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Pollinators like bees and butterflies are drawn to logged forests, where cleared or newly planted areas have plenty of pollen to roam. Our beekeeper video and all images in this story were captured in the forests of Rayonier.
Did you know that pollinators like bees and butterflies thrive in industrial forests? In fact, beekeepers use Rayonier land to nurture and grow their hives in this excellent pollinator habitat.
How do we protect the native plants and pollinators that inhabit our forests? Here we share how Rayonier supports and coexists with even its smallest residents: pollinators.
Believe it or not, it starts with the harvest.
How Rayonier Provides Great Pollinator Habitat
Rayonier believes that healthy forests are essential for all living things. The way we manage our land gives a variety of forest ages the opportunity to grow and flourish as Mother Nature intended.
The land owned by Rayonier is stratified by type of wood. The result is an inventory system that provides Rayonier with a method to sustainably harvest his land. This means that we harvest in rotation, cutting only small areas of wood belonging to a certain age class.
“We are very strategic in how we harvest our timber,” says Ben Cazell, sustainability manager. “We don’t want to start at one end of the forest and cut until we get to the other end and start over. Our goal is sustainability. We limit the amount of harvesting we do in one place due to the age of the trees. Since Rayonier has been doing this for almost 100 years, we have developed a mosaic or patchwork harvest calendar. It’s a big conglomeration, a mixed puzzle, of different ages.
Thanks to the patchwork-style harvest schedule, when a section of wood is harvested, sunlight can reach the understory of the forest. Here, the seeds of native flowering plants lie dormant in the ground, ready to germinate. The result ultimately creates an abundance of flowering plants, shrubs, and vines, all of which produce pollen that attracts pollinators.
“I saw a multitude of flowering herbaceous plants, ferns, shrubs and vines like the climbing jasmine. It all starts to kick in after a timber harvest,” says Ben.
Rayonier replants harvested areas in one to two years and most understory floral growth is present for about 5 to 6 years. Towards half the life of the trees, as the forest becomes denser, slimming some trees help keep the forest healthy. The thinning again allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, resulting in the re-emergence of understory flowering plants and shrubs. Foliage is naturally distributed, allowing pollinators acres and acres of flowering resources. In these efforts, we maintain a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem that serves all residents, including pollinators.
“I’m sure that from an ecological balance scenario, all of this flora and fauna is needed,” says Ben. “As soon as you move something, that balance is compromised. Are pollinators important to Rayonier? Certainly yes !”
There are also portions of land – about a third of Rayonier’s overall U.S. ownership – that the company does not actively manage for logging operations, but instead protects because of wetlands or waterways. Rayonier also strictly follows each state’s Best Management Practices, or BMPs, which are guidelines to ensure that forestry and harvesting activities do not impact nearby waters.
The beekeeper’s point of view
Our land is so pollinator friendly that we have a beekeeping business that has allowed beekeepers to keep their hives on our property for over 60 years.
We work with hobbyists, small honey business owners and industrial honey producers, says Barlow Smith, Rayonier Hunting and Recreation Sales and Marketing Manager, who manages the business.
“Some of the larger beekeepers we work with will hunt honeydew from region to region in the spring and summer,” he explains. “In winter, they would have to store and feed their bees indoors if they stayed up north. This therefore helps them financially to settle them on our lands in the south instead.
Rayonier’s Non-Timber Revenue Resources Division is responsible for overseeing the granting of land licenses to beekeepers. They strive to better understand the beekeeper’s business model and possible goals. Rayonier then helps them place their hives in a location conducive to the development of bees.
According to Ken Rester, Business Development Manager, Rayonier is a team player when it comes to beekeepers.
“When a new beekeeper comes to our land, we start by asking, ‘How can we help you succeed?’ says Ken. “As a beekeeper myself, I understand their problems. Thanks to this, I can use this knowledge and help them.
Once a hive is placed, it only takes a few minutes for the bees to find pollen. A popular plant among the bee community is a flowering shrub known as gallberry. Gallberry produces tiny white flowers that provide a valuable stream of nectar. In our healthy and productive forests, our beekeepers know and appreciate the floral resources available to their bees.
Danielle Brooks, owner of The Honey Truck Company and land beekeeper, shares her experience of beekeeping on Rayonier land.
“Having lots of things they can pollinate is a good thing,” says Danielle. “You want them to be able to have a bunch of resources that are around. And so, where we have our bees now, there’s a bunch of Gallberries blooming, there’s a bunch of Palmettos. I saw a Spanish needle. Just different things growing and giving them a diverse diet.
If you are interested, you can read more about Rayonier Beekeeping Land licenses here.
Other pollinators that live in Rayonier forests
In addition to the honey bees brought to Rayonier by beekeepers, our forests are home to many other native pollinators. Bumblebees, bats, moths and butterflies are just a few examples of creatures that roam and buzz. Depending on the forest you are in, the native pollinators will be different.
In Florida, the Zebra Longwing butterfly can be found floating, dining on Confederate jasmine and Cyprus vines. In Washington, beetles and moths play an important role in pollinating native plants in the area.
Rayonier’s understanding of the importance of the entire forest ecosystem allows for different activities to take place during timber harvest rotations. By allowing native flowering plants to grow undisturbed, soil nutrition increases, adding organic matter. This organic matter supports the growth of vegetation, feeding the pollinators of our forests.
“It takes a big picture view to maintain a healthy and productive ecosystem,” says Ben. “Pollinators keep the vegetative community thriving, which helps our forests regenerate. Even birds, squirrels and mice are important. It is an immense network of life.
What about chemical applications like herbicides?
Although herbicide treatments can be applied to a stand of trees once or twice during its 20-40 year life cycle, this is done under strict guidelines, with only licensed applicators applying the spray and local inspectors in the field. This is done in accordance with federal guidelines. Under these conditions, the herbicides used by Rayonier and the forest industry have very low levels of toxicity, lower than most household cleaning solutions.
When we use herbicides, our goal is to reduce competition and allow newly planted forest to become established. Similarly, after thinning, they are used to reduce competition from competing woody brush. This in turn encourages flowering vegetation to occupy the understory of the forest: a victory for pollinators.
Rayonier exists in harmony with pollinators
One of Ken’s favorite parts of beekeeping is looking into the hive and seeing the harmony that exists with the bees. “If you could take that mentality and put it into humans, it would be life changing,” he says. “We would be much more efficient.
Rayonier strives to provide a similar harmonious environment within our forests. Through our holistic forest management practices, we have found that pollinators – and the plants whose pollen they seek out – thrive on our land. We believe that protecting sources of drinking water, limiting herbicide spraying and managing our forests well support this effort.
Rayonier is a leading forestry real estate investment trust with assets located in some of the most productive softwood lumber producing regions of the United States and New Zealand. As of June 30, 2022, Rayonier owned or leased under long-term contracts approximately 2.7 million acres of forest land located in the southern United States (1.79 million acres), northwestern American Pacific (486,000 acres) and New Zealand (418,000 acres). More information is available at www.rayonier.com.