Woodland Makeovers

Big Enhancements – Minimal Destruction
By Brenda Valentine

Begging Mr. Longfellow’s pardon, but we are borrowing half of a line from one of his famous poems, “I think that I shall never see a thing more lovely than a forest of trees.” Nor do I believe I shall ever see a thing less lovely than a forest of trees following someone who is sloppy with a chainsaw and bulldozer. This is not to say that I don’t recognize the need or advantages of managing timberlands, but I longed to find a kinder-gentler, less-destructive way to thin, enhance and gain access to my own forests.

The thoughts of dealing with stumps, dozer piles, rotting tree laps, muddy ruts and the destruction of young desirable trees kept me from doing anything with a particular 70 acre tract of timber covered bottomland. My experience with heavy equipment, mainly a track hoe & bulldozer clearing mostly brushy fencerows and overgrown thickets, has been positive, but to turn those big machines lose to rip through a pristine woodland was more than I could stand.

Part of this tract of land lies in a flood plain, all of it was virtually inaccessible and totally unproductive. The timber had never been cut and not even a footpath existed. Towering poplar and several varieties of oak had matured there while a literal jungle of briars, iron-wood, and cane made it impossible to walk through most places. To add to the inhospitableness, much of the land was covered with wetweather seepages and drainage ditches that would suck the shoes off a horse and leave them floundering in the stinking muck. We were getting no use whatsoever from this acreage and it rankled me to pay taxes on ground and not even be able to access it.

The summer of 2012 will go down in history as one of the driest for this area. In midsummer I began to ponder again the possibilities of how to gain entry to this woodland without creating “scars” that may never heal.

Simply by chance, I thumbed through the Yellow Pages of the phone book and randomly picked a number (270-753- 6398). It was Swift Environmental Maintenance Contractors in Murray, KY. I explained to the owner, Dale Swift, my dilemma and how presently the only way onto to the property was by parachute, but I couldn’t stand the thought of creating huge dozer piles or damaging my good trees. I wanted 32 FarmingForWildlife.com to open up a few small honey-hole food plots, maybe plant a  few soft mast trees and have a road just wide enough to access them with a small tractor but I didn’t want stumps or log piles left to rot. And while I was making out this wish list I added that it would be nice to somehow have a simple means for crossing the numerous 3 to 4 foot deep drainage ditches. I realized even while I was saying it that he probably thought I was some crazy tree-hugging woman with a jacked-up imagination asking for the impossible. Seemingly unfazed by my call, Dale promised that he and his son, Mason, would come out soon and take a look at the job while the ground was dry.

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