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Sumter outdoor columnist Dan Geddings: New ground

Open-air columnist

We could hear the big equipment running on the ground. Log trucks were coming and going. The property had changed owners and the new owner was aggressively harvesting timber. The forest was in full cut. It seemed that the pine woods were reduced to a field of stumps.

On a cool morning, I hiked the old railroad bed through the great swamp to the sound of the harvest. In a small clearing, I took an old logging road up the hill to the property line. Large machines cut and transported the trees to a nearby loading dock.

The cut continued day after day. It was a large expanse of land. Hundreds of hectares had already been cut. The tops and branches of the trees covered the ground. It was sad to see, but I knew the earth could heal. The roads were ripped up by heavy trucks, but I knew the roads could also be repaired. Then one day calm reigned.

Log truck signs disappeared from the highway. Heavy equipment has been moved from the site. Only a bulldozer remained, parked on a hill. I parked in front of the gate and walked in to look. It had been wet and the roads were impassable for vehicles. The owner had given us permission to visit the property. His only interest was to grow more pines.

I was surprised, but delighted, that some of the wood remained intact. Marshlands were not cut and young pines were spared. Most of the heavy pine timber was cut, but much of the mixed pine and hardwood was untouched. Mixed wood covered impressive hills and ridges on the west side of the property.

There is a pond on the property and a large stream runs through the swamp. There is a good network of roads, but they will need some work. There are a few open areas where a food patch could be established. The transition zones are hard to watch, but I can see the potential. The more I look at the property, the better I like it.

I already made a mental to-do list. First, drainage needs to be improved on the roads. Some ditches and the installation of pipes will improve access. There are trees on some of the roads that need to be cleared. A few wildlife food plots can be planted. Doors should be repaired and secured properly.

The landowner will prepare the land where the trees were harvested and plant more trees. There will still be heavy wood there. The forest is a renewable resource. It is a good preservation.

The land has been transformed by timber harvesting and the priorities of the new owners. It is a new ground, full of potential. There will be a new management of wood, wildlife and use. 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 to his future care. I hope to be part of this care.

Contact Dan Geddings at [email protected]