When Hurricane Michael swept through the Florida Panhandle in 2018, the category 5 storm left in its wake years’ worth of losses to one of the area’s largest industries, timber. Per estimates from the Florida Forest Service, a division of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), 550 million trees were damaged or destroyed, worth approximately $1.29 billion.
UF/IFAS is supporting these producers in their recovery through a series of webinars on relevant topics to the reforestation process. Hosted by the UF/IFAS Florida Land Steward program, an Extension service of the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC), the first event is scheduled for Sept. 10 at 1 p.m. CDT and will detail a just-announced block grant funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Last November, FDACS announced that a $380 million block grant from the USDA would soon be made available to benefit the state’s timber producers related to damage incurred in Hurricane Michael. It is part of a larger federal disaster relief package approved last year to aid in recovery efforts in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.
An Aug. 21 press release from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the administrator of the program, unveiled more details about the block grant requirements and application process. Per the release, producers eligible for the block grant must be the owner of record or the lessee with rights to the timber crop at the time of application of a minimum of 10 contiguous acres of nonindustrial private forest land located in one of the following Florida counties: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Okaloosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton and Washington. Registration is open through Nov. 20.
The schedule for the UF/IFAS webinar series can be found on the newly improved UF/IFAS Florida Land Steward program website, programs.ifas.ufl.edu/florida-land-steward, and participants must register in advance to receive the Zoom meeting information. The series will be recorded and remain accessible on the website following each live event.
“A lot of the topics covered will be good information for landowners moving forward, even if they haven’t been impacted by a hurricane,” said Chris Demers, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Land Steward program manager.
Planned webinar topics include:
- Hurricane Recovery Assistance Update and Timber Market Update (scheduled for Sept. 10 at 1 p.m. CDT / 2 p.m. EDT): Information about the block grant program with Daniel Stevens, cooperative forestry assistance supervisor at the Florida Forest Service; plus, a brief market update from Laura Bosworth, director of forestry and regulatory affairs at the Florida Forestry Association.
- Which Pine is Right for My Property? (scheduled for Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. CDT / 2 p.m. EDT) led by Stan Rosenthal, UF/IFAS Extension forestry agent emeritus and forest advocate, also affiliated with the Florida Wildlife Federation and Natural Resource Planning Services
- Keys to Success with Longleaf Pine and Enviva Biomass Partnership (scheduled for Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. CDT / 2 p.m. EDT), featuring Ad Platt, vice president for operations at The Longleaf Alliance; Ben Larson, director of sustainability at Enviva; Shawn Cook, sustainability forester at Enviva; and Billy Clark, commodity manager at Enviva.
- Invasive Species Identification and Control (scheduled for Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. CDT / 2 p.m. EDT), led by Brian Pelc, restoration project manager at The Nature Conservancy.
Demers shares more information about the block grant program at blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/sfrc/2020/08/26/registration-now-open-for-hurricane-michael-timber-recovery-block-grant-program.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
(featured image of Hurricane Michael damage is courtesy of Ann Blount, UF/IFAS)