‘Certified Tree Farm’ status marks a first for JCJC forestry students

Written By: Teresa Martin
Email Address: teresa.martin@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2012-06-26 08:45:31

ELLISVILLE – Jones County Junior College’s forestry students spent most of their spring semester preparing and implementing a tree farm management plan to become the only college in Mississippi to earn approval for such a project. Jones County Service Forester Aaron Rambin inspected E.J. Dennis’ family property in Ovett and declared it as a “Certified Tree Farm”, thanks to the assistance of these young foresters.

“I was getting advice from a colleague on how to better manage my family’s land when JCJC forestry instructor Jeff Keeton thought it would be a great class project,” said retired JCJC counselor and land owner, E.J. Dennis.

Earning the “Certified Tree Farm” status is not easy according to Keeton and the Mississippi Forestry Commission. However, Mississippians are the most successful.

“Mississippi is currently the #1 state in the U.S. in the number of certified tree farms,” said Jones County Service Forester, Aaron Rambin. “There are currently 37 certified tree farms in Jones County at this time.”

The tree farm system was established in 1941 with Mississippi adopting the management system in 1944. Keeton explained there are numerous benefits to earning an official “Tree Farm Certification” for the property owner.

“When you manage your land or trees you get a better yield, the wild life living in the forest can thrive and managing land helps the land owner better plan and prepare for harvesting and planting,” said Keeton. “Land owners will also realize a monetary benefit as more companies are only buying from certified tree farms.”

The Dennis’ immediate goal was to preserve the land for their enjoyment.

“We wanted the family land to be used for recreation so we’ll have four-wheeler trails and designated turkey hunting sites so the whole family can better appreciate the 135 acres of land,” said E.J. Dennis. “This will also ensure there is a sustainable yield so we never run out of trees.”  

For 55 years Dennis’ father, Emile owned the land and raised Poll Hereford cows and never had any interest in becoming a certified tree farmer.  

“I wanted to preserve the family legacy and to have available income for the education of our future generations,” said Kay Dennis, E.J.’s wife. “I dread the day we have to clear cut so this management plan will provide a strategy to replant and cultivate for the future.”

Four sophomore Silviculture students from Laurel, Ricky Beck, David Wade, Jamie Pistole and Randy Sherrell designed the management plan that best met the criteria set by the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the Dennis’. They not only had a rare opportunity as college students to create a tree farm management plan but they also earned approval from the state for their efforts and implementation. Sherrell was grateful for the opportunity to apply his team’s plan. 

“This is more than a grade. This is what foresters do every day. We’ve had a well-rounded scope of experience cruising timber, managing prescribed burns and use of land. We’re ready for the job.”

Pistole explained the project was labor intensive and time consuming, but worth it.

“We had to determine and document the property lines, if there were any endangered species on the property, what species of trees were on the property and then merge the plan with the owner’s goals for use of the forest,” said Pistole.

With the help of Keeton and future forestry students, Dennis will have a little help ensuring his family’s property keeps the sought after ‘seal of approval.’


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