Edwin “Skeeter” Sims and his wife, Madge, moved to an inherited piece of family property in 2013, where they built their dream home in the rolling hills of North Alabama. Soon after, they began to talk about the rest of the property. They had many goals; They wanted to be good stewards and restore the forests, they wanted to live off the land financially, and most importantly, they wanted to create a productive wildlife habitat. After working with several local organizations, Skeeter had plans for wood and water outlined, but had not found a solution for improving wildlife habitat. He also felt it was hard to visualize all this work together. That’s when Skeeter came across an ad for WoodsCamp. He easily found his parcel, discovered valuable information about his land and the opportunities that were available to him, and was connected with a free visit from a wildlife biologist. Skeeter added the wildlife biologists suggestions into his larger plan, and has begun to implement these stewardship actions.
“It really pulled together all the work, helped me visualize my goals, and plan for my land.”
After 28 years of service in the Navy and more than a dozen homes across the U.S., Edwin ‘Skeeter’ Sims and his wife, Madge, settled down among the rolling hills and forests of Northern Alabama. After building their dream home on inherited land, they began to talk about the rest of the property.
They had many goals.
- They wanted to be good stewards and restore the forests
- They wanted to live off the land financially
- And most importantly, they wanted to create productive wildlife habitat
They had their work cut out for them. It had been a decade since Skeeter had seen wild turkey on the property and the land was covered in invasive species. Several sections of forest were overgrown with loblolly. A few years of drought had caused significant damage to the oaks, causing many to fall and dry up an important creek bed.
Skeeter, needing to start somewhere, called his county forester. They talked about many things – where to cut pines, create fire breaks, and conduct prescribed burns. The forest pro recommended calling the local (NRCS) office and applying for the (EQIP) to help restore his creek bed. Together they outlined a harvest plan. He then called the NRCS office and applied for the EQIP program for his creek bed.
Skeeter was glad to have his plans for wood and water outlined, but had not figured out what to do for wildlife. He also felt it was hard to visualize all this work together. What he really wanted was an aerial view of his property, so he could draw out sections and record goals to make each as productive as possible.
A few days later an ad popped up on Facebook for WoodsCamp, an technology. Skeeter easily found his parcel, answered a few questions about his forest goals, and received his woodland report, matching him with a free visit with a local wildlife biologist and an opportunity to restore shortleaf habitat for wild turkey. Skeeter was excited – advice about wildlife was a key piece of what he was missing from his plans.
Skeeter walked the land with Brandon, a local wildlife biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation [part of My Alabama Woods, helping forest owners create better habitat for wildlife]. He reviewed both his harvest and EQIP plans, and suggested management activities that would complement these plans to specifically help wildlife – creating transition areas between tree stands, how to make the creek bed more accessible to wildlife, and more. Skeeter added all these suggestions to his overall plan.
PROGRAMS THAT SKEETER WAS ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF
- Free Visit from a Wildlife Biologists
- (EQIP) to help restore his creek bed
- Short Leaf Pine Restoration to improve wildlife habitat
He feels good about the progress he has made so far. He’s glad to be settling into retirement and connecting with nature in a positive way.
As Skeeter and Madge begin to implement their management plan, their thirst for knowledge has only grown. They are looking forward to engaging with local events to learn and share with other professionals and landowners in their area. Skeeter knows they are just getting started, but he feels good about the progress he has made so far. He's glad to be settling into retirement and connecting with nature in a positive way. The home and land they have protected is something they will be able to enjoy with their kids and grandkids, together, in the future.
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