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Non Timber Forest Products 2- Medicinal Plants and Fish and Wildlife Management

Douglas Crouch
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Well here is part 2 of the Non timber Forest Products series with 4 articles in total. This one focuses on Medicinal Plants and Fish and Wildlife Management. The latter i have been doing for over 15 years on my families land in Kentucky, USA which helps to frame the practical experience that i try and convey.

Medicinal Plants

A vast cornucopia of medicines can be found in forests naturally and they can also be cultivated in a way that simulates wild harvests. This is especially relevant because many of the most valuable and potent plants were previously exploited through over harvesting. Because of this, wildcrafting what is still left in the forest and fields must be done with great care and respectful stewardship for generations ahead. The waning populations of these medicinal plants also could inspire many of us to take on the role of promoting biodiversity and gaining yields of medicines of all sorts for home use and/or sale through cultivating these Non Timber Forest Products. These can be powerful medicines and remember proper dosage (trust me) and storage.

Medicinal plants come in many of the layers of the forest but are often found in the herbaceous layer. Daniel Boone, the notorious American frontiersman, became quite rich and famous in the eastern deciduous forest of the states through the wild harvest of exactly one of these plants; American Ginseng (Panax quinqafolia). These days people still wildcraft it and there are even TV shows about it because it is such a profitable export to the east. It is highly demanded in China and is growing in popularity in the states for its range of uses especially for male overall health. It is a herb that grows very slowly and takes seven to nine years before its roots are ready to be harvested thus further driving up its price. It is cultivated in beds rich with organic matter in the deep woods in the humid temperate climate. It requires quite a specific growing condition as well as dense forest canopy and the overall biodiversity must be well-developed. Be careful of people looting your patch which means this is a wild sector to deal with for sure. However if you can pull it off, it is quite a profitable crop to grow and brings back a bit of what used to be in forested areas. It’s just one of many herbs but it shows how important a well-developed, intact forest ecosystem is for a farmer and everything else around.

Fish and Wildlife Management

A general goal of Permaculture is to grow as much food as possible on as small a possible space so that more of the land can be turned back into more of a natural habitat. This lends itself to managing our zones 3 and 4 areas for fish and wildlife management. I believe in working in zone 4’s first to mitigate several imbalances before we turn them back into the semi wild areas of zone 5 due to successive disturbances such as fire, logging and over grazing. With that, Aldo Leopold, a little bit less than 100 years ago, brought himself forward in the world through his writings and teachings to become known as the Father of Game Management. He brought a simple piece of consciousness forward that is still slowly seeping into society which essentially was the following:

If we are to maintain or bring back a species we must provide them with the correct habitat.

Seems pretty logical but the constant war between agriculture and wildlife must be somehow altered for cooperation. With that there are numerous ways in which we can manage these outer zones to help obtain yields or simply promote biodiversity with this facet of Non Timber Forest Products.

Another agroforestry element that is widely pushed by this movement and even some governments is the installation of Riparian Buffers. Riparian areas refer to those stretches of land around waterways. Buffers help to mitigate fluxes of energy and can create corridors for wildlife movement as well as other functions. They are mainly installed to improve water quality through filtration and are a facet of ecosystem management that needs stricter enforcement from government bodies. Meanwhile landowners in some places benefit from government subsidies for their installment and the education around their ecosystem services. Hopefully landowners can have an even greater initiative to implement these as the need for ecological agriculture continues to be demanded by the public.

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