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Warnell family continues conservation legacy
NRCS District Conservationist James Austin (left) and Fred Warnell. - photo by Photo provided.

The Warnell name is one that is well-known and respected in the forestry community.

Fred Warnell is a man who is determined and committed to making sure the family’s legacy of conservation continues. The Warnell family moved to Groveland, Ga., from Beaufort, S.C. in the 1700s. The family farmed trees for several years for gum and turpentine products.

By the time Warnell was born, the family had transitioned to mainly timber production and management. Warnell has been farming for 40 years now and said that he was born, raised and directed to do it.

“I planted my first tree plantation on seven acres when I was in the 6th grade. That was for a 4H project back in 1961. I’ve cut those seven acres three times,” Warnell said.

Over the years, Warnell has devoted time to organizations that work to protect natural resources in Georgia. His involvement with the Georgia Forestry Commission and Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission introduced him to programs offered by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“I saw what was offered and how important that assistance was to landowners,” Warnell added.

In 2007, Warnell was awarded a Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program contract. Through this agreement, a total of 110 acres have undergone timber management improvement. Herbicide was sprayed on 54 acres to manage pests such as invasive plants. Prescribed burning has been completed on 60 acres.

Both of these conservation practices help create a better environment for timber growth and reforestation. It also helps improve the wildlife habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and indigo snake.

A 2009 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contract has also helped address timber management improvement through prescribed burning and pest management.

Warnell sprayed 22 acres with herbicide under EQIP assistance and 20 more acres have undergone prescribed burning.
“If you manage your stands and get a good return. When you sell, that’s 10 percent less you’ll have to spend on reforestation,” Warnell explained.

NRCS District Conservationist, James Austin has worked with Warnell on the conservation practices and said it has been a pleasure working with him.

“He’s definitely a conservationist,” Austin said. “It’s not a hassle to get him to stay on track. He does good work and meets all our specifications. He wants to do right by the natural resources.”

Warnell said that he is diligent in protecting natural resources because of future generations.

“The decisions I make are decisions that will affect my siblings, children, grandchildren and others,” he said.

Warnell added the NRCS has been instrumental in helping him meet his goals and that both EQIP and WHIP have made a big difference in his timber production operation.

“It gives you the incentive to get off your duff and do something,” he said. “They help fill in the gaps.”

Hinds is an information specialist with the USDA.

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