Hurricanes and tornadoes swept through Louisiana during 2020, causing catastrophic damage to homes, farms and forests. Many landowners and public agencies’ forestlands were damaged by these major storms. For those affected by these storms, there is help available from a variety of sources. This article will highlight assistance available from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The NRCS can assist forestland owners whose lands have suffered damage from the major storm events during 2020. NRCS staff can make an on-site visit or use information obtained from a qualified forestry professional to plan a course of corrective action. The course of action will depend upon the amount and type of damage that occurred on the property. Some of the available options include woody residual treatments, site preparation and tree planting, or forest stand improvement.
Woody residual treatment is the treatment of residual woody material that is created because of management activities or natural disturbances, such as ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and other natural causes, to reduce the fuel load, improve access and achieve management objectives. A variety of methods is available to conduct a woody residual treatment, including piling, burning, chipping, mulching, lop and scatter, crushing, and off-site removal. The method chosen to clean up the debris should be capable of reducing the debris so that it does not interfere with other management activities.
Site preparation and tree planting may be used if the stand of trees is a total loss or damage is so severe that the residual trees will not be a viable option to manage. There are several site preparation alternatives, but with a lot of tree damage the more likely option will be to use heavy equipment to shear and pile the debris. The piled debris may be burned if conditions allow for burning. The site preparation treatment must be followed by tree planting. This is an excellent opportunity for landowners to move their forestland goals to meet their objectives.
If the damage is not too severe and there are enough standing residual trees following the major storm events, a landowner could select from an array of improvement practices to clean up the debris. There are many practice options to select from under forest stand improvement. There are many other forestry practices that may be drawn upon to restore a forested property, and an on-site inspection will determine what’s best.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with storm-damaged timber is not to rush to hasty decisions. With a little work and planning, damaged stands can be brought back, and within a few years it is hard to tell they were ever damaged. Secondly, assistance is available. There will be paperwork and eligibility requirements, but this is doable. Going through the process will at least provide you with some options for dealing with the woody debris in your forest.
For a landowner to get started with the process for NRCS assistance, contact one of the following individuals. These individuals will assign the evaluation of your property to the appropriate service staff.
For NRCS assistance: Contact the district conservationist administering the resource area where your parish is located.
Louisiana Area Resource Units (LARU)
Rick Williams is the Louisiana State Forester with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service.