There are more than 48,000 acres of public lands spread across Benton, Carroll and Henderson Counties. Over 36,000 of those acres are co-managed for forest and wildlife conservation.
These public lands represent a conservation success story demonstrating how active forest management can ensure the sustainability of the resource while supplying the benefits inherit to the land – wood products, clean air, clear water, wildlife habitat, and recreation.
Natchez Trace Conservation Story
Natchez Trace State Forest originated from lands purchased by the Resettlement Administration and was designated a State Forest in 1949. The Forest, now totaling 36,642 acres was placed under the direction of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry, with the understanding that the forest would be developed for multiple uses including recreation and forestry demonstration. While the Division of Forestry is primarily responsible for protecting, conserving, and enhancing the Forest, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency co-manages the land to improve wildlife habitat. This collaborative relationship has occurred since the 1970’s. Tennessee State Parks also manages about 12,000 acres solely for recreational purposes on a few interior sections of the state land. In total, the state land area consists of over 48,000 acres. Timber harvesting only occurs on the forest and not on the park.
As with many state forests across the state, this land was placed under state management to improve it from previous abuses and poorly managed conditions and to enhance it by managing for soil, water, mineral, forest, and wildlife conservation. The Division is proud of the successful history with restoring this land from gullies and ravines to a healthy and resilient state while also making it productive for timber and wildlife benefits on a sustainable basis.
This area is a popular destination for hunters, hikers, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. These uses, together with timber management, make this a fully functional multiple use state land for Tennessee residents and visitors.
Following decades of restoration, conservation and careful management, the Forest now contains an abundant supply of high-quality timber and other forest products. Timber harvesting is conducted to utilize this valuable resource while also working to regenerate the forest, generally on an 80 to 100-year rotation, and whose seedlings on the forest floor rely on abundant sunlight to grow into the next stand of trees. Pine seedlings are planted in stands where pine trees were harvested. Hardwood stands (oaks, hickories, maple, ash, walnut, etc.) typically regenerate well on their own following abundant mast-producing crops from the parent trees prior to harvest. Forestry operations, including timber harvesting, are conducted to demonstrate sustainable forest management through the use of best management practices (BMPs), which keep the creeks and streams clean, and science-based silvicultural and forest management methods, to ensure a healthy and renewable resource. The timber harvested helps to support local forest products industries.
No state appropriated funding is used in the management of the state forest system. This valuable state-owned land is managed on receipts from timber sales, which, again, are conducted to improve the health and resiliency of the forest, as well as to maintain forest roads and passive recreational opportunities. Timber sales are conducted under a sealed bid process and are publicly advertised, opened, and recorded. More details on timber harvest per state forest can be found on our web site: https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests/state-forests/state-forest-timber-sales.html.
It is the responsibility of the State of Tennessee to ensure the sustainability of the resource while supplying the benefits inherit to the land – wood products, clean air, clear water, wildlife habitat, and recreation.