News Release Distributed 03/20/12
Recent LSU AgCenter Forestry Forums provided landowners with information that will help with future plans for their operations.
Marketing small timber tracts was a popular issue at the Florida parishes forestry forum, held on March 16 at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. The meeting featured a panel discussion of the problems and solutions faced by growers with small acreage.
The purpose of these meetings, which are held across the state, is to educate forest landowners on some of the issues that may affect them, said LSU AgCenter extension forester Brian Chandler.
“Some of the issues of interest for this group are prescribed burning and timber sales, and the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale activity was a hot topic,” Chandler said.
Growers in some areas of the Florida parishes are hoping for an oil bonanza similar to the natural gas development in north Louisiana, according to Dan Collins, of Dan Collins CPL & Associates.
“Oil companies are currently exploring in the area, which is just north of Baton Rouge and Hammond, where there is an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil on this 3 million acre tract of land,” Collins said.
Since the price has fallen on natural gas, energy companies have shifted their interest to oil, which is more profitable now, Chandler said.
Another concern of the participants was the damage feral hogs are causing in forestland and ways to control them.
Mike Perot, wildlife biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, explained the efforts by his agency to help private landowners control hogs on their property.
“When I took this job, the title of this presentation was Controlling Feral Hogs. As time passed, I changed the title to Coping with Feral Hogs. Now the title is just Feral Hogs,” Perot said.
At the Southwest Louisiana forestry forum, held March 17 at the Southern Forest Heritage Museum at Longleaf, Dora Ann Hatch LSU AgCenter agritourism coordinator, gave details on setting up a tourism attraction at a farm or other agricultural operation.
Hatch said 60 percent of the U.S. agritourism is based around forested areas.
Many people, especially from urban areas, are eager to see and do things that many landowners take for granted, she said. “They are willing to pay for that experience. People want to be active, and people want to learn something when they go there.”
Besides the extra income, agritourism has other benefits, including educating the public and providing year-round work for seasonal labor.
Liability insurance will be needed, Hatch said, but the limited liability law passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2008 helps protect landowners.
Hatch cited the Curry Farm and the Papa Simpson Farm, both in north Louisiana, as two successful agritourism ventures.
Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter county agent in Beauregard Parish, urged owners of forestlands to consider registering their property at www.louisianaentertainment.gov as a potential location for moviemaking. He said film producers are always looking for large tracts of land to shoot scenes, and few areas of forests are currently registered.
Movie companies will pay handsomely for locations, but landowners have to decide if they are willing to tolerate possible inconveniences and disruptions, Hawkins said. “It’s going to be a business decision.”
Buck Vandersteen, president of the Louisiana Forestry Association, said state budget cuts are directly affecting timber producers. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has suffered a 46 percent cutback in personnel, and that means fewer firefighters are available to control wild fires. A recent fire in central Louisiana destroyed 10,000 acres of timber and 10 houses.
Vandersteen also said the LSU AgCenter has suffered a 30 percent cutback in personnel during the past few years, and more are expected this year.
Changes in retirement policy pending in the legislature could result in many experts immediately retiring from the LSU AgCenter instead of having to wait more than a decade to end their careers, Vandersteen said. “We’ll have the biggest brain drain in our AgCenter that we’ve ever had.”
Attorney Brian Arabie, of Lake Charles, outlined steps landowners can take when signing pipeline rights-of-way or mineral leases.
Restoration clauses should require companies to restore property to the original condition or better condition, he said. Many contracts only require companies to restore land as much as reasonably possible, but that is too vague.