Chances are it will
pay for your grandchildren's college education, or provide a retirement 
income after you are too old and decrepit to manage it any more.  
Or the whole damned thing might burn down and leave you with a pile 
of ashes.  Don't quit your day job.  :)

-- Larry

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