FORT A.P. HILL, Va. – For a pair of Real Estate Office staffers at Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there really is no confusing the forest for the trees.
District foresters Andrew Willey and Stefan Flores are responsible for timber sales and helping manage forests on military installations and other Army real property. Through competitive industry bids – while meeting environmental compliance – they administer contracts, provide oversight of logging operations, and obtain maximum proceeds for federal projects and local communities.
In support of installation foresters, the two handle timber removal for all of North Atlantic Division, and they got the woods covered – from the Canadian border down to North Carolina.
“Fort A.P. Hill is along the southern extent of our border,” Willey said. “We run into the New England states and extend over to Fort Drum in western New York. The entire NAD corridor is the area we manage from Norfolk District.
“Conducting timber harvests at these military installations allows for the opportunity to manage the Army’s landscape. It’s a large portfolio of land. What we can do as a service to the taxpayer is not only own and use this land, but maintain it as well.”
By carrying out timber disposal, Norfolk District’s forestry section facilitates the USACE mission across the region, clearing space for military construction, housing, environmental and civil works projects, he added.
Proper harvesting and removal also aligns with military operational needs. Open ranges are created for large vehicles, Infantry maneuvers and other field-training exercises.
“The Army has a lot of standing timber out here that otherwise without timber harvest would go untreated,” Willey said. “The untreated stands are less desirable to be mission ready for troop training.”
Flores says managing the real property – the timber on each installation – supports the overall Army mission.
“It’s an active part in sculpting an individual training area’s objective for readiness,” he said. “Our services enable the Army not only to adapt the training area and ranges but also capture value in the process. We are able to manage Army real estate and make way for changing military needs while collecting potential profits and funneling that money back into the landscape through different natural-resource management projects.”
Forest management ensures healthier forests, future timber supply, sustained growth and replacement. Safety and eliminating environmental risks are other key factors.
“If you have unmanaged stands, you can have an invasion of disease or pests that attack trees,” Willey said. “If you had a monoculture stand of pine, for example, and the Southern pine beetle sweeps through, essentially you have now a dead stand of pine.
“We’re mitigating that risk by doing timber harvests.”
Dead trees add another threat to Army installations and surrounding communities: forest fire.
“The last thing we want to do is load our woods with fuel or potential for more fire,” he added. “We’re fortunate on the East Coast – we’re generally wetter than the West. However, if we fall into an extended drought, we’re at risk for fire here.”
Willey said the Norfolk District program generates more than $1 million annually in timber sales for the Army, including $550,000 from Fort A.P. Hill.
The district’s Real Estate Office works with installation foresters to prepare each sale.
“We award contracts to purchasers, monitor the sale and close it out,” he said. “All the revenue that comes in from that sale goes through our section. We ensure the Army gets the money for disposal of its real property, and the local communities also see a monetary benefit through state entitlements.”
Flores said there are misconceptions about forestry, timber harvesting and all that goes into today’s industry.
“I always try to encourage those who haven’t sat down and analyzed just how much forest products are integrated into everyday life to do so,” he said. “That is the simplest way to realize how important an industry and mission it is and increase awareness about the need for proper management. There are places where we have long been producing paper, lumber and other products through the management of forested lands.”
Beyond economics and mission support, however, land management is among the federal government’s most significant roles, he added.
“We are put in a position of public trust where it’s expected of us and all other federal land managers to do what’s for the greatest good of this resource and the American people to which it belongs,” Flores said. “Preservation, growth, planned disposal with regard to purpose and results. That’s what we do as foresters.”