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Georgia Company Restores Wildlife Habitat

SUPERTRAK Inc. Machines Enable BCS to Remove Undesirable Vegetation, Improve Land for Wildlife

By Pete Hildebrandt
Date Posted: 11/1/2006

TYRONE, Georgia — Brush Clearing Services is taking advantage of the growing market for wildlife habitat development. The two-year-old company’s motto is, ‘Environmentally-friendly forestry management and land-clearing.’

        BCS is owned by Brian Shepherd, 35, Tony Martin, 57, a developer and homebuilder, and Benny Stultz, 48. The three men have worked on ways to diversify their young business.

        “We’re trying to do what’s best for the long-term future of the land,” said Brian. “We want to preserve for our children and grandchildren a countryside they’re able to enjoy. Habitats throughout the country are decreasing with the amount of growth and urbanization taking place everywhere in the nation. We just want to preserve what we can.”

        When the company first started, Brian and Tony spoke with Tom King of Supertrak Inc. in Punta Gorda, Florida to discuss machinery options. Brian and Tony were very interested in SUPER­TRAK’s customized forestry equipment. During the course of organizing the new company and making decisions about equipment, BCS added another partner, Benny Stultz, to help with handling field crew work.

        “Tony works as the organizational skills man in the business,” said Brian. “He’s adept at managing the money. He also looks for the best pieces of equipment, such as those offered by SUPERTRAK Inc., and cutting costs wherever possible. I bring my endless supply of needed wildlife contacts throughout the country to the business as well as my skills in sales. I also do all the customer relations work for BCS,” said Brian. Benny manages the actual job sites and supervises the employees doing the work.

        “All these three functions are indispensable to make the business successful,” said Brian. “Each of us brings our own strengths to the table. Just like a three-legged stool, every one of us is needed to make it work.”

        Some of the jobs that BCS performs are on difficult terrain, including wetlands, that requires specialty equipment. “One of the reasons we’ve dealt with Tom King has been to get the right equipment for such conditions involving low ground pressure,” said Brian. “We run strictly on tracked equipment with wide pads.”

        In Georgia, Brian started working with private landowners, primarily managing forests for deer and turkey. When they realized there was a substantial market for managing wildlife habitat, they started looking into forestry mulching equipment.

        “The first time I saw one of these pieces of equipment operate, I knew there was a real market out there for this particular product and service,” said Brian. “The beauty of this product is that there is no soil disturbance, it is environmental-friendly, and there is no debris to haul off or burn. One of my first thoughts was that this could be developed into a substantial niche market. We could go either into property development, including residential sites and commercial developments, or in the direction of wildlife habitat development.”

        SUPERTRAK Inc. is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) company utilizing Caterpillar components. It designs and manufactures a complete line of vegetation management and land clearing equipment — from 97 hp to 450 hp, rubber-tired and track machines.

        SUPERTRAK Inc. also is the Fecon dealer in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Fecon forestry mulchers, available in a wide range of sizes and capacities, are attached to wheel or track machines to process vegetation into mulch. The Fecon mulching attachment uses hammermill technology to shred and pulverize vegetation, including trees. The Fecon BH40, for example, cuts a 37-inch swath and can shred trees up to 32 inches in diameter.

        SUPERTRAK Inc. carriers range from relatively small skid steers to skidders, excavators and bulldozers.

        Brian went to college in northwest Florida and then moved to southwest Texas. He gained experience in wildlife habitat management while working on the Tecomate Deer Hunting Ranch. Brian worked under Dr. Gary Schwartz.

        “I wanted to learn everything I could from this professor of wildlife science, and that’s where I gained much of my expertise,” he recalled, “from practical hands-on work in the field, being open to new things and avoiding institutional mindsets.”

        Brian’s duties included wildlife management and habitat management. He had an opportunity to work with some of the country’s best wildlife biologists, both at the Texas ranch and since then. He worked in Texas for two years before moving back to Georgia.

        Because Brian had learned about managing wildlife habitat and had some contacts in this niche service, he felt with the right equipment he could provide services to manipulate vegetation to improve
land for wildlife and landowners. Managing the land through manipulating vegetation would improve the wildlife habitat, improve wildlife populations, and make the property more valuable and aesthetically attractive.

        When wildlife habitat is improved, it helps many species, not just one, Brian noted. “This can be good for waterfowl, upland bird species, deer, turkey, rabbit or anything when it comes to wildlife,” he said.

        One of the chief ways the company can improve wildlife habitat is by removing invasive hardwood species, such as sweet gum “That’s primarily what we do,” Brian explained. “We can go into pine or hardwood stands and eliminate the bad stuff or low quality trees.” Removing invasive hardwoods opens up the forest and allows the sun to reach the ground, which encourages the growth of other vegetation that provides important benefits for wildlife, such as honeysuckle, greenbrier and blackberry. “These species create both good food and cover for wildlife,” said Brian.

        Two of the most important plants for wildlife, according to Brian, are greenbrier and Japanese honeysuckle; the latter provides food for deer.

        One of the benefits of using equipment to manipulate and manage vegetation is that the results are immediate.  “You can do a lot with burning or herbicide management,” Brian observed, “but a lot of people want instant results, and this forestry mulching gives you instant results — not only aesthetically, but from the standpoint of habitat management.”

