Here at EcoForesters, protecting the hardwood forests of the Appalachian Mountains is our passion. For most of us, this passion began at an early age as we grew up exploring the backwoods and wildernesses surrounding our hometowns. This early love for forests and natural spaces would lead each of us on our individual journeys to becoming natural resource professionals and then to us coming together to form EcoForesters. We are a nonprofit lead by forestry professionals and we work to conserve our Appalachian forests and protect them from the many threats that jeopardize their future, like unsustainable management practices, invasive species infestation, fragmentation and forest loss due to development. We do this by working one-on-one with landowners, offering them professional assistance and by educating the public about positive impact forestry. At EcoForesters, we believe that positive impact forestry has the power to restore balance and diversity to our Appalachian forests.
Since our founding in 2015, EcoForesters has been hard at work assisting forestland owners and enhancing forests across western North Carolina. As we reflect back upon our first year as an organization, we have been pleasantly surprised by the diversity of work and the enthusiasm with which we have been welcomed by the Asheville conservation community. In addition to general forestry consulting work like providing technical knowledge to landowners, we have written over a half a dozen forest stewardship plans. These plans cover a ten-year time frame and detail the approach to sustainably manage these forestlands and ensure their long-term health. Not only do these landowners receive a written course of action to most effectively manage and conserve their forest, in most cases, they also receive significant property tax savings as a result of having a forest stewardship plan created by a professional forester and enrolling in North Carolina’s Present Use Valuation tax program.
We have also helped a local conservation organization get restitution for a significant timber trespass when an overzealous logger went across property boundaries and illegally removed trees from the neighboring property. This past year the staff has also: provided consultation for a conservation-minded landowner to significantly reduce the impact of a utility right-of-way expansion through his forest; worked with a local fruit and nut community collective to expand an orchard; and advised local forestland owners on managing invasive plants. Staff members have also been heavily involved in the creation of an extensive overall forest management plan for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians covering 50,000 acres of their Tribal Reserve Lands. Our founder, Rob Lamb, conducted a forest assessment for the historic Culver Academies forests in Culver, Indiana while our lead forester, Andy Tait, is working with the Rainforest Alliance to lead an advisory group tasked with developing recommendations for a new Appalachian family forest sustainable management program with other regional collaborators.
We are also conducting two ecologically sound timber sales for forestland owners in western North Carolina. One of these timber sales we are particularly excited about is being administered on a youth summer camp in Transylvania County. In this specific case, the property owners had financial goals they needed to achieve from the sale of trees in their forest, but they also wanted to maintain the integrity of the forest and ensure that overall forest health would not be reduced in any way. EcoForesters specializes in conducting ecologically sound, socially responsible timber harvests and we were able to help the landowners realize both their financial and stewardship goals. EcoForesters’ approach to timber harvesting is to use strategies and techniques that attempt to mimic the natural processes that occur in the forest. This means choosing small groups of trees to be harvested throughout the forest, creating small openings in the canopy. This allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, invigorating the existing seed bed to come alive with small tree seedlings. This is similar to what happens in Appalachian forests following wind, fire or ice events. This approach can be especially effective at regenerating oak species, which have been losing ground in our forests to more shade tolerant species like red maple. EcoForesters’ staff is also sure to be mindful of each individual tree we select for harvesting. Never choosing only the biggest, best and most valuable trees, but choosing a diverse mix of different species, size and vigor to maintain a balanced and diverse forest. This is just one of the many unique approaches EcoForesters takes to engage in positive impact forestry and ensure healthy forests for future generations. We hope you will join with us, stay up-to-date on everything EcoForesters has going on, and support this noble cause.