Sumter outdoors columnist Dan Geddings: Some new ground


We could hear the big equipment running on the land. Logging trucks rolled in and out. The property had changed ownership, and the new owner was making an aggressive timber harvest. The forest was being clear cut. It seemed like the piney woods were being reduced to a field of stumps.

On a cool morning, I walked the old railroad bed through the big swamp toward the sound of the harvest. At a small clearing, I took an old woods road up the hill to the property line. The big machines were cutting and hauling the trees to a nearby loading dock.

The cutting went on day after day. It was a big tract of land. Hundreds of acres had already been cut. Tree tops and limbs covered the ground. It was sad to see, but I knew the land could heal. The roads were rutted by heavy trucks, but I knew the roads could be fixed, too. Then one day quiet prevailed.

The log truck signs disappeared from the highway. The heavy equipment was moved from the site. Only a bulldozer remained, parked on a hilltop. I parked at the gate and walked in to look. It had been wet, and the roads were impassable to vehicles. The landowner had given us permission to look at the property. His only interest was to grow more pine trees.

I was surprised, but delighted, that some of the timber was left intact. The swamp land was left uncut, and the younger pines were spared. Most of the big pine timber was cut, but a big section of mixed pine and hardwoods was left untouched. The mixed timber covered some impressive hills and ridges on the western side of the property.

There is a pond on the property, and a big stream runs through the swampland. There is a good network of roads, but they will need some work. There are a couple of open areas where a food plot could be established. The cutover areas are hard to look at, but I can see the potential. The more I look at the property, the better I like it.

I've already made a mental list of things to do. First, the drainage needs to be improved on the roads. Some ditching and pipe installation will improve access. There are trees down across some of the roads that need to be cleared. A couple of wildlife food plots can be planted. The gates need to be repaired and secured properly.

The landowner will prep the land where the trees were harvested and plant more trees. There will be big timber there again. The forest is a renewable resource. It is good conservation.

The land has been transformed by the timber harvest and the new owners' priorities. It is new ground, full of potential. There will be new management on the timber, the wildlife and the usage. We all know things change. It is the elixir of life. Some changes are for the better. Some are not. Rarely can we choose. The new ground will be a good change for those entrusted with its future care. I hope to be a part of that care.

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