Fifty Years of The Westervelt Wildlife Management Program
Fifty Years ago, in 1965, a new wildlife development program was started at The Westervelt Company. This was a new concept aimed at improving wildlife populations and hunting quality on company-owned lands, while charging a small permit fee to help cover the cost of implementing the program. At that time, our wildlife management program had been successfully employed on a few specific properties, but the new idea was to expand our efforts and provide more quality hunting properties across our Alabama ownership. The results have been astonishing,; a brief look at this year’s quality deer entries will only confirm that. Naturally, over time, conditions have changed dramatically. Our wildlife management program has changed accordingly and continues to produce sustainable populations of all forms of wildlife.
We have chosen to share the original article published in The Tuscaloosa News in August of 1965 to honor the foresight and vision our leaders had fifty years ago.
Expanded wildlife program promises Better Hunting For Everybody, Public’s help is asked in bold new step
What promises to be the largest “hunting club” in the state comes into being this month at The Westervelt Company with the launching of its large-scale program to develop wildlife on its lands. An expanded game management service will bring increased restocking, food plot development and game law enforcement on company lands in 20 Alabama counties.
“It does little good to let people hunt on the land if there’s nothing there to hunt” explained Ray Redmond, chief of the company’s game management service. “We want to bring the best possible balance between timber and game on Westervelt Company lands and feel hunters are willing to have a part in it.”
To help make possible its enlarged game management program, The Westervelt Company is making a charge for hunting permits for the first time this year. The charges range from $1 for a permit allowing hunting small game in a person’s county of residence, to $10 for a general permit that gives a hunter the benefit of hunting on close to a third of a million forest acres in 20 Alabama counties. In between a county permit allowing hunting of all legal game in the resident county for $3.
Some areas of Alabama already have fine hunting. Redmond continued, but there is a “growing army of hunters” going into Alabama’s woods each fall as more and more people have time to hunt. The result, he said, is an ever-increasing pressure on those lands where the hunting is good.
“Our plan is to develop good hunting on all our land to spread out the hunting pressure,” he said. “At the same time our enlarged game management force will back up state conservation officers in providing better protection to existing game”
The Westervelt Company wildlife program is an enlargement and continuation of the game activity the company has been carrying out for the past nine years. In 1956 Ray Redmond, a wildlife biologist with the Mississippi game and fish department, was employed as the first graduate game biologist in southern industry, with forestry and wildlife degrees from Louisiana State University. Since that time he has devoted his energies to the development of the “twin crops” of timber and game on Westervelt Company lands. “We know a lot can be done in this area,” he said. “we have proven it in many parts of the state. Perhaps the most dramatic example is over in Pickens County where we released wild turkey a few years ago on our Westervelt Game Preserve. Today there’s a good turkey population over there up and down the Tombigbee River from the Mississippi line to Vienna. They opened turkey season two springs ago for the first time in this century!”
Other major company game projects have been carried out in Tuscaloosa, Shelby, Bibb and Marengo counties. Most of these programs have centered around deer and turkey transplanting’s and habitat development, but attention has also been given to duck, squirrel and quail.
“These have been thought of as experimental projects,” continued Redmond. “They’ve done a great deal of good in their local neighborhoods, all right, but the need is so great that we can’t hope to carry out the program throughout our lands without support from the public. That’s the reason for the permit system.”
The Westervelt Company has issued free permits for public hunting on its lands for a number of years. Alabama law says one must have written permission to hunt legally on someone else’s lands. Until last year these permits were limited to the county where the person lived. Under the new system, permits are available regardless of the residence of the hunter, but the home folk still get a break in the cost, just as they do on hunting licenses.
The Westervelt Company’s 350,000 acres are located in 20 Alabama counties, mostly in the west-central part of the state. These counties include: Tuscaloosa, Pickens, Greene, Sumter, Marengo, Bibb, Clark, Wilcox, Monroe, Dallas, Perry, Autauga, Chilton, Hale, Shelby, Cullman, Walker and Fayette.
Included in these counties are several game preserves not open to public hunting. These are areas of intense wildlife management. Some serve as game factories to provide wildlife that will be trapped and released on other company lands. Others are set up on a temporary basis to protect new stockings of wildlife while they are getting started. Some of the preserves are made available to civic groups for charity deer hunts, and two are reserved for organized hunts for employees.
Westervelt Company officials have worked with the State Department of Conservation, wildlife groups and noted conservationists in setting up the new program. It was with the encouragement and approval of these people that they are continuing to develop better hunting for the state.