Leopold Conservation Award Program - Kentucky 2017

Kentucky 2017 Tallow Creek Farm Bradfordsville, KY Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

While working tirelessly at their jobs running a custom injection molding firm, Ray Pelle and his son Harry decided to pursue their dream of owning land to reconnect with nature and hunt. Ray bought the first 400-acre tract of land in 1982 in the knobby Tallow Creek area of northern Taylor County. After Ray’s passing in 2003, Harry and his wife Karen continued to follow the dream and have since added another 1,100 acres of forest onto Tallow Creek Farm. 

While enjoying the recreation opportunities on the land, Harry and Karen realized it needed some work. The Pelles contacted the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for technical guidance. This blossomed into new ideas for habitat improvements, developing Forest Stewardship Plans with the Kentucky Division of Forestry, and taking advantage of USDA programs for forest management. Today, the Pelles are no longer solely focused on recreation, but now they have embraced long term sustainable forest management to keep their investment productive for generations to come.

Nearly 1,330 acres of the property has a long history of logger choice harvest and occasional wildfire, which left mostly small-to-medium saw timber with a large percentage of low quality, less desirable species. The family has been working to improve timber quality through cull tree removal and mid-story removal for regeneration. Dead and low-quality trees have been harvested for firewood. The current crop of trees is maturing and when the stand conditions warrant, timber harvests will be implemented on a schedule to maximize long term sustainable production. 

Tallow Creek Farm

Timber stand improvements (TSI) have not only improved the quality of forest crops, but they have also significantly improved wildlife habitat. TSI creates openings in the forest canopy that stimulate increased growth of understory vegetation, providing browse, cover and soft mast for wildlife. Ring girdling and hack and squirt methods used by the Pelles leave snags that are important for cavity nesting wildlife, and harbor insects that are a valuable food source for birds.

Sustainable income to continue forest improvements is very important to the Pelles. Harry and Karen entered their property into a 15-year carbon sequestration agreement with Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development (MACED) in 2010. Income generated from the carbon credits will be used to sustain the property and forest management activities for future generations. 

“While every landowner and acre of improved habitat is important, some landowners and improvements leave an undeniable impression. Harry and Karen Pelle are exceptional landowners who truly stand out as wildlife managers with a stewardship ethic. They have been able to piece together a remarkable farm that is being managed for timber production and recreation compatible with an equal desire of fish and wildlife habitat.” – Steve Beam, Wildlife Division Director, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources.

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