Deliver Benefits to the Public

Forest stewardship helps keep important lands in active use

by Jarrett Caston, State and Private Forestry Program Specialist

Sandra Cummings. Photo courtesy of Sandra Cummings.

PORTAL, Ga. - The Forest Stewardship Program encourages the long-term care and management of important state and private forest landscapes by assisting landowners to more actively manage their forests and related resources. Amadou Diop, an Atlanta-based outreach liaison for the Forest Service, recently helped a Georgia grandmother find information about forest management/stewardship plans.

Sandra Cummings, an African American woman, is part owner of two forested landscapes. Her first property, 325 acres in Madison, was passed down by her maternal great-grandmother, who was born a slave. The second property consists of 165 acres in Portal passed down by her paternal grandfather. Both properties have been in the family for well over a century and carry a lot of history.

The Amadou helped Mrs. Cummings through a forest management and stewardship plan created by the Georgia Forestry Commission, which laid out a 10-year plan for managing the land.

“If it wasn’t for Amadou’s wealth of knowledge, willingness to help people, and putting me in touch with the resources directly, I would have never been able to get any of this done,” said Mrs. Cummings. “He made sure that I was taken care of, and he deserves a lot of credit.”

Under the plan’s guidance, Mrs. Cummings now uses the land in Madison for timber management, grazing for cattle, and wildlife habitat. She manages the land in Portal for forestry, wildlife, silvopasture (with assistance from the NRCS), and a pine straw operation.

“One of the benefits for me is the extra income from the pine straw operation —extra income is always good, you know,” she said. “Another thing is it increases your status when people know you own land. Back in the days of my great-grandmother, if you owned land then you were looked at as ‘high cotton’.

“It also gives you some self-sufficiency,” she continued. “If something were to happen in Atlanta—where we are living now, then we always have a place to go. If we needed to build another house or something….we can do it! So both lands give us some stability.”