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Forest owners are stewards of the land

Many people have to work and wait a long time to become Treasure Forest Certified, but not A.D. and Ruby Ryals and Mim and Pink Folmar.

Because they have been good stewards of the land for the past seven years, certification was not a wait-and-see situation for them.

The two couples own and manage more than 1,000 acres of multi-purpose land near Banks. The primary purpose of the land is timber and the secondary purpose is recreation. And the result is the apparent aesthetic beauty of the land.

A.D. Ryals said most of the land is planted in pines. However, there are about 300 acres of fields and some of the land is in the soil bank.

&uot;We've set aside 10 acres as wildlife plots and I've got enough for a good size garden,&uot; Ryals said of the land that has been in his family since the Great Depression era. &uot;I've always cared about the land and wanted to take care of it.&uot;

Love of the land runs in the family. His niece, Mim Folmar, who inherited a portion of the land, cares about the land just the way Ryals does.

&uot;We were working to keep the land up before we even thought about being a Treasure Forest,&uot; Ryals said. &uot;We have limited access to the property and we reclaimed the logging roads through it. We've got about four to five miles of roads that lead through the land. We've got wooded areas and pretty open fields. It's just a pleasure to drive through it.&uot;

The wildlife plots that the couples have established attract a variety of &uot;critters&uot; and birds.

Ryals has put up 25 bluebird houses, 10 squirrel feeders, 10 dove houses and two owl houses &uot;for hoot owls.&uot;

&uot;We've got four picnic tables and 10 park benches scattered in the woods,&uot; Ryals said. &uot;We enjoy coming over here and watching the animals and just enjoying the beauty of the woods. The sunset's nice too.&uot;

Mim and her husband often sack a few biscuits and a couple of cups of coffee and &uot;go to the woods&uot; for breakfast.

&uot;You just can't imagine how quiet and peaceful it is over here in the early morning,&uot; she said. &uot;The only sounds you hear are those of nature. This is what a Treasure Forest is all about. It's nature at its best.&uot;

Receiving Treasure Forest certification is not an end, but a journey.

&uot;Oh, we're not finished,&uot; Folmar said. &uot;We have plans to plant crepe myrtles, crabapple trees and beauty berries along the roads for beautification and also to establish root systems.&uot;

Also in the plans are about four miles of walking trails.

Ryals said Folmar is young and she is putting management in place to thin the trees, do prescribed burning and follow the recommended plans for insect control.

Ryals and his wife Ruby live just across the highway from their Treasure Forest and they derive much pleasure from driving through the land and just as much from knowing that it is &uot;well cared for.&uot;

Ruby Ryals, laughingly, said she lets the others do most of the work.

&uot;I just suggest,&uot; she said. &uot;I love the outdoors and it makes me proud to know that the land is being care for so that future generations can know and appreciate it, too.&uot;

For Ryals, having someone in the family who loves the land the way he and his wife do, is a comfort.

&uot;It's good to know that there will always be people around who are good stewards of the land,&uot; Ryals said. &uot;Everybody needs to be able to enjoy the pleasures of the forest. They are a treasure.&uot;