The Hugo Lake Project Office added the Tulsa District's first forester in October.

Reilly Cloud, a former Tulsa District park ranger from the Hugo Lake Project Office, and former manages the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' forested lands in the Lower Red River Area.

Cloud, who grew up in the Hugo area and worked for the Oklahoma State Forestry Services before joining the Corps of Engineers, coordinates and executes timber sales called blue dot thinning and salvage cut sales.

Blue dot sales occur when some trees in a forest are culled to improve the health of the area by reducing competition.

Salvage sales are necessary when trees encroach on a dam or flood risk mitigation structure or when flooding, natural disasters or diseases damage trees.

"Blue dot sales are thinnings that will occur. It just helps increase the forest health as well as the wildlife," Cloud said. "Thinning a forest will increase the forest health because it removes the stress of having to grow and compete with all the other trees around. It reduces the risk of the trees dying from insects and disease."

Cloud will also be a district resource in the event of timber theft.

According to Isaac Martin, Hugo Lake Manager and acting Operations Project Manager for the Lower Red River Area. The project office determined there was a need for a forester when a change to dam safety requirements set a 50 foot clearance from the toe of a dam or levee to trees.

The goal of the requirement was to ensure access to flood control structures, and to provide a root free buffer zone as trees can damage flood risk reduction structures.

"At most projects that wouldn't be an issue but in this area [southeastern Oklahoma] we have significant old growth timber that we were going to doze and burn," said Martin.

According to Martin the project would be missing out on an opportunity and wasting resources if they just burned the trees. They began using foresters from other Southwestern Division Districts, including the Fort Worth District, to sell the timber.

Properly managed, forestry programs allow for thinning and benefit the forest's ecosystems by removing some of the canopy which in turn reduces competition and allows sunlight to reach the forest floor activating the seed bank to allow for new and regenerative growth, Cloud said.

New growth in the forest provides sustenance for wildlife like deer and wild turkey.

"In a crowded timber stand, all of the food, the leaves are up high in the tree. When you thin a stand, trees will then have branches lower down," said Cloud.

Thinning and salvage cutting also reduce the fuel load in wooded areas, minimizing the risk of wildfires.

Proceeds from the sales of timber on Corps property will go to support environmental programs and the forestry program.

Southeast Oklahoma has a strong timber industry presence.