Saturday, October 1, 2011

Storm Damage in Alabama

Recovery After Tornado and Storm Damaged Forested Land

From the Alabama Extension System

The Alabama Forestry Commission has estimated that the April 27 storms caused damage to 200,000 acres of land with over $250,000,000 dollars of timber damage. Land owners need to evaluate the damage to their timber and review management options. The AFC recommends using a Registered Forester to evaluate timber stands, damage, and management options. Based on the damage assessment, the landowner need to decide if there is enough saleable timber to support a harvest and how badly the stand is damaged. Insect and disease activity lower the value of storm damaged timber so harvest should occur within a few months of the storm. Harvesting the storm damaged timber is not just for salvaging the timber revenue, but also for opening roads and firebreaks and making replanting less costly. Consideration must be given as to how the storm damaged areas might affect adjacent stands. Fire is a serious concern here as storm-damaged stands may have considerable fuel loads on the ground that during a dry part of the year can become a fire hazard. Heavy fuel loads can be responsible for intense fires that move into adjacent forests and cause serious damage to standing timber, or even structures in some cases. Whether an area is salvage logged or not, the installation of firebreaks and road clearing around the damaged area may be necessary. In addition to fire, insect outbreaks, particularly bark beetles can become a serious pest of stressed pine trees. If wind has removed a good portion of the needles of pine trees, even though the trees and branches themselves may not be damaged, the stress may cause the appearance of bark beetles which then can move into nearby healthy trees. These types of infection are often seen after major disturbances such as hurricanes and severe storms. Landowners are cautioned to keep a watchful eye on any pockets of beetle infestation.

A decision is needed on the short and long-term actions needed to regenerate the damaged areas. Fortunately, Alabama forests will regenerate themselves without any intervention whatsoever. However, inaction has consequences the landowner must consider. A landscape with no managed regeneration will undoubtedly have a considerable amount of hardwoods, take longer to reach any harvestable size, and be choked with weeds and brush for several years. This may or may not be what the owner desires.

Storm damaged timber may qualify the owner for a casualty loss deduction for income tax purposes. Unfortunately, the loss is not the fair market value of the timber damaged but the lesser of (1) the difference in the value before and after the event or (2) your "basis" in that timber. The basis in your timber is generally your investment in the timber. Typically when land is purchased, gifted, or inherited, the value of the property is divided between the bare land and the timber growing on that land.

The IRS recently released "Timber Casualty Loss Audit Techniques Guide" which provides instructions to IRS personnel who are auditing returns that claim timber casualty losses. Additional resources that may be helpful are listed below.

The Impact of Casualty Losses on Forestland Owners by Dr. Robert Tufts

Timber Casualty Loss Audit Techniques Guide from the IRS,,id=238854,00.html

Alabama Extension System Http://

Getting Ready for Dove Season

Dove Hunting

Dove hunting is Alabama is a much anticipated past time. Each year about 3.5 million doves are harvested in the state. Many of the doves harvested early in the season are resident birds, with migratory birds comprising much of the late season harvest. Much of the dove population is found near corn, wheat, or peanut fields. Doves prefer to walk and feed on the ground free of dense vegetation, so removal of excess vegetation by burning or light disking may be necessary. Any field where doves are being concentrated for hunting should be at least 5 acres in size.

Management practices that are useful in September may not be practical or legal in January. September and October dove fields are often planted with browntop millet. It is highly preferred by doves and frequently used to attract them during the fall. Browntop millet should be planted in a well-prepared, fertilized seedbed, in rows 36 to 42 inches apart at the rate of 10 to 12 pounds of seed per acre. Broadcasting about 20 pounds of browntop millet per acre also works well. Browntop millet matures in about 60 days. Fields may be cut two weeks prior to hunting season opening or a scheduled dove shoot.

Dove proso millet is another highly preferred grain the doves readily consume. Proso may be planted using the same method as browntop. Proso should be planted at a ratio of 8 to 10 pounds per acre and it matures in about 90 days.

Sunflower is an excellent planting choice for doves. Any variety that produces small to medium sized seeds high in oil content are good choices. In Alabama, Peredovik is the most popular variety. Sunflowers should be planted no later than July 15 because it takes 90 to 100 days for the plants to mature. Plants should be mature two weeks prior to the opening of dove season. Sunflower can be planted in continuous rows spaced 36-42 inches apart. The recommended planting rate is 5 to 7 pounds per acre, spacing plants about 1 foot apart.

Alabama corn fields that have been harvested late summer probably have more late fall and winter dove shooting than all other types of dove fields. For those wishing to provide additional food sources for doves could consider milo, grain sorghum, and peanuts for fall and winter. These plants mature in 90 to 120 days.

Legal dove fields are those that are planted in normal agricultural method. Local Extension offices have publications that explain these practices, which include bush hogging standing corn, wheat, millet, and milo, or planting wheat or other small grain in normal agricultural procedure. Federal regulation require that all small grains used for dove fields be planted in a normal agricultural manner. This means that all broadcast seeds, including wheat, must be covered with soil and not exposed. Illegal practices that are considered baiting doves include top sowing o fall small grains without covering seeds, the use of scratch feed and salt, or returning to the field grain that has been harvested and stored. Manipulation of standing crops for dove hunting by bush hogging, mowing, burning, or partially harvesting a field is allowed as long as the grain has been grown in place and no grain is removed and redistributed on the field. Regulations change often so contact the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for further clarification.

