Published on 10/02/14

UGA Extension agents trained in forestry, fisheries management

By Clint Thompson

South Georgia foresters and landowners connected to the $600 million per year forestry industry will now receive better guidance from University of Georgia Extension agents thanks to a recently held UGA forestry and fisheries management training course.

The UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources collaborated with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to present the two-day training, held Sept. 25-26 in Tifton. The course served as a training guide for agents who receive daily calls from landowners and timber producers trying to enhance timber production.

David Moorhead, professor of silviculture — the branch of forestry charged with the development and care of forests — at the Warnell School, said UGA Extension agents most often field calls from landowners concerned about dying trees and planting new ones.

“For the forestry side, we’re looking at forest health issues. [Landowners] have questions about herbicide use for planted pines. Lots of questions come in for management of ponds and fisheries, too,” Moorhead said.

Moorhead, who also co-directs the UGA Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health in Tifton, was one of six instructors who taught the 41 south Georgia agents in attendance. A similar training session will be held for north Georgia agents in the near future.

Fellow UGA Warnell School professors Jay Shelton, Kris Irwin, David Dickens and Ben Jackson joined Moorhead in the training sessions, as did Gary Burtle, an associate professor in CAES’s Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences on the Tifton campus, who helped address fisheries management.

Forestry and related products generated $609 million in 2012, with 86 percent of that revenue coming from timber production, according to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

“Pulp prices, especially, have been much better over the last year and a half. We’ve got a lot of people that have been out there thinning their pine stands,” said Ronnie Barentine, UGA Extension county coordinator and agricultural and natural resources agent for Dooly County. “Having that knowledge and going out there and helping a landowner determine when it’s the best time to thin out their timber is a really good part of that training.”

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, there are 500,000 acres of fishing impoundments in Georgia. To better meet landowners’ needs, Irwin said Extension agents must understand landowners’ objectives in managing their local ponds.

“Do they want trophy bass? Do they want to catch bluegill? How does the landowner envision a successful fishing trip? From there, they can begin to develop a management strategy that will produce those results,” Irwin said.

Proper pond management involves more than just walking up to and looking at a pond, he continued.

“You’ve got to do multiple things: electrofishing and seining to evaluate fish, evaluating water quality, talking with landowners and finding out the history of the stocking of the pond,” Irwin said. “It’s important for agents to understand it is a complex system. You can’t just look at a few of the variables. You have to gather a lot of information.”

Pond management also involves the identification and treatment of aquatic weeds, a regular part of Thomas County agriculture and natural resources agent Andrew Sawyer’s daily tasks.

“We’re always identifying weeds in the pond, and we’re always looking at weed control options,” Sawyer said.

To receive free forestry and fishery related advice, contact your local UGA Extension office by calling 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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