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A Study in Hardwood Sustainability

For you who have been associated with Tara Wildlife and its varied woodland habitats, you are most likely aware of the ever changing face of the Tara landscape. Some changes are the result of unintended environmental forces such as wind, water, insects, disease or a combination of these factors. Other changes are the result of purposeful management efforts intended to accomplish specific forest, wildlife and recreational initiatives.

Tara has been a purposefully and sustainably managed property for many years. Wildlife, forestry, recreation and aesthetics have been the chief beneficiaries. In this sustainable management effort, soil, water and air are deemed critical to the sustainability function and must be simultaneously protected. Simply said, we are not going to deplete the resource but intend to leave it better than we found it.

That the deer population at Tara is being sustainably managed is easily and painlessly measured. Annual harvest data is collected in detail as are animal ages, recruitment rates and quality criteria. That the whole process is transparent, is evidenced in published annual harvest reports available at each of the two (2) hunting lodges; Tara and Halpino.

Habitat at Tara Wildlife

Habitat at Tara Wildlife

How is forest sustainability measured?

Wanting to answer the question of forest sustainability, Tara began collecting comprehensive forest inventory data in 1997. Inventory data were updated in 2006 and again in 2016. By considering complex growth/ingrowth calculations, evolving utilization/market standards and accounting for acreage adjustment and timber removals during the period represented, it is estimated that the timber volume associated with the Tara Wildlife Property has increased by approximately 107% during the referenced 20 year period. Expressed as a percent, average annual growth has approximated 5.4 percent. Significant to these calculations, is the fact that, during that 20 year period, approximately 4.9 million board feet (Doyle) of sawtimber has been harvested from the property. That is enough lumber to build over 300 homes!

Study of old growth timber versus managed stands

Looking beyond its own capabilities as a land steward, Tara provided funding for a Graduate Student from Mississippi State University, College of Forest Resources, to study old growth (uncut old growth timber stands) versus managed stands which had been subjected to past commercial harvest.

In short the findings showed that:

  1. Average tree size was larger in the old growth areas;
  2. Canopy closure was more complete in the old growth stands;
  3. Dead trees were more abundant in the old growth timber;
  4. Forest species diversity was greatest in the managed stands;
  5. Managed stands had the highest number of trees per acre.

From an applied management perspective, the take-away from the research points to the importance of diversity within the forested landscape and the value of balancing the management process with natural processes. As a result of this study, Tara has set aside 100 acres of old growth forest which will remain in its natural and unmanaged state forever.

Serving as further checks and balances relative to the Tara sustainability function, Tara operates with a Board of Directors, oversight from Wetlands America Trust (Ducks Unlimited), Mississippi Land Trust, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks and The American Tree Farm System. While the process of management and management oversight may seem burdensome to some, we at Tara find that communication with our management partners is key to our successful partnership. Sort of reminds me of the old song by the The Hollies in the late 60’s; He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.

Perhaps the Old Greek Proverb says it best: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”. Here at Tara, we are continuing to plant trees.

H. “Bill” Tomlinson, R.F., C.W.B.

Let Us Hear From You: If you have an interest in learning more about any subject which relates to the Tara property, its ecology and management, please let us know and we will welcome the topic for a future Blog Post. Please make sure to send your request to moc.e1518943515fildl1518943515iwara1518943515t@ara1518943515t1518943515 with the subject: Blog post idea.

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