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Coastal Land Trust to do timber management at new park

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The Brunswick County Nature Park was recently opened to the public with picnic shelters, parking areas and a new canoe/kayak access, a new recreational site for those who enjoy the outdoors and the solitude of nature.
The Coastal Land Trust is planning to carry out some timber management at the park to open up the overgrown pine stands to create a pleasant visitor experience and to enhance habitat for wildlife.
Opening up the pine stands will also facilitate the construction of new hiking and biking trails planned for the park. The timbering activities should start soon.
Brunswick County Parks Department does not plan to close the park to visitors while the timber thinning takes place. Some areas, like the hardwood forest along Town Creek, will not be thinned at all. The Coastal Land Trust plans to thin the existing pine stands at the park. Opening up the forest will allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor that will stimulate the growth of native groundcover plants that are nutritious to many wildlife species.
After the timbering, the Coastal Land Trust will re-plant longleaf pine in one area near the park entrance; the rest of the land will regenerate naturally.
Maintaining this new, open, park-like forest setting will require the Coastal Land Trust to work with the county to institute a prescribed burning program. This will enhance habitat for common animals like white-tailed deer, Eastern wild turkey and black bear, but also many interesting, unusual animals such as fox squirrel, Bachman’s sparrow and brown-headed nuthatch.
The Coastal Land Trust purchased the 911-acre park property from the International Paper Company in 2003 with a grant from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund. When the Coastal Land Trust gave the property to Brunswick County, it retained the right to carry out timber management to enhance wildlife habitat and restore native longleaf pine forests. “The Coastal Land Trust worked hard to acquire this beautiful property for Brunswick County and now is thrilled to be working to enhance the forest both for recreation and for wildlife,” said Camilla Herlevich, executive director of the Coastal Land Trust.
“The Coastal Land Trust is involved in several habitat restoration projects both on our own preserves and in coordination with our landowner partners, like Brunswick County.”
Questions & Answers
Q: Why is the Coastal Land Trust proposing to cut trees at the Brunswick Nature Park?
A: When International Paper Company owned the Brunswick Nature Park, its goal for the land was to maximize timber production. You can still see the rows of loblolly pine trees, which were planted by the timber company, but haven’t been thinned for many years. Today, there are different goals for the property; 1) to create a pleasant visitor experience; 2) to enhance habitat for wildlife; 3) to restore native longleaf forest, and 3) to protect water quality along Town Creek. To achieve these goals will require some timber cutting, but it will be a different type of timber management than when the property was owned by a timber company.

Q: Why does the Coastal Land Trust have timber rights in the county’s park anyway?
A: The Coastal Land Trust purchased the 911-acre Brunswick Nature Park property from International Paper Company in 2003 for $2 million. The Coastal Land Trust received grant money from the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) to purchase the property. The Coastal Land Trust then donated the property to Brunswick County to be used for passive recreation and managed as a nature park; however, the Coastal Land Trust, which has expertise and experience managing conservation lands, kept the timber management rights specifically to be able to improve some habitat for wildlife and to restore some native longleaf pine. Also, the state CWMTF has a perpetual conservation easement over the Brunswick Nature Park. The state’s easement prohibits any timber cutting along a buffer along Town Creek.

Q: What will be the extent of the timbering at the Park?
A: The Coastal Land Trust plans to thin most of the existing loblolly pine stands at the park to create a more attractive and wildlife-friendly forest. Thinning these stands will allow more light to reach the forest floor which will stimulate the growth of many ground cover plants favored by a host of native wildlife. Also, the Coastal Land Trust plans one clear-cut, a small tract of loblolly pine plantation near the park entrance, so that we can re-plant it in longleaf. The Brunswick County Park property likely hosted longleaf pine forest in pre-settlement times. Indeed, longleaf pine forests once blanketed the Southeast from Virginia to Texas covering an estimated 92 million acres. Longleaf pine has now been reduced to less than 3 percent of its original range and is now considered a very rare forest type.

Q: Won’t the timbering activities harm some wildlife?
The planned timbering activities may displace some individual animals during the short term; however, the long-term benefits of opening up the forest and restoring longleaf forest will benefit a variety of animals including fox squirrel, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Northern Bobwhite, and Summer Tanager, all of which flourish in mature pine stands, especially when frequently burned. Other birds and wildlife will also benefit from timber thinning.

Q: Will you be cutting trees along Town Creek?
A: No. A 500-plus foot buffer along Town Creek will be left untouched. Best management practices will be followed during the timber harvesting activities to protect sensitive wetlands and water quality.

Q: When will the timbering activities take place?
A: The Coastal Land Trust hopes to carry out the timber management activities over the next few months. The park will not need to be closed to visitors while the timber thinning takes places. After the thinning and cutting is done, the Coastal Land Trust will plant longleaf pine seedlings in the area near the Park entrance. We also hope to work with the County to institute a prescribed burning program.

Q: What is the purpose of prescribed burning?
A: Fire in the forest is part of our history. Contrary to what Smokey the Bear says, controlled fires can be useful and even essential to the health and productivity of many coastal wildlife habitats. Many privately owned forests and many public parks and forests use controlled fires. Foresters say the benefits of fire include: opening up the forest floor to sunlight, stimulating new plant growth, and controlling insect pests and/or invasive plants. Even when fire kills some trees there are positive wildlife benefits because many cavity nesting birds and their insect prey depend on dead, decaying trees. Frequent fires help maintain an open park-like setting in a longleaf pine forest. Without periodic fire, the forest may become less suitable for native wildlife. In addition, without periodic controlled fire, fuel loads may build up, leading to extremely disastrous wild fires that may destroy or damage both human and wildlife habitats.

Q: What precautions will be taken during the burning?
If prescribed burning is approved by the county, it will be conducted by experienced professionals who are certified by the North Carolina Forest Service. Fire lines will be created in advance to help control the fire. A prescribed burn plan will be followed and a burn permit obtained from the local N.C. Forest Service Office. Smoke management recommendations will be followed.

Q: Who will be overseeing the timbering?
A: The Coastal Land Trust has contracted with a professional consulting forester to oversee the timber management activities. The company selected to carry out the timbering is insured and trained in sustainable forestry practices.

Q: What will be done with the income from the timbering?
A: The Coastal Land Trust will use some of the proceeds for habitat restoration efforts and outreach activities at the park (e.g., longleaf pine planting, prescribed burning) or for other conservation work in the lower Cape Fear.

Q: Whom can I contact to get more information about these activities?
A: Contact Jesica Blake at 790-4524, ext. 13 in the Wilmington office.