Leon Neel (b. 1927)
Neel was born on March 20, 1927, in Thomas County. In 1950 he graduated with a bachelor's degree in forestry from the University of Georgia (UGA) and went to work for Stoddard. In 1963 Neel took over the timber management portion of the business. At one time he and Stoddard managed thousands of acres of timberland, often with a special emphasis on maintaining or restoring longleaf pine ecosystems. After Stoddard's death in 1970, Neel established Neel and Associates.
The Stoddard-Neel System of forest management insists on the selection of individual trees for harvest and eschews the clear cutting or harvesting of groups of trees to clear space for sunlight. As such, the system emphasizes the concurrent management of wildlife, aesthetics, and timber resources, as well as ecosystem integrity, and seeks to perpetuate a multiple-aged stand of trees. A Stoddard-Neel forest is economically productive over the long term without sacrificing biodiversity and aesthetics. The system recognizes that a forest's ecological health is as dependent on its understory as on the trees themselves.
Fire is also an important element of the Stoddard-Neel system. Having observed and helped with annual burning practices as a child, Neel, as a young professional, already knew the value of fire. He
Wildlife management also plays a role in Neel's philosophy. Aware of Stoddard's successes with wildlife management in ecologically sound environments, Ed Komarek encouraged UGA to establish a wildlife management program. Neel enrolled in the university's first and, at that time, only class on wildlife management. From the beginning of his career, he, like Stoddard, was as interested in wildlife's role in ecologically sound environments as he was in forestry.
Neel continues to consult with both managers and landowners as they seek to maintain and restore longleaf pine ecosystems. It is a credit to Neel's work that many private landowners have set aside ecologically sensitive land through conservation easements, written through and monitored by such organizations as the Nature Conservancy and Tall Timbers Research Station.
Elizabeth Crofton, "Conservationist: Leon Neel, the Fire Prophet," in The Fire Forest: Longleaf Pine-Wiregrass Ecosystem (Conyers, Ga.: Georgia Wildlife Press, 2001).
Lawrence S. Earley, Looking for Longleaf: The Fall and Rise of an American Forest (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
R. J. Mitchell et al., A Model Management Plan for Conservation Easements in Longleaf Pine-Dominated Landscapes (Newton, Ga.: Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, 2000).
W. K. Moser et al., "Examination of Stand Structure on Quail Plantations in the Red Hills Region of Georgia and Florida Managed by the Stoddard-Neel System: An Example of Forest Managers," Forestry 75 (2002): 443-49.
Leon Neel, with Paul S. Sutter and Albert G. Way, The Art of Managing Longleaf: A Personal History of the Stoddard-Neel Approach (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010).
Red Hill Forest Stewardship Guide (Tallahassee, Fla.: Tall Timbers Research Station, 2003).
John T. Hiers, Aucilla Pines, LLC
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