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District foresters see the value in trees

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District
Published April 26, 2023
Barry Tucker, Louisville District forester, stands near harvested timber.

Barry Tucker, Louisville District forester, stands near harvested timber. District foresters support the military installation and civil works project Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan and Operations Management Plan by providing an efficient means of disposal of real property. (Courtesy photo)

Martin Wilson, Louisville District forester, measures a white oak during timber inventory.

Martin Wilson, Louisville District forester, measures a white oak during timber inventory. District foresters ensure multiple-use of forest resources to support the mission objectives of military installations and civil works projects. (Courtesy photo)

Contractors harvest timber, April 12, 2023 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

Contractors harvest timber, April 12, 2023 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district foresters manage timber sales on military installations in the five-state area of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Charles Delano)

Trees are not the first topic one thinks of when describing the Louisville District mission. In the Real Estate Division Forestry Team reside Barry Tucker, Certified Forester, and Martin Wilson, who are dedicated professional foresters with a “Can Do” attitude.

As part of the mission of the Real Estate Division, foresters administer the management and disposal of real property for both civil works and military projects. In this case, real property is trees and the disposal is in the form of timber sales. The USACE Forestry Team ensures the execution of the Army’s forest and land management goals through various disposal and real estate actions.  

“It’s not about the timber sale or revenue generated,” said Barry Tucker, Louisville District Forester.  “It is about enabling the Army mission of training troops, stewardship of the environment and contributing to the quality of life by providing goods and services to the American people for the present and future generations.”

Louisville District foresters manage the timber sales on military installations located in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. But that is not all they do. They have also crossed district and division lines to carry out forestry tasks such as timber assessments on trespasses, wetland mitigation and land purchases. They have even been called to assist with large forest fires.

“Our Fort Knox forestry program has a solid and professional partnership with the Louisville District,” said David Jones, Forestry Program manager, Fort Knox Directorate of Public Works. “Through the experience and expertise provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, our forestry program functions well.”

Although timber sales are a large portion of a USACE forester’s job, it might be easy to overlook the fact that they are foresters with an extensive skillset. These skills are used to advise and assist the Department of Defense and federal land holding agencies with matters relating to timber as real property, land management, forest inventories, forest insects and diseases, forest industry trends and market conditions, and wildland and prescribed fire implementation and risk assessment.

“During a timber sale at the Fort Knox Wilcox Range project, we were able to identify 1000 loads of harvestable timber from an impact zone,” Tucker said. “Metal from range ammunition that was embedded in the trees caused the timber not to be harvestable. By identifying the clean timber, we were able to salvage 2.1 million board feet of lumber and 9,000 tons of pulpwood.”

Another important aspect from timber sales is the revenue generated from the tree disposal. With annual timber proceeds are excess of $13 million, the Army boasts the largest forestry program within the Department of Defense. Of that total, annual revenue from timber sales on military installations within the Louisville District have averaged more than $1 million for the past ten years which ranked the district fourth out of ten districts. State and county governments receive forty percent of the net timber income which is used for schools and roads.

“The Army Corps of Engineers is a great resource for the forestry program at Camp Atterbury,” said Devin Fishel, Camp Atterbury lead forester. “It is a win-win for us. We get the timber ready and USACE makes the sales happen.”

In addition to timber sales, district foresters also manage agricultural land outgrants on military installations. This serves the two purposes of reducing mowing and maintenance of many acres of land on installations as well as provides a revenue stream from farmers who use the land to grow hay or crops. Projected revenue of agricultural leases this year is more than $600,000 which ranks the Louisville District third nationally out of 15 districts for 2022.

“Not only does the Louisville District forestry program assist the military mission, it also provides ecological benefits such as enhancing wildlife habitat, improving timber quality and increasing forest regeneration,” said Nancy Davis, Louisville District Real Estate Division deputy chief.

Which ever way you look at it, district foresters are tasked with the important job of managing timber, supporting the Army mission and maintaining a healthy forest through good land stewardship practices.

“Army forestry works,” Tucker said. “For the mission – for the environment – for the people.”