By Marlee Moore
Alabama landowners’ roots run deep when it comes to conservation.
“My job is to do what’s best for the land ecologically and environmentally,” said timber consultant Brian Agnew, who serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Forestry Committee.
Agnew and fellow forest-focused Alabamians use a mix of voluntary and mandatory conservation programs to wisely steward the state’s natural resources. These programs preserve green spaces (grasslands, forests and wetlands), which absorb greenhouse gases and filter Alabama’s abundant water resources.
Alabama has more than 23 million acres of timberland — and plants 1.56 trees for every tree harvested. The state’s timberland also produces enough oxygen for 214 million people to breathe every year.
Keep in mind: Alabama has just over 5 million citizens.
Multiple-use stewardship is at the forefront of many forest landowners’ minds. That concept forms the basis of the TREASURE Forest Certification — Timber, Recreation, Environment, Aesthetics, Sustainable, Usable, REsource. Meanwhile, some landowners receive higher prices when they sell timber thanks to the Tree Farm seal, which promotes sustainable practices.
“Most of the landowners I help are either members of the TREASURE Forest or Tree Farm programs,” Agnew said. “Every contract notes the Best Management Practices (BMPs) required by the state of Alabama.”
More than 60% of Alabama’s surface water flows through privately owned forests. BMPs help protect, maintain and improve that water quality and include correctly planning and constructing forest roads, log landings, stream buffers and stream crossings.
“When setting up a timber sale, we want to maintain a distance from any body of water,” Agnew said. “We have a boundary on either side of a stream to not degrade water quality.”
Like forestry BMPs, farmers follow Nutrient Management Plans when fertilizing crops and managing animal manure. These plans specify how much fertilizer, compost or other nutrient sources may be applied to crops to achieve higher yields while preventing excess nutrients from impacting waterways.
Chicken farmers minimize water runoff, too, by planting buffers between chicken houses, while cattle farmers like Laslie Hall use techniques like rotational grazing to support biodiversity — and help transform grass into powerful protein.
“Conservation means I’m going to leave it better than I found it, and my daddy did a pretty good job himself,” said the Montgomery County farmer. “You try what’s popular now and learn from what you’ve done. I’m proud of what we’ve implemented on our farm.”
Visit DownToEarthAL.com to learn more.