A large tract in Wilkes and Caldwell counties donated to the state will be managed by the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) for forestry research, said state officials.
Deeds transferring 1,678 acres from Char-Lo Timberlands Inc. to Char-Lo Timberlands LLC and from Char-Lo Timberlands LLC to the State of North Carolina were recorded Dec. 30 in the Wilkes and Caldwell registers of deeds offices. Char-Lo Timberlands Inc. is based in Newport, Wash., and Char-Lo Timberlands LLC is based in Atlanta, Ga.
The mountain timberland tract includes 1,217 acres in the Beaver Creek Township of southwestern Wilkes and 461 adjoining acres in the Kings Creek Township of Caldwell County.
The tract’s central feature is 1,751-foot Greasy Mountain, west of Beaver Creek Road in Wilkes. On the east, it borders Beaver Creek just west of Beaver Creek Road. The tract’s southeastern corner borders the north side of Nora McGee Road in Caldwell, which becomes Livingston Road in Wilkes.
The 1,678 acres will be added to nearly 10,000 acres of timberland statewide managed by registered forester David K. Schnake as part of the NCDA&CS’s Research Station Division. The division also includes agricultural research stations in southern Ashe County and 17 other locations statewide.
Before the 1,678 acres were assigned to the division, said Schnake, the only NCDA&CS acreage available specifically for forest management research in western North Carolina was on parts of three agricultural research stations.
“We needed large acreage for upland hardwood research,” he said, explaining that only on large tracts can experimental timber management practices be repeated enough to reach true findings. Schnake said the Wilkes-Caldwell property also offers mixed hardwood-pine timber stands.
“We are in very early stages of developing a forest management plan for this property. My top priority now is to delineate stands and conduct a forest inventory of the property.”
General areas of research will include regeneration and stand improvement practices, but Schnake said he can’t make specific management recommendations until he has a better understanding of the property’s species composition, stand structure and forest health.
“We have a special focus on implementing and investigating forest management techniques which are underutilized on our own landscapes, or perhaps have only been implemented in other regions of the country. This allows us to evaluate their suitability and economic feasibility in the forests of North Carolina,” he explained.
“Forest researchers are constantly exploring new or retesting existing forest management techniques. Some studies involve investigating a whole new approach while others might focus on studying the effect of a variable unaccounted for in a previous study.”
He said this is necessary because of the high levels of variability associated with forests. Schnake explained that the species and ages of trees, soil characteristics, slope, climate and other variables influence how a timber stand regenerates, develops and otherwise responds to forest management.
“Improving our knowledge of how certain silvicultural systems work on sites with different combinations of these variables helps foresters fine-tune their knowledge of these systems and assess whether or not management techniques are likely to succeed in certain situations. This knowledge puts them in a better position to provide sound advice to forest landowners and sustainably manage forest resources.”
In addition to research, he said, management objectives include demonstration, education and limited recreation.
“We are looking into a few potential options for offering hunting opportunities on this property,” he said. Prior to deeding it to the state, Char-Lo Timberlands leased the land to a hunting club.
Schnake said the 1,678 acres will be a working forest under state ownership and management. He said forest product receipts from division lands allow the division’s forest management program to remain self sufficient.
He said the division has been actively managing forestland within the NCDA&CS for over 20 years and works closely with the the NCDA&CS Plant Industry’s Plant Protection Unit, N.C. Forest Service, N.C. State University, N.C. Natural Heritage Program, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, N.C. Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and other state and federal agencies.
G. Kent Yelverton, director of the NCDA&CS’s property and construction division, said state government incurred no transaction or transaction costs when it received the property as a gift for conservation purposes.
Wilkes County Tax Director Alex Hamilton said that when the property was deeded to state government instead of another private entity, county government lost about $70,000 in taxes that were deferred under the state’s present use tax valuation program.
The 1,678 acres are part of a 1,878-acre parcel, but the deed conveying the property to the state said ownership of 200 acres in the northeastern portion of the parcel in Wilkes was retained by Charl-Lo Timberlands LLC. A deeded conservation easement is on the property.
According to deeds, Char-Lo acquired the property in 1985 from Merritt Brothers Lumber Co.
An adjoining private property owner in Wilkes said developer Bob Horne purchased and combined several smaller parcels in the 1970s to create the large tract. Horne developed Powder Horn Mountain near Elk Creek in Watauga County in the 1970s.
Generations earlier, said the adjoining private property owner, most of it belonged to the Horton family.