Taking the Long ViewBy: American Forest Foundation
Salem Saloom will tell you he grew up outside. A childhood spent hiking, camping, and working his way from Cub Scout to Eagle Scout fostered a love of the woods, and the wildlife — particularly turkey — that roam them.
Salem and his wife Dianne purchased their first 158-acre piece of timberland in Conecuh County near Alabama’s Gulf Coast with hopes of growing timber and enjoying the wildlife, especially the turkey hunting.
Unfortunately, the Saloom’s vision was interrupted when Hurricane Ivan hit their land in 2004. The storm upended most of their loblolly and slash pine, leaving just a few older longleaf pine trees scattered across the land.
Salem had grown up seeing longleaf pine, but after the storm hit, they began to do a bit of research. He found that longleaf pine was once a vast and majestic species across the South that provided vital habitat for turkey and other critters he loved, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the threatened gopher tortoise. He learned that these wildlife species were dwindling because there wasn’t enough longleaf pine habitat for them to thrive and that while efforts to aid recovery were taking place on publicly owned land, little was being done on private land.
The storm and his subsequent research were turning points for Salem and his family. While he was practicing good forestry by following the laws and BMPs, Salem wondered if he could do more. The Salooms decided it was time for a new vision for their land that was focused on restoring longleaf pine forests that would be better able to withstand future hurricanes, drought, and pine beetle infestations. It would also provide the needed habitat for many of the wildlife species they enjoyed while still providing high valued wood fiber they could sell as timber.
Today, the Salooms own more than 2,200 acres, more than half of which is planted in longleaf. They plan to plant more in the future and will continue to maintain the overall health of their woods with prescribed burns that create the fresh ground growth wildlife depend on for food. Not only do Salem and Dianne find their longleaf forest beautiful, but they now have healthy populations of turkey, quail and deer. And they often see gopher tortoises and gopher tortoise nests on their land.
The Salooms are also actively encouraging other landowners in their community to join them in restoring longleaf forests. They hope for a day where some of the wildlife species can be delisted, and they can tell their grandchildren that they were a part of the recovery to make it happen