Posted: Oct. 5, 2020 12:01 am
HANNIBAL, Mo. — A lifelong interest in trees and forestry led to a statewide award for Art and Jana Suchland.
The Hannibal couple, winners of the 2019 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award, and their Ralls County farm will be featured in a video as part of the Missouri Tree Farm Conference on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
The award, presented by the Forest and Woodland Association of Missouri and the Missouri Tree Farm System, recognizes private landowners who have done an exceptional job of forest management on their property and also actively promote sustainable forestry.
The award also provides a way “to encourage new folks who maybe inherited land or come in from outstate that the forest needs care just as much as the fields,” University of Missouri Extension forester Hank Stelzer said.
“It would be good if more landowners, whether they own 10 acres or 100 acres, would show more interest in taking care of their woodland rather than just utilizing it like we do to ride ATVs, hunt and enjoy wildflowers,” Art Suchland said. “There are things they can do improve woods for the long haul and also benefit the environment.”
In 1987, the Suchlands bought a Ralls County farm property with crop ground and timber, then enrolled the woodlands into the state’s tree farm system, a program for landowners who own more than 10 acres of woodland and follow an approved management plan.
“There’s a lot of different aspects to tree farming. It’s more than just an interest in trees, but also in the wildlife that utilizes the forest, the birds that utilize the forest,” Suchland said. “Trees take years to grow, but they start providing benefits in many cases even when they’re young for wildlife management, bird habitat.”
The Suchlands’ management plan calls for continued improvement in the oak and walnut timber.
“They plan the work and work the plan,” Stelzer said. “They practice good forestry.”
Timber stand improvement projects, invasive species control, regulated forest harvest and tree planting all have been part of what Stelzer calls a “consistent pattern” of forestry management by the Suchlands.
“It’s not that they just wrote a plan and stuck it on a shelf somewhere,” he said.
Plans divide forested properties into manageable areas, called forest stands, with specifics for each area based on location and species.
“People think it’s a lot about money, but a lot of it is time,” Stelzer said. “For the most part, most landowners can do a lot of things (on their own) outside of harvesting trees.”
Suchland, a retired forester who has always been interested in trees, does much of the work himself.
“Tree pruning, both for walnuts and other fine hardwoods like red oak and white oak, is something done through the years to improve the quality of the eventual log produced from that particular tree,” Suchland said.
“Mother Nature is many times very prolific. You end up with way more trees growing on a given area than actually can mature to a nice large tree, so periodically in many woodlands there’s a need to go in and thin,” he said. “Tree pruning and thinning are two of the things that I’ve done through the years.”
The tree farm program provides landowners with information on both those tasks as well as advice on using herbicide to kill unwanted invasive plants, including multiflora rose and autumn olive, in woodlands, and raising Christmas trees, something Suchland did for several years on the farm.
Suchland plants food plots for wildlife in certain areas and is working to re-establish prairie grasses and wildflowers in other areas on the farm. He hopes to manage portions of the woodland to benefit pileated woodpeckers and whip-poor-wills.
Landowners also can find help, in many cases at no cost, through local foresters and state departments of conservation along with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“There are resources available to landowners,” Suchland said.
Suchland hopes to pass down the farm — and his interest in its woodlands — to his son and grandsons, who already enjoy spending time on the property.
“We want to make sure it stays in the family at least after my wife and I are gone,” he said. “It’s good that some land will remain in woods. Every acre can’t be cleared and cropped.”
The Missouri Tree Farm Conference will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 20 as an online Zoom event.
The annual conference offers information about the benefits of managing woodland areas and the Missouri Tree Farm System, part of a national program for woodland owners committed to sustainably managing forested property for wood, water, wildlife and recreation.
Conference topics include a forest health update, white oak management and woodland bird species.
The conference, originally planned to be held in Hannibal, switched to a virtual format due to COVID-19.
More information is available online at forestandwoodland.org or by sending email to [email protected].