The Georgia Forestry Commission on Jan. 20 recognized the work Jimmy Fullbright, his wife, Elvie, and son Lee do to manage their heavily-wooded 200-acre property in Columbia County.
The Fullbrights' Honey Oak Farms, a parcel the family uses primarily for recreation off White Oak Road near Interstate 20, was recognized by the commission as a stewardship forest for the family's work to prevent wildfires and maintain wildlife habitats.
"That's our old homeplace. That land has been in our family since way before the Civil War," Jimmy Fullbright said.
Lee Fullbright built a home overlooking a 14-acre pond; Jimmy and Elvie live in Macon.
Chief Ranger Steve Abbott said the Fullbrights came to his office to develop a plan to protect the property by selective thinning of the timber and controlled burning.
"The thinning was not done for revenue but to improve the place," Jimmy Fullbright said, adding that aesthetics and safety improved as a result.
As part of the forest stewardship program, Georgia Forestry compiled plans to prevent forest fires by burning underbrush, which can serve as fuel for wildfires; cutting fire breaks to separate and contain any potential fire; building accessible roads through the property; and logging to thin timber to reduce disease and competition for the health of the forest, Abbott said.
Burning and thinning is broken up into zones and performed on alternating years, Abbott said.
Georgia Forestry also inventoried the property's vegetation.
The property was researched for historical significance, wetlands were documented and wildlife biologists from the Department of Natural Resources catalogued wildlife and searched for potential rare, threatened or endangered species.
To become a stewardship forest, the plan, which is updated every five years, must be signed off by Georgia Forestry, the Department of Natural Resources and the United States Department of Agriculture, said Cliff Hargrove, a senior forester from Georgia Forestry.
The Fullbrights certification as the state's 215th stewardship forest became official Sept. 9, and their property is one of fewer than 250 in the state, Hargrove said.
"It's what you're supposed to do," Jimmy Fullbright said of responsible land ownership. "We didn't do it for the award. We did it for the stewardship of the land."
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