Forest Landowner Management Tips for June

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aerial view of Hurricane FlorenceSummer is on our heels and June means hurricane season is here! In 2020, North Carolina and the Southeast has already experienced two tropical storms! As a forest landowner, one of the most stressful times of year is hurricane season. Recent thinning operations, crop tree release projects, roads, ponds, etc. come to mind as potentials for disaster if we are hit by a storm. Here are some tips for landowners to think about as we move into the summer storm season:

  • Know what you have. If you haven’t had a forest inventory completed on your property within the past 5 years, contact your consulting forester or hire one to get an inventory done. An inventory will provide an estimate of the number and types of trees, their size, and the value of standing timber. Knowing what you have is very important when it comes to determine a casualty loss for tax purposes or requesting financial assistance after a hurricane or other natural disaster. For more information on finding a consulting forester, go to the NC Forest Service.
  • Inspect your roads. Survey and inspect your roads with your forester or a grading contractor to ensure they are properly graded, crowned, and surfaced for storm season. Extreme rainfall events can wash out roads and culverts that are improperly designed or undersized. Culverts that are blocked by debris can cause flooding or result in damaged roads so make sure culverts are cleaned out to prevent damage due to storms. Make sure you have good access to all areas of your property before the storm. It could mean the difference between getting a salvage operation done or not. Your consulting forester can help make sure your road network is properly designed. Working with a professional for recommendations on road improvements can help your forestland to weather the storm. This Guide for Forest Access Road Construction can give you more information.

    properly maintained woods road

    Properly maintained woods road – Photo: Colby Lambert

  • Know who to contact before the storm. Get to know your County Extension Agent and County Forest Ranger for information regarding research, workshops, professional networks, agencies, etc. Contact your local NRCS and FSA offices to learn about storm assistance programs before a disaster strikes.
  • Prepare before the storm. Here are some tips for pre-storm preparation from our friends in Florida:
    • Thinning – shut down thinning operations or hold off if a storm is predicted to make landfall. Recently thinned stands are more vulnerable to wind damage.
    • Pruning – trees over structures or fences should be pruned of dead or broken limbs to minimize the risk of damage.
    • Fill the tanks – fuel, herbicides, fertilizer, and other materials should be filled and/or secured before the storm. Having adequate fuel for machinery after the storm is critical.
    • Ditches and Culverts – make sure ditches and culverts are clean and remember to look upstream of culverts to remove debris that could wash downstream into culverts. Blocked culverts can cause blowouts on roads and ditches.
    • Emergency Equipment – Inspect, maintain, and fuel up emergency equipment such as generators, chain saws, air compressors, water pumps, etc. if needed after the storm.
    • Communications Equipment – If you have portable radios, walkie talkies, etc. make sure you have them charged or extra batteries for your family and workers so communication will be accessible after the storm during a cleanup operation.
    • Hazardous materials – these materials should be secured prior to the storm and gas and fuel pumps should be shut down.

      young longleaf pine trees damaged by hurricane

      Longleaf pine trees damaged by Hurricane Matthew

    • Lock Gates – keeping roads locked will prevent unauthorized individuals from damaging wet roads and reduce liability.
    • Emergency contacts – Have a list of phone numbers you may need in an emergency, including phone and internet service, utilities, fire department, police, and medical facilities.
    • Take photos – take photos of stands, roads, bridges, creek crossings, pond dams, and structures before the storm to helps with records needed for insurance claims and/or government assistance programs.
    • Harvest time? – If you have mature stands, consider harvesting those that are in line with your management plan to harvest to capture the full market value before a storm. Salvage operations will often only yield 10-15% of the normal market value.
  • Always keep an eye out for insect and disease issues with your forests as well. Document what you see and where you see it, and contact your consulting forester, extension agent, or county ranger for further assistance.

For more information related to this article, please contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office.

Reference:  Andreu, Michael and Demers, Chris. (Summer 2020). Hurricane Preparation Tips. Florida Land Steward.