For permits and additional information contact

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sportfish and Pond Management- Wildlife Management-April 2011

Sportfish and Pond Management

Each year Alabama anglers spend an estimated $835 million on fishing and fishing-related activities, much of this money going to rural areas. The recreational fishing industry has a dramatic impact on Alabama’s economy. Ponds can provide recreational pleasure for landowners. A farm pond is not a creation of nature with its own set of checks and balances. The pond owner must provide the management to carefully monitor the fish populations for continued successful harvesting.

It is important to understand how ponds work in order to have a productive pond. Good pond management requires enhancing food availability for fish, controlling harvest to maintain a balance of predator-prey populations, weed control, preventing situations that cause fish kills, and maintaining good water quality.

The cornerstones of healthy fish populations are proper location and construction, fish selection and stocking, removal of undesirable or overpopulated fish, liming and fertilization, harvesting and record-keeping, pond balance, and aquatic weed control.

Stocking ponds correctly is important. Experts at The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries say that the best choices for stocking Alabama farm ponds are bluegill, largemouth bass, and redear sunfish. The protocol for stocking a pond that will be fertilized is 1,000 bream (bluegill and redear) and 100 largemouth bass per surface acre. Ponds that will not be fertilized will receive half of this amount. The beauty of the largemouth bass-bluegill system is its simplicity. In a well fertilized pond, zooplankton and insect larvae will be plentiful enough to supply food for young bass and all sizes of bluegill. Bluegill grows rapidly and reproduces repeatedly throughout the spring and summer. The bluegill provides bass with an abundant food supply. With proper harvest techniques, the bass will grow rapidly and prevent bluegill from overcrowding the pond. Channel catfish can be added to the largemouth bass-bluegill pond. However, catfish compete with bass and bluegill for natural foods and lower the number of bass and bluegill caught. If catfish are added, the recommendation is 50 per acre in a fertilized pond or 25 per acre in a non-fertilized pond. Species that should not be stocked into farm ponds include black and white crappie, gizzard shad, flathead catfish and bullhead catfish, common carp, and shiners. These species may rapidly overcrowd ponds and/or may reduce the populations of desirable fish species. Pond owners need to consult a qualified fisheries biologist if they stock these species.

Ponds should not be fished for at least one year following stocking. As a general rule, fertile ponds can sustain an annual harvest of 25 to 35 pounds of bass per acre. If the pond is infertile, no more than 10 pounds of bass should be removed per year. Bluegill should also be harvested. A general rule is to remove 10-15 bluegill for each bass taken, or 4 pounds of bluegill for each pound of bass. If the bass in the pond look stunted or have a weakened physical condition, the pond may be “bass-crowded” and the solution is heavy harvest of bass. Catfish should be restocked to replace those that have been removed. Catfish fry do not typically survive in ponds with bass and bream. In addition to managing ponds correctly, several other techniques can improve farm pond fishing. Stocking fathead minnows for forage, adding fish shelters, supplemental feeding, checking and adjusting water levels, aeration and mixing of pond temperature layers, and providing preferred spawning substrate are enhancement techniques. For more information, contact the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at or The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. (Managing Wildlife, Yarrow and Yarrow, 1999) (Sportfish Management in Alabama Ponds, Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, 2003)

Timberland Update- April 2011- Housing Market Recovery and Timber Prices

The timberland investment community is watching the economy and the recovery closely.  The close ties between new housing starts and the demand for pine sawtimber are obvious.  The experts in the field of timberland investment and forecasting had some interesting information regarding the current state of the economic recovery as well as forecasting future growth rates.  The recovery has been slow and there is no denying that fact.  Experts agree that the future looks promising, which is encouraging.  The forecast from Forisk show that the US South will see higher stumpage prices.  Both the Forisk data and the data from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies show healthy growth for the housing market which has a direct impact on the timber market.  “Increasing demand for wood raw materials indicates higher pine stumpage prices for forest owners and investors.  Forisk Consulting forecasts sawtimber prices for the US South strengthening 4.6% into 2012 and 5.5% into 2013 as lumber production increases with housing starts. Alternately, pine pulpwood – the lower valued raw material used for pulp, OSB and bioenergy –gains 1.4% and 2.7% into 2012 and 2013 South-wide, with high variance across the 11 states covered in Forisk’s models.” (Mendell,, March 10, 2011) 

Dr. Kermit Baker of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies described the long term outlook as favorable.  Dr. Baker states that the recovery has been very disappointing.  He describes the “triple whammy: inventory overhang, weak demand, and low mobility” for homeowners and home buyers.  Housing market fundamentals will slowly return to the long term growth trends.  The housing market is currently overwhelmed by the “shadow inventory” of unsold homes.  This shadow inventory is a result of years of overbuilding which has generated significant oversupply of vacant homes.  Dr. Baker does support data that shows after a disappointing 2010, housing is projected to recover very gradually over the next few years.  Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies says that new home demand should top 16 million in 2010-2020, even under low immigration assumptions.  The market for residential remodeling has been more stable.  The remodeling downturn began well after homebuilding and has seen healthy growth recently.    The leading indicator of remodeling activity points to early stages of recovery and the growth rates look healthy for the next five years.