County to log nature preserves

by Andrew Batten

CHARLOTTE – Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation’s Nature Preserves and Natural Resources Division will soon begin cutting timber in areas around Mountain Island Lake.

The department’s multi-year timber management project will focus on the removal of loblolly pine trees from several nature preserves to help create a more diverse, natural ecosystem that will better protect native species.

Timber could start falling as early as this spring at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve and Cowan’s Ford Wildlife Refuge and eventually expand to Rural Hill Nature Preserve and, possibly, Haymarket Nature Preserve.

Loblolly pines are the most widely cultivated timber species planted primarily for lumber used in home construction. The fast-growing trees have experienced aggressive growth in mainly the Southeast over the last 75 years.

Loblolly pines make up about 265 acres, or about four percent, of nature preserve land in Mecklenburg County, Chris Matthews, the county’s natural resources manager said.

“Most of these plantations have never undergone any type of forest management, resulting in an excess number of loblolly pines,” Matthews said. “The consequences are that many of the pines are not in good shape for high-quality timber production or wildlife habitat.”

The timber management project will call for loblolly pines to be cut down and removed, leaving the surrounding oak and hickory hardwoods. Shortleaf pines — which help stabilize soils, control forest composition (minimizing undesirable species), and allow for natural disturbances — will be planted in place of the loblolly pines. Over time, the stands of trees will be managed for hardwood species, resulting in a more natural forest community.

The timber that will be cut down will be sold. Money generated from sales will go exclusively toward reforestation and habitat restoration initiatives in the nature preserves.

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