For Doug and Teresa Moore, forest stewardship was an opportunity to begin a new life after many successful years in agriculture. Dairy farming had been the family business for three generations. Doug had a farm with 2,000 head of dairy cows in Duval County, as well as 600 acres of corn in Putnam County and a landscape tree nursery. However, Jacksonville’s growth, together with increasingly restrictive regulations led him to quit the dairy business in 2004. It had long been a dream of his to own timberland that he could live on and manage for timber and wildlife, so Doug began looking into timber tracts.
In 2002, he purchased timberland in Baker County from the International Paper Company. He chose the land because it was close to his farm in Duval County, and most of all, because the property was diverse. Doug explains: “I had a large amount of pine plantation to provide the needed future income, but also had a 400-acre hardwood swamp that is the beginning on the South Prong of the St. Mary’s River. It also consisted of several old homesteads (including moonshine stills). We have also found many Indian artifacts on the property due to the creek that runs through it.”
A True Working Forest
South Prong Plantation encompasses over 2,400 acres of pine flatwoods, cypress swamps and hydric hammock that is home to a wide variety of wildlife. While Doug’s primary objective is managing for high-quality wildlife habitat, the plantation also produces timber and is a great example of integrating intensive timber management and wildlife habitat management.
Doug’s management objectives are a combination of timber income and recreation for the family. “I would like to set it aside for conservation so it would be used after I am gone for the same purpose as it is now,” he says. “But I still want the family to be the managers, not the government.
Doug also offers the property for use to the University of Florida / IFAS Extension service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and other partners for educational programs. He’s an FWC certified Youth Hunt Master and leads youth hunts on the property. He also leads camping and merit badge programs with the Boy Scouts.
“I offer and encourage many organizations to visit my property, from hunters to the tree huggers,” he says. “I think the more people understand that a working tree farm like mine can provide a renewable resource while enhancing wildlife and conservation for the future, the better the industry will be.”
“Plenty of Help Out There”
With a background primarily in livestock management, Doug needed a bit of a primer on forestry and wildlife management when he got started. He found help through courses provided by the University of Florida’s Cooperative Extension Service and the Florida Forest Service.
“When I purchased the property, I took every course offered by Extension to learn about wildlife management and forestry,” Doug explains. “I took the Master Tree Farmer level 1 and 2, Master Wildlifer, Preparing for the Next Owner, and other courses. I became a Certified Burn Manager, and I now have a business, Flatwoods Management LLC, in which I contract prescribed burning, timberland maintenance and wildlife management. “With management planning and practice I’ve had assistance though the Forest Stewardship program, cooperative Extension service, UF, FWC, Florida Forest Service, National Wild Turkey Federation, my friend and consulting forester, Leonard Wood, and many others. There is plenty of help out there. I’m very surprised that more landowners do not take advantage of it.”
Join us for a Tour
The Moore family; along with the Florida Tree Farm Program, Florida Forest Stewardship Program and other partners; will provide a tour of South Prong Plantation on October 19. Mark your calendar and stay tuned to Florida Land Steward updates for details.