2011 was a year of freezes, fires and floods—few corners of the nation were unscathed by Mother Nature’s extremes. As the Fords can attest, these events can hurt your Tree Farm and shift your priorities. If natural disasters damaged your woods this year, here are some special issues to consider when reviewing your management plan:
Ice Storms and Blizzards. Tree Farms in the Northeast underwent a series of severe storms early this year. While mature trees can often weather snow and freezing conditions well, young trees may be damaged and will require additional care and nutrients to recover. As with any storm damage, add salvage and debris removal to your management plan, along with special attention to soil conditions and signs of root disease or other injury.
Floods. Forests in the southern, central and northeastern U.S. all faced floods this year. Floods leach oxygen and nutrients from your Tree Farm’s soil, so if you saw flooding this year, aerating and fertilizing should make their way into your management plan. Also plan to remove dead or dying trees and branches, which in humid conditions can become especially susceptible to pests.
Tornadoes. If this year’s deadly tornado season damaged your Tree Farm, your management plan will reflect your need for economic and woodland recovery. After assessing the extent of the damage, note your plans for salvage harvesting and for re-establishing road access and firebreaks. Removing damaged trees and debris should be a priority, because they can put you at high risk for wildfire. Your updated plan will also need to include your goals for replanting and monitoring for insect (particularly bark beetle) outbreaks, a serious concern for damaged or stressed pines.
Drought and fire. In the South and West, where ongoing droughts and high temperatures have left forests vulnerable to uncontrolled wildfires, planning for vegetation control, road maintenance and water sources will be critical. Make a note in your management plan to conduct thinning or prescribed burns and to create new water sources—pumps, for example—where you need them. And make sure to have a fire plan and emergency contacts easily accessible.
Recovering from a natural disaster will take some financial planning as well, so make sure to add a visit to a knowledgeable and trusted consultant to your plan. There are federal assistance programs available to aid your recovery, as well as income tax implications to consider, and these should be part of your management plan update.