Drought symposium prepares ETX foresters for dry seasons ahead

DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) - Massive wildfires and next-to-no rain were enough to rank the 2011 drought among the worst in Texas history.

"It's going to take years to overcome what drought has done for us," said landowner, Phil Power.

Phil power manages 200 acres of forest land in Cherokee County. He's seeing extreme changes in his land's moisture.

"This summer in which creeks would typically would maybe dry up in July and June they went dry in April," said Power.

Power and 150 other East Texas landowners are hoping it's not a repeat season in 2012. A drought symposium held by the Texas Forest Service is helping them prepare for anything.

"There's a lot of questions right now on reforestation, should they wait this year or should they look at next year," Ron Hufford, Executive Vice President, Texas Forestry Association.

One major issue is tree mortality. Maintaining their property means knowing when to remove dead trees and plant new ones.

"Of course trees need water to survive and so with that lack of water it stresses the trees to the point to where now we're starting to lose a significant amount of trees," said Shane Harrington, Farm Bill Coordinator, Texas Forest Service

Last year, the drought cost the state's forestry industry 3 billion dollars. Re-plating alone will raise that by another 50 million dollars. Landowners are learning the next three months aren't looking up.

"I think we're going to see water restrictions that no one has ever seen before in this country," said Power.

Reality is setting in for Power and others that a real solution is out of their control.

"We're going to have to hope for the best and pray the good Lord brings us rain to get out of this drought," said Power.

The Texas Forest Service is hosting more seminars in the coming months. Landowners will learn about everything from timber markets to protecting wildlife.

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