Edgefield Forester “WHIP’s” Land into Shape
By: Sabrenna Bennett, Public Affairs Assistant
When someone makes their living consulting others as a certified forester, there probably isn’t much about forestland and the importance of wildlife that they don’t already know. However, that shouldn’t stop them from practicing what they preach, and such is the case with Brad Thompson of Greenwood, SC.
Thompson enrolled 700 acres of forestland into the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), receiving technical assistance from NRCS District Conservationist Bob Bowie in Edgefield. Through WHIP, he was able to manage his lands through conservation practices designed to allow healthy timber growth, while enabling wildlife to thrive.
The primary timber on Thompson’s land is loblolly pine, and the process of forestland management has proven to be demanding. Once land is cleared, trees are planted and then monitored to ensure that grass and brush growth is moderate and does not harm the trees. On average, 622 trees are planted per acre; however less may be planted when wildlife is taken into consideration. Tree thinning occurs about 15 years after initial tree planting, and the average life span of a loblolly is 35 years.
While protection of timber is a major concern, providing for wildlife habitat is also a priority. Establishment of conservation practices by Thompson ensured that habitat was protected. One such practice is prescribed burning. This practice is done in a checkerboard pattern, in which burning occurs one plot at a time, and benefits the trees by killing brush and shrubs on the forest floor, allowing more room for growth and direct access to sunlight. Burning also encourages the growth of native plants and legumes, an important food source for wildlife.
In addition to burning, hedgerows, tree shelters and food plots were installed to attract wildlife. The plots were planted with species that are known to attract wildlife, especially Bobwhite quail. They include lespedeza, clover, millet and Egyptian wheat. This abundant food source was a welcome sight for the many turkey, deer, rabbit and other wildlife found roaming throughout the forestland.
Thompson’s dedication to wildlife goes beyond WHIP. He is also a participant of the POWER (Protecting Our Wildlife at Every Right of Way) for Wildlife program. “I don’t know exactly why I put so much effort into these conservation practices, except that I love wildlife and want to protect them at every turn,” stated Thompson. Through the POWER program, he has converted power rights-of-way into a haven for wildlife by encouraging the growth of native plants and other food sources.
“Thompson has really proven to be a dedicated forester and conservationist,” stated Bowie. “Through his actions, he strives to protect both wildlife and natural resources.”
As for the future, Thompson is currently preparing part of his land for planting of 80 acres of longleaf pines.
For more information, contact the Edgefield field office at (803) 637-3220.