The Landowner's Library
Every farm woodland, in addition to yielding lumber, fuel, and posts, should provide its owner a liberal education. This crop of wisdom never fails, but is not always harvested.
— Aldo Leopold
If you want to know land, I’m going to break the bad news to you upfront—you’ll never know as much as you should or want to know. I’ve found the more I learn, the more I realize I’ve just scratched the surface of what there is to learn. Nature’s cycles and the interactions between plants, animals, soil, and water are infinitely complex. Learning about land is much like paddling upriver—the farther you go, the more numerous the branches; which one to take?
In the list below are publications I’ve run across over my career that will help landowners get started down a path to better understanding and stewardship.
Publications to Purchase
Beautifully written, this series of essays chronicles Leopold’s observations and thoughts on nature and conservation. I recommend the Library of America edition, which includes many of his other writings. Reading this book opened my eyes and started me on a path to a better understanding of nature and our place in it.
Sample essays from A Sand County Almanac
This book is a comprehensive guide to natural plant communities. Each plant species within a plant community is described in detail (description, human uses, wildlife uses, ecology).
Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses, by James H. Miller and Karl V. Miller
I see many hunters go to great pains planting food plots and feeding wildlife without knowing about the natural food sources on their property. This book is a comprehensive guide to those food sources and how each wildlife species utilizes them.
Native Trees of the Southeast: An Identification Guide, by Kirkman, Brown, and Leopold
This guide gives detailed information for each tree species on your property.
Silvics of North America
Detailed information on all tree species in North America. I remember paying a hefty price for these volumes back at NCSU in the early 1990s—now they are free for download.
Shortleaf pine is the most widely distributed tree in the Carolinas but is quickly disappearing from the landscape. Replacement with faster-growing loblolly pine, genetic dilution (will cross with loblolly), and lack of conditions necessary for regeneration are devastating our shortleaf forests acreage. The shortleaf is the pine native to the upper Piedmont of the Carolinas (along with its ugly cousin, the Virginia pine). Loblolly is everywhere in the upper Piedmont, but that is due to their introduction to the region. Whereas loblolly will overtop and suppress desirable hardwoods, shortleaf grows slower and can be grown in mixed stands.
Almost every property I visit has invasive plants. This guide helps identify and inform how to eradicate or control the Southeast’s invasive plants.
Published by the NC Wildlife Commission, this is one of the best guides I’ve seen for introducing landowners to quality wildlife management.
Published by Mississippi State University, this guide serves as a great companion to Tarheel Wildlife.