Escambia Experimental Forest Celebrates 60 Years

Randall Weiseman Alabama, Forestry

Auburn, AL – The U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station has announced that May 12th as Forestry Field Day where they will join research partners to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Escambia Experimental Forest (Escambia) and the Farm 40 study. SRS employees and partners will gather at the experimental forest on May 12, 2009, to honor its contributions to science and forestry.

“For the past 60 years, research on the Escambia has helped foresters and private landowners better understand how to regenerate longleaf pine forests, ecosystems that for centuries have provided economic, wildlife habitat, and other benefits in the South,” said Kris Connor, project leader of the SRS Restoring and Managing Longleaf Pine Ecosystems unit based in Auburn. “Long-term studies at the Escambia have produced decades of data that enable us to examine the past and address modern natural resource challenges such as carbon sequestration and climate change.”

The Escambia was established in 1947 on private land leased from the Cedar Creek Land and Timber Company, formerly T.R. Miller Mill Company. The 3,000-acre tract near Brewton, AL, has served as a demonstration site for longleaf pine management for the small-scale private landowner. At the time, about half of the forest land in the South was in small private land ownerships. Longleaf pine forests that previously dominated an estimated 92 million acres across the South had been reduced to about 6.2 million acres of second-growth trees by the mid-20th Century. Interested in finding ways to restore longleaf pine across the South, the Forest Service started natural regeneration research on the Escambia.

Among the Field Day highlights will be a tour of the Farm 40 study, established on the Escambia in 1947. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate longleaf pine forest management for the small-scale private forest landowner, with the initial management goal of producing high-quality poles and logs on a 60-year rotation. The annual field day showcased all the products—poles, sawtimber, turpentine, and gum included—that could be harvested from a 40-acre woodlot in one year.

The May 12th Forestry Field Day will continue the tradition as an educational tour about longleaf pine management for the private land owner, focusing on the history of the Escambia and the research findings from the forest that have informed today’s longleaf pine ecosystem management.

Tours will be combined with talks by Forest Service scientists, university researchers, and industry specialists on: Farm 40 and research history, prescribed fire, forestry management options, longleaf pine products, artificial regeneration, longleaf seed and cone crops, agroforestry, and ecosystem service payments.

Sponsors include Alabama Forests Forever, the American Forest Foundation, Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Longleaf Pine Stand Dynamics Laboratory, and the Longleaf Alliance, Inc.

The Escambia Experimental Forest is one of 19 experimental forests across the South that SRS manages. A 13-minute video is available describing the history of research on the Escambia.

For more information, contact Kris Connor at 334-826-8700.