Kentucky 2017 Tallow Creek Farm Bradfordsville Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

Tallow Creek Farm

While 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 1,100 acres of forest to Tallow Creek Farm.

While enjoying the recreation opportunities on the land, Harry and Karen realized it needed some work. They 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. The Pelles are no longer solely focused on recreation. 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. This 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. As the current crop of trees matures, when the stand conditions warrant, timber harvests will be implemented on a schedule to maximize long term sustainable production.

Timber stand improvements (TSI) have improved the quality of forest crops, and 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. The combination of forestry methods used by the Pelles create habitat for wildlife and insects (that are a valuable food source for birds).

Sustainable income to continue forest improvements is 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," said Steve Beam, wildlife division director for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. "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."

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