Forest Service advising landowners starting over after Bearing Fire

Monday, July 25, 2011 - 2:19pm

Lufkin, TX — With 20,000-plus acres of fire ground to rehabilitate, Texas and U.S. Forest Service officials are making recommendations to landowners about timber types more resistant to inevitable environmental factors, including fire.

In a ground tour of the Bearing Fire earlier this week, Texas Forest Service District Forester Todd Nightingale explained how landowners can capitalize on replanting with longleaf pine, instead of Loblolly. At the turn of the century, longleaf was the prevalent timber in the south, but now makes up only 3 percent of the southern timber population, Nightingale noted.

“It was a fire-dominated ecosystem and longleaf took fire very well. It was very drought resistant and also resisted insect and disease well,” he said. “It does take more treatments and requires fire, so prescribed burning needs to take place on the landscape.”

While longleaf seedlings do cost more and require more maintenance, U.S. Forest Service Management Staff Officer Kent Evans agreed the return on investment is worth it.

“Loblolly would give you some initial economic return early in the rotation, but if you’re growing longleaf, you produce a pole that is higher value than the typical paper or chip board product,” he said. “It is a very valuable product as it gets older.”

With thicker bark and deeper roots, longleaf is also more resistant to another environmental factor experienced more frequently in East Texas during the last decade — hurricanes.

“There may be 16 percent left after a hurricane with a Loblolly stand and it will be more like 80 percent with longleaf,” Nightingale said. “Side by side, it’s been documented.”

The aesthetic value of planting longleaf is another consideration for landowners wishing for a more majestic landscape, Nightingale added.

“For landowners who are interested in that open pine forest where you can actually look through and get through the forest, longleaf is ideal,” he said. “It’s that pretty pristine open forest, which is also much better for wildlife.”

With favorable weather conditions in the south and a long growing season, evidence of recovery is expected within five years, Nightingale said.

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