In the southeastern United States, most forests were logged and converted to agricultural uses in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the mid-1900s, an emerging conservation ethic and an increasing demand for timber products created incentives for many agricultural lands to be reforested. Much of the land we own in the southeastern U.S. was former agricultural land that was returned to forest.
We maximize wood growth and value by practicing intensive forest management on most of our ownership in this region. Our even-aged, managed pine stands are generally harvested when they reach 25 to 35 years in age, followed by site-preparation methods tailored to ensure successful regeneration of each unique harvest area. We plant our pine seedlings in rows by hand or using machines; once these trees are between 10 and 15 years old, we thin the stands to reduce competition among the remaining trees and accelerate their growth into quality sawtimber. The result is a continuous cycle of sustainable forest management.
As we work to maximize wood production, we carefully follow sustainable forest management practices that ensure the protection of environmental quality and conservation of water, soil and wildlife resources. Our environmental management includes measures to protect aquatic ecosystems and provide habitat for threatened, endangered or sensitive species, such as the Louisiana pinesnake, Red Hills salamander, gopher tortoise, red wolf and bald eagle. Our southern forests also provide habitat for bird species that rely on young forests, such as prairie warblers; aquatic-dependent species, such as spotted turtles; and species that require a variety of habitat types, such as bats.
Our primary conservation measure to protect aquatic habitat in our forests is the establishment of forested buffers along water bodies. Trees retained in buffers are either never harvested or selectively harvested to achieve site-specific conservation objectives.
Across our nearly 7 million acres, there are countless examples of unique and critical habitat being protected or improved by our practices. In North Carolina, for example, we have protected more than 5,000 acres of our land across eight counties that contain remnants of the original, old-growth Atlantic coast forest, an extremely rare forest type in today’s modern landscape. The North Carolina Coastal Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy hold easements that prevent future development on these lands. Additionally, we have donated easements and conserve additional land through the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, including our Cool Springs Environmental Education Center, which hosts more than 2,500 students in a typical year.
RESEARCH AND PARTNERSHIPS
To manage our forests sustainably, we continue to learn more about upland and riparian ecosystems and how our activities affect them. We partner with other organizations to fill knowledge gaps and ensure that our practices are consistent with the best available science.
We are engaged in many research projects in our southern forests. Recent research includes evaluating landscape-scale assessments of forest birds in Mississippi, pollinator communities in Georgia and winter bat communities in the Southeastern Coastal Plain.