        “We can take a standing tree, and with this particular piece of equipment, we can actually grind it up and mulch it as well as grinding the stump below the soil surface. The bed of mulch where the tree once was now helps reduce soil erosion.”

        Some land-clearing methods, such as bulldozing, can create soil erosion, Brian added. In addition, trees and brush that are pushed down by bulldozers must be disposed of, usually by burying, burning or hauling them away. In fact, BCS also works with logging contractors to clean up logging slash and debris.

        “Landfills don’t want such wood debris anymore either because they are filling up, and new air permitting restrictions now make burning problematic as well,” said Brian. “As the population is increasing, the old ways of dealing with wood debris have become less and less of an option.”

        BCS recently completed a waterfowl habitat restoration project on a 641-acre site near Stuttgart, Arkansas. The SUPER­TRAK Inc. forestry mulching equipment was used to help reclaim a reservoir.
BCS removed unwanted vegetation, and then the area was replanted with a special millet to provide food for migrating waterfowl.

        “They came in behind our treatment and replanted using the millet,” said Brian. “Now that the project is done, it is to be left completely alone.” No hunting will be allowed on the property, according to Brian. “It will be strictly an area for the waterfowl to rest during their migration.”

        The site will be accessible to the public for bird and wildlife watching. A deck will allow people to look out over the reservoir and observe the birds and wildlife. The site is in a region known for its abundant and rare wildlife. South of the area, an Ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to be extinct since the 1940s, was recently sighted.

        BCS has started another project in the same region involving the 33,000 acre Bayou Meto Wildlife Refuge. The company is cleaning out drainage ditches in order to help drain excess water off the land. Because the drains have become clogged, low quality, undesirable trees and brush have sprouted up. As water accumulated, it killed species that were desirable for wildlife.

        “This is a big rice growing area,” Brian explained. “Right before they harvest the rice, the water was released off the fields. The water, coupled with the winter rains, accumulated in the giant bowl forming this wildlife management area. One hundred and 11 miles of slues and different drainage channels run through the area. Silt had loaded up over the years.”

        A trapper also was hired to remove beavers from the refuge. Beavers had dammed up the slues, another reason the water would not drain properly.

        “There were too many beavers,” said Brian. “Not only were they girdling, killing and cutting the timber down, they were also using the timber for building dams. This entire project has been worked on now for three years. Once the beavers had been reduced, we went in with our specialized equipment to clear the drains.”

        The BCS workers went into Bayou Meto with three pieces of equipment and cleared an 80-foot right-of-way, 40 feet on each side of the drainage ditches. Forestry officials flagged the boundaries.

        The first piece of equipment that BCS put into the project was a SUPERTRAK SK400TR custom track mulcher, which is powered by a diesel engine. Through the entire project the machine has been operated on soybean biodiesel fuel, which reduces emissions. “This part of the country farms a lot of soybeans, so biodiesel is readily available,” said Brian.

        “We’ve been on this project for four months now,” he added. “We started the grinding and mulching treatment in July in the beginning stages of operations. I started out by doing all the planning on this project, including obtaining all the Arkansas contacts and setting up spec guidelines in order to accomplish the treatment they wanted, and suggesting what equipment would work best.”

        All three SUPERTRAK Inc. machines are equipped with Fecon mulching attachments — the SUPERTRAK SK400TR, SUPER­TRAK SK120TR, and the SUPER­TRAK SK120PP power pack mounted on a CAT312 excavator. BCS owns two of the machines and leases the third.

        The excavator was used to treat wetland areas in Bayou Meto that could not be treated with the other equipment. The equipment bogged down some times in mud, but the problems were minimized because of the tracks and the machine’s low ground pressure.

        “If we’d gone in with heavy-duty rubber-tired machinery, we wouldn’t have been able to stand up in all those low-lying areas,” said Brian.

        BCS has taken on a whole new market and new concept in forestry management, said Brian. Some companies provide similar services for land development and reforestation. BCS does some work with developers, but that is a small segment of its business. Brian’s primary interests are in wildlife habitat management.

        Anyone who owns timberland and who is managing their property for timber should also be interested in managing it for wildlife, according to Brian. “There’s a tremendous amount of value derived from wildlife management now,” he said. “If you have a property that not only has timber value but also has wildlife value, that’s going to bring you a lot more money down the road.”

        “With so much land that has been bought and placed in the private sector now, this has opened up a new market for us,” said Brian. “Many of the large timber companies, such as Mead-Westvaco, International Paper and St. Regis, among others, are now selling their properties, primarily to private landowners.” The forests are being purchased as investments in timber and recreation, according to Brian.

        “That recreational investment is primarily wildlife. You see this going on all over the place at the moment. People are very environmentally-conscious now and are searching for ways to do things beneficial to the environment, whether it’s in burning better fuel, driving a better car or anything that creates the best environment for those coming after us.”

        Brian has a basic philosophy when it comes to his work: “I have a lot of fun.”

        “I’ve been blessed to be able to work around a lot of good people over the years,” he added, “and this company has come together over the years as it has because of good people. That’s the basis of all companies. I don’t care what you’re doing in life, as long as you surround yourself with good people — that’s the key to a successful business.”


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