Goodrich Tree Farm, TX
By Gary Allen Burns
At Burns Forestry (www.burnsforestry.com), we employ regeneration and intermediate treatments common to those used in the South. The focus at the Goodrich Tree Farm Model Forest is a concern for wildlife and water quality. Wildlife management programs include maintaining travel corridors, supplemental feeding, prescribed fire, and hardwood plantings. Water quality programs include extensive streamside management zones, minimal site preparation, and low-impact stream crossings. The emphasis is on a diversity of age, tree species, and wildlife.
The original 600 acre Goodrich Tree Farm was purchased around 1920 by Gail King Sr., Margaret Goodrich’s grandfather, President of the Houston-Leon County Coal Company. This purchase was fueled by a growing interest in timber management, an interest that was later instilled in his son and Margaret’s father, Gail King Jr. Upon his death in 1950, Gail King Jr. took over the family land, as well as management of the Coal Company.
Gail King Jr. became an ardent forestry advocate, participating in community and county forestry demonstrations and was active in Soil Conservation Service and Chamber of Commerce Forestry programs. As manager of the Coal Company, he initiated a forestry program in 1951, dividing the acreage in seven 500 acre compartments and practicing selection marking.
Gail King Jr., a tree famer since 1953, was named Texas Tree Farmer of the Year in 1961. He was also recognized as an outstanding conservationist by the Davy Crockett-Trinity Soil Conservation District and received the Fort Worth Press Forestry Conservation Award in 1964.
His daughter, Margaret Goodrich, inherited the 571 acres in 1984, and commissioned an extensive forest and wildlife management plan. She and her husband, Smoke, won the Zone 2 Tree Farm Award in 1999 and enrolled in the Safe Harbor Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) Habitat Improvement Cooperative Agreement in 2000. The properties continue to be used for demonstration purposes to further the message of responsible forest stewardship and sustainable forest management.
In 2006, the Goodrichs purchased an additional 986 acres. They upgraded the forest through harvest cuts and reforestation, creating streamside management zones and wildlife travel areas. An inaccessible area across a steep creek was accessed with a permanent low-impact shallow water crossing
Water and wildlife are of special importance on the Goodrich Tree Farm. Streamside management zones are maintained on all ponds and creeks. Instead of utilizing a temporary stream crossing, a more expensive permanent low-water crossing was initiated on a large creek with particular attention to preventing erosion and water degradation. Hardwoods are retained in pine areas for wildlife, as are wildlife travel corridors. Food plots are maintained to supplement native food during stress periods.
Prescribed fire has improved wildlife browse – producing new succulent growth and lowering the height for better access. Also, over ten acres has been planted to white oak and black cherry.
All open areas, previously utilized for cattle grazing and hay production, have been planted to longleaf or loblolly pine. Herbicide banding is utilized to reduce grass competition to planted seedlings, and chemical site preparation has been utilized in stand conversions. Understory prescribed fire is applied to control brush competition and encourage natural regeneration.
Southern pines for harvests are marked utilizing the selection method to improve the quality and growth of the residual stand. Trees are removed individually where trees have the capacity to respond to thinning. Group selection, seedtree, or shelterwood methods are usually necessary to regenerate these species that are not shade tolerant. Prescribed fire may also be necessary to control hardwood competition in commercial pine stands.
Similar to crop tree release, we try to “save the best, cut the rest” to concentrate growth on several good trees. Leave trees are those with the highest quality and growth. Thinning too conservatively prevents crown development and excessive thinning may result in wind breakage and windthrow.
We mark trees that are of poor quality (crooks, forks, etc.), have a high mortality risk (insect and disease problems), damaged (scarred, root-sprung, etc.) and overmature (unlikely to survive until the next cutting). Trees in unfavorable locations are also marked to minimize damage from logging equipment. A residual basal area of 60-80 square feet per acre is traditionally recommended for areas of high southern pine beetle danger.
The property has been enrolled in the Safe Harbor Red – Cockaded Woodpecker Habitat Improvement Cooperative Agreement since June 2000. The Goodrich’s have agreed to perform activities that may result in incidental taking of RCW clusters only during the non-reproductive season (August through February) and to allow the state agencies to translocate any RCWs, if necessary.
To the best of our knowledge, there are no RCW colonies on the Goodrich property. However, the Goodrichs want to ensure that RCW or any other endangered, threatened, or rare species, either animal or plant, are adequately protected. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department felt that the forest management activities being employed - such as the configuration of compartments, conversion of open pasture to longleaf pine, and prescribed burning – would provide potentially significant nesting and foraging habitat for RWCs in the future.
In 2001 the Goodrich’s machine planted and banded over sixty acres of bareroot longleaf pine, in cooperation with the Longleaf Alliance. Survival was less than optimal so the area was inter-planted by hand in 2002 and then again 2003 (climate driven, longleaf are delicate). Also in 2001 a one acre test plot was planted to test containerized longleaf selected to produce a shorter grass stage interval. The results showed a very high degree of variation.
The Goodrich tract is a few miles north of what we estimate to be the natural range of longleaf pine in east Texas which could make it somewhat vulnerable to ice damage. However, longleaf pine has been planted and managed to saw timber size a few miles north, and we have experienced no problem with limb breakage so far and are optimistic regarding the project.
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