North Carolina is known for having most of its acreage owned by private landowners. If you spend enough time speaking with some of them, you’ll discover that while their management styles may be similar, their reasons for owning and operating woodlands may vary. Managing woodlands for wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, timber harvesting and tree planting are some of the consistent motives that most woodland owners have in common. Others just enjoy the sound of silence in a world full of noise. A peaceful province for their families to enjoy nature’s beauty and all that it has to offer. While there are many reasons private landowners enjoy having a tract of land to call their own, it isn’t all glamourous.
Actively and successfully managing woodlands depends on timely, careful, science-based forest management practices. To continue helping North Carolina landowners sustainably manage their forests, the N.C. Forest Service offers a variety of technical and financial assistance programs. These programs help landowners implement on-the-ground practices that help ensure the sustained health and productivity of our state’s woodlands.
Andy May and his sister are the owners of a family farm in Nash County that spans more than a hundred years and multiple generations. Originally purchased by May’s grandfather as a gold mine between the late 1800s and early 1900s, the May Family Farm is now more than 1,700 acres in size, making them the largest contiguous landowners in the county. Over the years, the land use transitioned from gold mining to farming before May’s father began growing timber to harvest. May and his sister have continued to carry out that practice.
For the May family to continue being good stewards of this natural resource, they’ve leaned on cost share programs offered by the N.C. Forest Service, most notably the Forest Development Program (FDP). The FDP, North Carolina’s flagship tree-planting program, is a continuing effort designed to encourage private woodland owners to replant after harvest.
“The forest service has been a huge help with their available cost share and by helping us keep things moving,” said May. “To plant the best trees and do things the right way, it gets very pricy.”
The FDP has been helping North Carolina landowners establish and manage their forests since 1977. The goals of the program include timber production and creating the many multi-resource benefits associated with active forest management. The FDP has helped plant 820 million trees on more than 1.5 million acres since its inception.
When asked if he’d be able to achieve his woodland management objectives without the cost share program in place May overtly stated, “probably not.”
“We’d have to go back to the drawing board and come up with an entirely different approach. One that would not be near as effective or beneficial,” he continued.
Under the FDP, a landowner is partially reimbursed for the costs associated with site preparation, seedling purchases and tree planting needed to establish a new forest. Additional practices aimed at improving existing forests may also be eligible for cost share under the program. To qualify for the FDP, a landowner must have a forest management plan approved by the NCFS.
Whether your woodland ownership is in its infancy, or it’s seasoned with more than a hundred years of stories, challenges and achievements that have touched many hands through a family tree, a collaborative effort is required to ensure success. Deep within that equation lies a devoted landowner and a trustworthy county ranger.
“We’ve been blessed here in Nash County to have the forest service personnel that we’ve had,” said May. “My grandfather worked with Charles Wood, my father and I both worked with Bill Lewis and now I’m working with Seth.”
Nash County Ranger Seth Bauguess asserts that the efforts of private woodland owners like May can prevail and continue benefiting his family, Nash County and North Carolina.
“Mr. May is a great example of what people who are proactively managing their woodlands can accomplish,” said Bauguess. “This is exactly what we want to see and this is why private landowners are so important.”
Of the 183,000 acres of forestland in Nash County, roughly 179,000 of that acreage is owned by private landowners.
May went on to say that the most valuable service that’s been provided to his family by NCFS staff in Nash County is their knowledge and availability.
“The willingness to come out, give advice, make recommendations and always answer the phone when we call on them,” said May. “It’s been wonderful.”
Being a private woodland owner is no small feat and one must be committed and resilient if they want their efforts to stand the test of time. With the continued financial support of North Carolina’s forest industry and the annual Legislative appropriations, the FDP will continue to be a beneficial source of financial assistance. These technical and financial assistance programs administered by the N.C. Forest Service can help landowners accomplish their management objectives that will help keep North Carolina’s woodlands healthy, resilient and productive.
“If you’ve got a good program in place, you can manage and maintain that land for the next generation,” said Bauguess.
For more information on available technical and financial assistance programs, visit https://www.ncforestservice.gov/Managing_your_forest/pdf/NCFS_Forestry_CS_matrix_2_2023.pdf. To learn how to apply for these financial assistance programs, contact your NCFS county ranger’s office. Contact information is available at http://www.ncforestservice.gov/contacts.
Editorial note: This article is the second in a series of three articles about financial assistance opportunities offered by the N.C. Forest Service. To read the previous article in this series, visit https://blog.ncagr.gov/2023/03/24/it-would-not-be-what-you-see-today-landowners-grateful-for-financial-assistance-offered-by-the-n-c-forest-service/