Forestry and land management are more than a walk in the woods

Posted On September 4, 2018

When you drive up I-65 from Mobile to Montgomery or across I-10 from Mobile to Tallahassee, the acres and acres of pine trees along the roadside make for a rather boring drive. But to someone like Barrett McCall, it is a beautiful sight.

McCall, our guest in this week’s episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” is president of Larson & McGowin Forest Managers and Consultants, one of the area’s foremost land management firms.

Most of the timberland managed by companies like McCall’s is owned privately by families who hire management firms to handle harvesting schedules, hunting leases and the like. While today’s clients are sophisticated, they’re also relying upon management companies like McCall’s to do more things, often managing all aspects of the business.

But forestry is still the heart of the business, and there is a lot of timber to manage. In fact, McCall says there’s an oversupply in the Southeast right now.

“We’re growing far more trees than we’re harvesting,” says McCall, who with a partner bought out the family-owned business in 2002. ‘In some parts of the South, it’s two-to-one. That is increasing because the genetics of the trees that are being planted are improving as well. … As our forests are becoming more productive, they’re healthier with improved genetics, they become more valuable.”

While the trees are plentiful, so is the data – and McCall says that’s one of the biggest changes in the industry. Advancements in technology give land management companies more information than ever before, but it can be a daunting challenge to distill it all into something you can use.

“How do we wrestle with a large amount of data to make better decisions about the stewardship of land, the management of land, and both collecting the information and compiling it into a useful format and making decision?” McCall asks. “I think the disruptors are those who are doing that particularly well.”

McCall also shares why forestry isn’t for everyone, why family-owned land management companies often don’t stay in the family, why knowing the history of the land you’re managing is important, and how a company from Alabama became involved in timber inventory in Belize and Fiji.

Join us for a fun talk about trees, and the work that goes into making sure the land upon which they grow is sustainable.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Podcast