November 16, 2018 | By: Carol Lea Spence

GRAVEL SWITCH, Ky.,  -- Clifton Taylor and his wife, Barbara Ellis Taylor, started acquiring tracts of Casey County woodlands in 1959. Today, the family owns about 1,200 well-managed acres, and the couple’s sons and grandchildren are continuing the family work. For their successful efforts in sustainable forest management, the Kentucky Forest Industries Association selected Clifton Taylor as the 2017 Kentucky Tree Farmer of the Year.

Recently, the Taylors opened their woodlands for instructional tours during a field day in conjunction with University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, the Kentucky Woodland Owners Association and the Kentucky Tree Farm System. Sons Steve and Scott Taylor, private consultant Chris Will and UK Forestry and Natural Resources department chair Jeff Stringer led about 65 people along some of the 25 miles of roads and trails the family has installed. Along the way, they discussed the Taylors’ work on white oak regeneration, water quality improvement, and wildlife and recreation management.

Clifton Taylor wrote his first management plan in 1972 and entered the tree farm system in 1974. According to Will, not many people nationwide can say they’ve been in the tree farm system for as long as the Taylors.

“I paid $50 an acre for this back in 1959. Maybe $52, but, anyway, I didn’t pay a lot of money for it. I didn’t have a lot of money,” Clifton Taylor said. “It had half-a-million board feet of timber on it. That excites me today.”

Scott Taylor told the crowd that the focus from the beginning has been on commercial timber production, and they hope to continue managing it that way for the next two or three generations.

“That’s an important piece to understand here. We don’t think commercial timber production is at odds with any of the other things we do at this farm or with environmental concerns,” he said. “We’re here to produce a resource for the rest of the folks in the world, and we think that’s important. We just have to figure out how to do it the best possible way we can.”

One of those ways is salvage logging. Leading the guests over to a sunbaked field, Steve and Scott Taylor pointed to a large stack of logs, all from trees that storms or root rot had brought down.

“You cannot let this stuff lay. If you can figure out how to get it out of the woods, you need to get it out,” Scott Taylor said. “There’s a pretty reasonable chunk of cash laying right here. You’ve got to figure out how to make your operations pay, and this is a good income stream for us to inject back into what we’re doing.”

Steve Taylor pointed out the network of roads the family has put in over the past decade or so, which allows them to get into the woods, remove the salvage timber and evaluate and manage the stands.

“The road network lets you get to the timber, but the other component is, it lets you enjoy it more,” he said. “It builds a much greater ownership of things when you can enjoy it and see it more often. The road network has a lot of value to us.”

Up the hill, the group stopped at two stands where young white oaks were sprouting beneath an airy canopy of yellow poplar. Chris Will explained that proper management involves going out in advance of a harvest to make sure there are enough vigorous saplings of the desired species — in their case, white oak – to grow into the next forest after they harvest the mature saw timber trees.

Generally, there is not a lot of oak regeneration under yellow poplar. Poplar grows faster and taller and will shade out young seedlings.

“My goal here was to improve the light conditions in this forest stand to improve the number, strength, vigor and size of the most desirable species – white oak, red oak, hickory, black oak,” he said.

To do that, he uses an injection method where he makes an incision and injects herbicide into a tree of little value — a beech, for example — that would interfere with the young oaks around it.

“The tree dies. The light component in this forest stand changes,” Will said. “As the filtered light starts to come through the canopy, it gives the oak and hickory a competitive advantage. We want that to be vigorous and in a good position to take over, because in a year or two or three, we’re going to have a harvest in here. We’re going to remove the large overstory trees, and that regeneration is going to be the next stand.”

Such management paves the way for sustaining generation after generation of quality timber. At present, only about 5 percent of Kentucky woodlands are sustainably managed for long-term production.

“Well-managed woodlands improve the quality of the timber being cut, not in the present, but in the future,” said Doug McLaren, president of both the Kentucky Woodland Owners Association and the Kentucky Tree Farm System. “The problem is, with most of the logging going on now, they take out the best and leave the rest, which is bent stuff and species that we don’t want.”

Stringer said that people could learn a lot from the way the Taylors have managed their woodlands.

“Cliff has spent decades managing his property with the assistance of forestry, wildlife and other natural resource professionals, many of whom consider his woodlands a great example of what can result from proper management.”

The Taylors are quick to point out they couldn’t do it on their own.

“My mom and dad have had a lot of help from other people in managing their woods, particularly the Kentucky Division of Forestry, UK’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and our local forester Chris Will,” Steve Taylor said. “There are a lot of people that go into making management things happen and having good things result from that.”

To view the video, click here.


Jeff Stringer, 859-257-5994