2017 Conservation Forester Award goes to Brown

The Washington County Soil and Water Conservation District wants to recognize the outstanding forest stewardship completed by Bronie Brown. Bronie and his wife, Sandy, have been forest landowners since 1983. They began managing their woodland in 1984 following a field visit with Don Stump, a now retired forester with the Indiana Department of Natural Resource (IDNR) Division of Forestry. Don convinced Bronie that he didn’t want to clear trees to farm but that he should manage the trees he had as if it were a crop.

At that point, Bronie set a goal of creating a sustainable forest for timber production and wildlife habitat with timber production as his priority. Bronie then signed up and attended the Purdue University Forest Management short course. This intensive eight week course motivated the Browns to enroll approximately 174 acres into the Indiana Classified Forest program. Since that time, they have continued to enroll acres and are up to almost 300 acres in the Indiana Classified Forest and Wildlands Program. Bronie felt this short course offered him so much knowledge that he went through it for the second time.

One of the first best management practices (BMP) that Bronie completed was forest stand improvement that followed his first timber sale in 1984. It was at this time that he forged a long-time working relationship with Sam Bond, a consultant forester and logger. Bronie emphasized the importance of having a good forester and logger relationship. Bronie went on to share “our relationship that was built on trust with Sam has been very beneficial to us over the years.”  

Another early adopted BMP was removing all cattle from the woodland acreage. He stated that he saw that change in management would take care of what he had in the woods and he wanted to make it a sustainable investment.

He then began to concentrate on improving the species of timber that he had in his woods. He wanted to maximize the growth of the white oak. His woods are comprised of hard maple; red, white, black, and chinquapin oak; beech, pignut and shagbark hickory; sycamore; and yellow poplar.  

In 2012, Bronie decided that he wanted to try to help increase the number of oak trees on the property. He enrolled into Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which offers an additional incentive from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and converted a 19.7 acre White River bottom field to trees. He also utilized the Conservation Reserve Program to plant an additional 17.8 acres of trees on the ridgetops.  

When asked why he converted cropland to trees, Bronie had several reasons. On the ridgetops, he wanted to address the ephemeral and rill erosion. These fields were surrounded by trees that shaded out the growing crop and reduced the yield.  In the bottom land, it had failing tile and remained wet throughout the growing season, accessibility to the field was hard to maintain and Bronie decided that it just needed to go back to what was natural:  trees.

Bronie has now completed forest stand improvement on all of his woodland acres in the last five years to remove undesirable tree species and grapevines. He is also addressing invasive species including tree-of-heaven, honey locust, devil’s walking stick and garlic mustard. He has also created multiple forest openings ranging in size from one-half to one acre. These openings were created by removing dominantly white ash which had been infested with the emerald ash borer. These openings allow for the natural succession of oaks and hickories to grow back into the forest. They also provide very good habitat for small game. Bronie said that much of this work was completed by his consultant forester Nathan Kachnavage.  He also utilizes the expertise of Ben McKinney, the current IDNR forester.

Bronie also took his love for the woods a step farther. He purchased a Wood-Mizer saw. This saw mill allows him to create a value-added product by cutting up logs that have been harvested but also to salvage down trees on the farm. He and Sandy also sponsor the Washington County 4-H forestry project to encourage youth to appreciate the value of the woods.

While Bronie noted that he has done a lot in their woods over the years, he still has some additional best management practices left to install and or maintain.  

The Washington County SWCD offer their congratulations to Bronie on the outstanding management of his woodland acres.

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